Coordination and Integration of Welfare and Workforce Development Systems. Organizational Approaches and Client Flow


The enactment of TANF--with its emphasis on time-limited receipt of welfare benefits, work-first, and moving large numbers of TANF recipients off the welfare rolls into full-time, unsubsidized employment--has created an impetus for strengthening coordination between the welfare and workforce development system. Several key agencies/organizations can be involved in providing work-related services to TANF recipients: the welfare agency, the ES, the JTPA/WIA administering agency, the WtW administering agency, community colleges, and other subcontracted service providers, including community-based organizations and for-profit service providers.

In order to provide employment services to welfare recipients and help them move into jobs, state and local welfare agencies can (1) "go it alone" and provide the full gamut of employment-related services to move TANF recipients to jobs on their own, or (2) link with the workforce development system to share some or all of the work-related functions required to move TANF recipients into jobs. For example, a welfare agency might choose to run a four-week job readiness workshop for TANF recipients using its own agency staff, at one of its own agency offices. Alternatively, the welfare agency might choose to link with a workforce development agency (such as a JTPA/WIA agency) that may already be running such workshops and refer non-exempt TANF recipients to the workshop.

There are many potential services--particularly work-related services--where it might make sense for a welfare agency to link with a workforce development agency. Welfare agencies could:

  • keep some functions totally in-house--for example, intake, eligibility determination, and sanctioning, and also some employment-related services such as job search;
  • share responsibility for other services with a workforce development agency--for example, initial orientation, assessment, ongoing case management, provision of support services, and provision of post-employment services; or
  • rely almost entirely upon workforce development agencies for other services--for example, job readiness training, family life skills, GED, or ABE classes, basic skills training, job specific skills training, supported work experience, and job development/placement services (e.g., job search/job club/job placement, and labor market information).

In general, we found that those services most directly associated with cash assistance, such as eligibility determination and sanctioning, were the most likely to be kept in-house by the TANF agency. Orientation, case management, and support services were more often shared by coordinating agencies. TANF agencies were more likely to use workforce development providers for more specialized services such as job skills training, GED preparation, and job development services.

In our site visits, however, we found substantial variation in the extent and scope of coordination between welfare and workforce development agencies. Appendix C provides detailed information on which agencies provide which services in each of the study sites. In some localities, there were few links between the two systems; in other localities, the two systems were highly integrated with one another. For example, the local sites we visited varied substantially in terms of the numbers of and types of organizations linked, the ways in which coordination had evolved, the types of work-related services integrated, and numbers of individuals referred between agencies.

To further illustrate the range of service delivery configurations, we have identified three broad organizational approaches: welfare-centered, shared responsibility, and highly integrated. Exhibit 2 identifies the approach that best describes each of the study sites. These are broad classifications, and several variations were observed within the welfare-centered and shared responsibility models. The boxed examples from our site visits illustrate, from a service receipt perspective, the various approaches to providing work-related services for TANF recipients.

Exhibit 2
Service Delivery Approaches

Sedalia, Missouri
Cleveland, Ohio
Providence, Rhode Island
Charleston, South Carolina
Manning, South Carolina

Shared Responsibility

Kansas City, Missouri
Painesville, Ohio
Portland, Oregon
Salem, Oregon
Beaver County, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Highly Integrated

Dayton, Ohio


This is the traditional welfare agency approach, adapted to meet the participation requirements and time limits of TANF. Five of the sites visited follow a welfare-centered approach (Sedalia, Cleveland, Providence, Charleston, and Manning). The following characteristics distinguish these programs:

  • Clients typically receive most of their work-related services at the welfare agency and the welfare agency staff or policy determines the plan of services.
  • Referrals to other workforce development programs are most likely to occur after the client has participated in a series of activities provided by the welfare agency.
  • Even when services are provided by workforce development agencies under contract to the welfare agency, the services are exclusively for welfare recipients. That is, welfare recipients generally are not served with other customers of the workforce development programs.

Charleston provides an illustration of this approach, where the welfare agency is the hub of work-related services for TANF clients. Providence, which focuses on education and training for those who are not yet close to reaching their TANF time limits, offers an example of a variation in this approach.

Overall, in site sites visited, the welfare-centered approach offered some examples of good coordination with workforce development agencies, but the range of work-related services may be limited based on the sequence of activities and providers established by the welfare agency. On the other hand, those services that are required are primarily consolidated in one location and readily accessible to the client.

