Coordination and Integration of Welfare and Workforce Development Systems. Advantages of Coordination for Agencies

03/20/2000

Efforts to promote coordination often involve changes in agency operations which, in addition to improving service delivery to clients, can provide other advantages for staff and administrators. Organizational strategies that facilitate coordination, such as state and local level contracts, co-location of staff, and joint planning affect the daily interactions and job responsibilities of staff. These activities may have a positive effect on interagency communication, resource sharing, access to specialized services, and relationships with the community.

Increased Knowledge and Communication Among Agency Staff

Coordination often results in increased knowledge and communication among the staff of coordinated agencies. Through monthly planning meetings of managers across agencies and the weekly, or sometimes even daily, contact that occurs between case managers in coordinated agencies, workers find that they learn much more about the other programs and develop ongoing working relationships. As a result, caseworkers and other service providers find it easier to make referrals, solve problems concerning individual clients, and monitor clients across programs. Sometimes, coordination will include the development of shared case management systems, which lead to better monitoring of services provided to clients.

  • In Salem, TANF case managers work closely with staff from the WIA/JTPA agency, ES, VR, and other partner agencies. Co-location of partner staff facilitates the staff's ability to hold informal staffings to discuss how best to address clients' needs. Weekly staff meetings are held at the TANF agency to provide a forum for service providers to talk about their programs and the services that are available for TANF recipients.
  • In Charleston, staff at the one-stop center use a common intake form for everyone who comes in and consider each individual's personal situation and barriers to employment before referring them to the appropriate partner agency. One-stop staff are creating a single management information system for use by partner agencies.
  • In Manning, a signed memorandum of agreement outlines the responsibilities of TANF and WtW staff. Primarily, TANF case managers are responsible for identifying potential clients, determining their eligibility for WtW, and referring them to the WtW program. Case managers from both programs participate in the initial meeting with prospective clients. WtW case managers conduct WtW eligibility screenings on-site at the TANF office. They then enroll clients and conduct assessments. Monthly evaluations of individual clients' progress, including verification of employment, are reported to the TANF program. TANF recipients continue to report to their TANF case manager, as needed.

Resource Sharing and Reduction of Duplicative Agency Efforts

Several of the sites report that coordination enables them to obtain additional resources to serve their clients. This is accomplished by sharing resources, such as staff, facilities, information, and information systems. For example, linkages between TANF and ES might provide the TANF agency with access to available job listings within the ES computerized job bank. Co-location of two agencies within the same building may enable agencies to share conference or classroom space.

Coordination may also help to reduce unnecessary duplication. For example, much of the information needed by agencies serving the same or overlapping populations can be elicited in a single interview, if the agencies jointly plan the intake interview and forms. This approach can realize time savings both for the agency and the client. Joint planning can avoid duplication of services by dividing agency tasks and responsibilities and can also assist in identifying additional funding sources.

  • Agencies in Kansas City have developed a unique way of accessing all available funding sources. The JTPA/WIA agency that operates the WtW program enrolls clients and then allocates funding based on eligibility requirements. They fax a list of clients to a local coordinating council that serves as the fiscal agent for welfare and work-related grants. The coordinating council has access to state-level TANF and Child Support Enforcement databases, enabling them to verify TANF participation and child support payments. The JTPA/WIA agency uses this information to determine which funding stream(s) should be used to pay for a particular client's services. This eliminates the need for the TANF agency to provide the WtW program with a list of TANF recipients that may be WtW-eligible, an often time consuming process.
  • In Portland, as part of the planning process for one-stop implementation, agencies determined which services each organization would provide in an effort to avoid duplication. For example, ES used to facilitate job search workshops; now, they refer customers to a JTPA/WIA provider for this service.
  • In Sedalia, the JTPA/WIA agency is working with the county's local collaborative on several initiatives, including a multicultural forum, transportation, and "brainstorming" on an application for WtW discretionary funds. Collaboration between the JTPA/WIA agency, the TANF agency, and the local collaborative is credited with starting a fixed route bus service in Sedalia.

Agencies Can Specialize in Areas of Expertise

Coordination may allow agencies with complementary strengths to focus on what they do best. For example, some agencies may have closer linkages with certain types of employers that are better suited to the specific needs of clients or are located in communities that are more accessible for clients. Some agencies offer the specialized support services needed to prepare clients for employment and keep them employed.

  • In both Manning and Charleston, welfare case managers work closely with VR counselors, who provide services for individuals with physical and mental disabilities. Caseworkers have indicated that VR is an important resource as many of the clients remaining on welfare face barriers to employment that require these specialized services. In Manning, VR outstationed a counselor at the welfare agency one day per week until a local VR office opened in the town. In Charleston, VR outstations a counselor at the welfare office one day per week, and the counselor participates in joint staffings with welfare case managers.
  • In Painesville, agency administrators see the complementary nature of the roles of the TANF agency and the JTPA/WIA agency. For example, it was noted that the JTPA/WIA agency brings a close relationship with employers, which enhances the chances of job placement for TANF recipients. The JTPA/WIA agency is under contract to the county welfare agency to provide orientation and a job club/job search program for TANF recipients. The services are provided at the JTPA/WIA agency, which is located just down the street from the welfare office. Also, the JTPA/WIA agency can refer TANF recipients to JTPA for longer-term training, and the agency has knowledge of, and links to, local training providers.

Improved Image with Clients, Employers, and the Community

Through coordination, some agencies improve their image with clients, employers, and the public-at-large. This enhanced image results from several factors. In some cases, it is simply because coordination results in more effective and efficient delivery of services to clients, providing a clear point of contact for referrals and streamlined procedures. In some instances, an enhanced image results from an ability to alter the community's perception of an agency because it is linked with another agency or agencies. For example, two agencies might come together in a locality to form a single integrated entity, which is given a new name. This new entity may--in the view of clients, employers, and the public-at-large--be able to draw upon the perceived strengths of each individual organization and shed an image of bureaucracy or inefficiency.

  • In Dayton, respondents indicated that a focus on serving a wide range of customers helped to broaden the base of organizations willing to co-locate at the one-stop. The center made a conscious effort to not project an image of serving only welfare recipients. Early connections with employers and the Chamber of Commerce gave the one-stop center credibility and a focus on job placement. A concerted effort was made to bring a diversified population to the center, which included professional and highly-skilled workers.
  • In Charleston, all one-stop decision making is done by consensus in an effort to promote a team-building atmosphere. Three teams were created to guide the operations of the one-stop. The Executive Management Team is comprised of the executive directors from each of the partner agencies and meets monthly. They provide regular and final input into center operations. The Center Management Team is comprised of the partner agencies' on-site directors. They guide day-to-day operations and problem solve. The Functional Team is made up of line staff and focuses on continuous improvements for the one-stop.

In summary, agencies may benefit from coordination in a variety of ways. Beyond improving client services, a relatively coordinated program can improve interagency communications and improve resource utilization. Staff at all levels of the organization may face fewer administrative barriers and the organization's relationship with the community may benefit as well.

 

Footnotes

3.  Under TANF, states are required to engage a specified proportion of recipients in federally defined allowable work activities. States have flexibility in determining who is subject to the work requirement and the range of allowable activities.