The replacement of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants heightens the importance of designing services that will enhance the employment outcomes of today's welfare participants. One of the major consequences of the new legislation is that states must now prepare for employment a much larger--and far needier--segment of the population than before. Many in this group will have low skills and will face a number of barriers. Estimates of the percentage of the welfare caseload with at least one barrier to employment range from 54 to 89 percent, depending on the level of severity of the barrier (Olson and Pavetti 1996). Although states may still exempt a portion of the caseload, many who were formerly exempt from employment are now required to comply with work participation requirements and are subject to the five-year lifetime limit on public assistance. The new legislation, designed to provide federal block grants to each state, gives states wide latitude in creating local programs that will support these needs but, as of now, little guidance in how to do so. This document takes an important step toward filling this gap.
The document is organized around ten "barriers to employment" faced by welfare recipients who are struggling to make the transition from welfare to work: lack of specialized child care; disability; domestic violence; financial emergencies; housing instability; lack of health insurance; mental illness; substance abuse; inadequate transportation; and, simply, "multiple barriers," for those who face not just one but a combination of difficulties concurrently. Some portion of the welfare population undoubtedly faces other barriers to employment, but we think this set covers the areas in which welfare agencies should consider developing programmatic responses.
Each of the following ten chapters discusses all aspects of a single barrier. In each chapter and for each barrier, we present information in the four areas described below. A closing chapter discusses several overarching issues critical to future efforts to address these service barriers. Appendix A contains tables that present detailed estimates from the research literature of the percentage of the population facing each respective barrier to employment.
Need for Services
In this section, we discuss how the barrier is defined, present the range in estimates of those facing the barrier (the low- and high-end estimates), and discuss what accounts for some of the differences in estimated figures. The research available to estimate the percentage of the welfare population facing each of these barriers is diverse. Data sources, sample definitions, sample sizes, and research methods vary among studies. Some estimates are clearly more representative of a national welfare sample than are others, and we recognize that the current figures contain deficiencies. We present the range so that welfare agency staff have some initial means of thinking about the percentage of their own population likely to face each barrier. It is important, however, to consider the reasons that estimates vary and to refer to the tables in Appendix A, which provide detailed information on the population and barrier definitions from which the full range of estimates were derived. We conclude this section with a review of what is known from the research about the relationship between the barrier and both welfare receipt and employment status.
Welfare Agency Approaches
Current agency programs to address each barrier encompass a broad range of goals--from improving the identification of clients in need of services to expanding service capacity. In this section, we categorize the numerous strategies that agencies have undertaken, not to suggest that programs ought to be designed around a single strategy, such as client identification, but in an effort to help agencies (1) think about programmatic objectives, (2) define their service needs, and (3) contact other programs whose strategies are relevant to agency objectives.
Where information is available, we discuss the effectiveness of a program or treatment effort at reducing welfare receipt and increasing the likelihood of employment, and we note program costs. There is very little information in these areas, however. Most programs have not included a rigorous evaluation component, nor is detailed cost information usually available. Even when it is, comparing program costs is often impossible.
We conclude this section on current welfare agency approaches with a synthesis of key implementation issues for agencies to consider as they design services. This synthesis is based on information we obtained from agency staff and from research and policy documents providing in-depth analysis of the barrier. The challenges in implementing a program will vary from agency to agency because of the unique circumstances each agency faces. Local implementation issues in need of consideration will, therefore, encompass more than this synthesis provides. Our conclusion, however, is that implementing a program for any of these barriers should not exclude consideration of these issues. They are, as noted above, the key elements that agencies should address to avoid jeopardizing successful provision of services.
Brief descriptions of programs--some still in the planning stage but most currently in operation--are provided. Our intent was not to include an exhaustive review of all efforts under way to address each barrier, but rather to provide the reader with a look at the kinds of approaches agencies are taking and to supply enough information so that those interested can explore further. Contact information is included. The programs presented are a sample for which we were able to get reasonable descriptions, which constitute an interesting cross-section of approaches, and which operate in both urban and rural areas. These are not necessarily "model programs," and most have not been evaluated for effectiveness. We do not endorse these programs, but present them simply to help agencies think about the variety of creative approaches that are possible and to stimulate communication between those who share the ultimate goal of assisting clients in the transition from welfare to work.
For those who want further information on addressing each barrier, we include very brief descriptions of key agencies (along with their telephone numbers), as well as brief summaries of significant policy or research documents in the area.
Closing Chapter: A Summary of Overarching Issues
The closing chapter highlights three critical areas that span efforts to address each of the individual barriers to employment: (1) interagency coordination, (2) infrastructure, and (3) additional research needs. Though they are briefly addressed in many of the individual chapters pertaining to a particular barrier to employment, they recur with sufficient frequency and are of such importance that they merit special attention and greater detail. The enactment of legislation that mandates increased work participation rates among current welfare recipients and emphasizes greater personal responsibility has stretched the boundaries of what welfare agencies need to provide in preparing clients for employment. In response, social service and governmental agencies alike need to acknowledge and devote resources toward, in particular, the first two: interagency coordination and development of the infrastructure to support service delivery. In addition, future decisions about effective program design and implementation will depend upon a broader base of research knowledge than is currently available. This document not only provides a useful organizational framework for much of the available information and research across a broad spectrum of issues related to service delivery, but also reveals some important gaps that must be filled. This closing chapter discusses each of the three issues above and provides some direction for future action.
Appendix A: Estimation of Need
Tables that summarize the research estimates on the percentage of the population facing each barrier are provided in Appendix A. These tables include the full range of estimates, their source, the population under analysis, the barrier definition used in each case, and the corresponding percentages. Usually there are two tables: one that summarizes the available estimates for a national sample of welfare recipients and one that summarizes the available estimates for state or local samples. Where another way of organizing the data seemed more useful, the tables are presented differently. We recognize that our review may have omitted additional research that contains other estimates. However, we feel fairly certain that the estimates presented cover a reasonable and useful range that will give welfare agency staff an idea of the magnitude of the problem and help them to gauge the percentage of their own clients likely to need additional services.
Individual state welfare policies continue to change. This report does not review them or address the implications of differences between them (for example, varying time limits, the provision or exclusion of services for convicted drug offenders, or the exemption from work requirements for certain populations). Therefore, some approaches discussed may be relevant within the context of one state's policies but not another's. In addition, the profile of the welfare population is changing daily in response to work requirements and time limits. Estimates of the percentage of this population in need of supplemental services to address each of our ten barriers are changing equally fast; in response, so too will the intensity and design of services to address these needs.
Despite the many unknowns, this document--designed as a resource guide--should help to define the barriers and design solutions toward assisting clients in the transition from welfare to work. It is intended to help welfare agencies understand the barriers to employment their clients face, begin to think about ways to address these, locate information that will facilitate next steps, and begin the coordination of effort that is so needed in response to welfare reform. By synthesizing a large amount of historically diffuse information, we hope that this document assists agencies in their efforts to design promising programs and implement effective practices that improve the employment opportunities of today's welfare clients.