Charleston:  Work-Related Services at the Welfare Office
  • A new TANF applicant signs in with the receptionist and is assigned to an orientation session. The TANF agency has 30 days in which to approve the application for cash assistance, during which time the individual is conducting a self-directed job search. Following approval for cash benefits, the client's case is officially opened and s/he meets with a case manager to develop a plan for work-related services.
  • Next, a client may complete a basic skills assessment. Typically, a client will then attend two weeks of family life skills and two weeks of job club before participating in eight weeks of self-directed job search. All of these activities are directed by welfare agency employees and are held at the welfare office. The family life skills classes address a broad range of topics, such as time management, self-esteem, personal and family health, and family budgeting. Job club addresses job readiness skills such as resume preparation, interviewing skills, and appropriate workplace attire and behavior.
  • Job search involves using resources at the welfare office such as help wanted advertisements from daily newspapers, job requests submitted by employers, and job listings provided by the state ES. The client is expected to use these resources and any personal referrals to complete three to four employer contacts per week.
  • If the client has not obtained a job after completing these activities, the TANF agency has a variety of other workforce-related classes and training options that they provide in-house. These include computer-based programs that help the client identify job interests, learn about skills needed for particular jobs, and brush up on basic skills. Work experience placements are also offered. If a TANF client is in need of more specialized services, such as vocational rehabilitation or substance abuse treatment, the case manager makes a referral to the appropriate agency. When a client has fewer than 12 months left on cash assistance, s/he is referred to the WtW program operated by the JTPA/WIA agency at the one-stop career center. Welfare staff work with the one-stop center to facilitate communications and problem-solving for individual clients, especially if questions come up about participation requirements, sanctions, or approved work activities.


Providence:  Early Emphasis on Education and Training
  • A client entering the welfare office is seen by an eligibility worker who determines eligibility for TANF cash assistance. If the client is mandated (or volunteers) to participate in employment activities, s/he is referred to a social worker at the welfare office. 
  • The social worker completes an assessment and employment plan with the client. During the first two years on TANF, clients can choose from a range of programs, and many are referred to education and training. The social worker will discuss GED classes, basic skills training (e.g., math and reading), and training programs for specific jobs, such as customer service and certified nurse aide, depending upon the client's interests and background. The social worker then makes the agreed-upon referral and monitors the client's participation. Employment-focused activities like job search workshops are required after two years, but are also available to those who are "job ready" and interested in obtaining a job as soon as possible. Employment-focused activities are provided by the ES under contract to the welfare agency and are held at the ES. Very few, if any, direct referrals are made from TANF to WtW or JTPA/WIA. These programs do their own recruitment of TANF clients.

Shared Responsibility

In six of the programs visited (Kansas City, Painesville, Portland, Salem, Beaver County, and Pittsburgh), responsibility for providing work-related services to welfare clients was shared by the welfare agency and the workforce development system, usually the JTPA/WIA agency. Although the services provided are very similar to those provided in the welfare-centered programs, the following characteristics distinguish programs described as shared responsibility:

  • Clients typically receive work-related services from welfare and workforce development providers simultaneously.
  • Welfare and workforce development providers are more likely to work as a team in providing case management, job readiness, and other services.
  • Rather than a fairly "generic" sequence of services for all clients, a number of work-related service packages are available to clients, with some packages designed for particular subgroups of clients. Clients are assigned to particular service packages through a combination of client preference, case manager referral, and criteria established by the welfare agency and the workforce development provider.

Beaver County offers an example of a shared responsibility approach that includes the welfare agency, the JTPA/WIA agency, and a community college. A variation of this approach, where a range of organizations participate in an upfront assessment program, was observed in Salem.

Beaver County:  Welfare Agency, Job Training Agency, and Community College as Partners
  • The Single Point of Contact (SPOC) program is designed to provide a comprehensive package of services to promote self-sufficiency. A client is eligible for SPOC if s/he is receiving TANF and/or food stamps, has completed an 8-week job search, and does not meet WtW eligibility requirements, but needs additional training in order to obtain employment. Participation in SPOC requires a referral from a welfare caseworker. Services include GED preparation, job readiness/job search, paid work experience, subsidized employment, retention services, and skills upgrading. 
  • The SPOC program is operated by Beaver County Community College, under a subcontract with the JTPA/WIA agency. All services are provided on-site at the community college. Clients are served by a case management team that includes the SPOC case manager, the coordinator of work programs for the JTPA/WIA agency, and a welfare case manager.
  • A client begins with an open entry/open exit program (e.g., class topics run in a repeating sequence so a client can start with any class session) that includes job readiness, job search, parenting, and life skills. During this period a client also meets individually with a job developer and accesses the resources of the community college's career planning and placement office. 
  • Subsequent activities and schedule are tailored to the client's needs. For example, a client may fulfill her/his work activity requirement by participating in a GED class three afternoons a week and working in subsidized employment 25 hours per week 


Salem:  Up-Front Assessment Program for all TANF Applicants Involves Partner Agencies
  • As part of the pre-application process, a TANF applicant must participate in a 45-day up-front assessment program. Salem's up-front assessment program, called Basic Employment Skills Training (BEST), is an open-entry/open-exit program (e.g., class topics run in a repeating sequence so a client can start with any class session) made up of 16 different topical presentations related to getting and keeping a job. BEST components are taught by the welfare agency and partner agency staff such as the community college, the JTPA/WIA agency, the housing authority, the child care information service, and the county mental health agency.
  • During this period, a client also engages in monitored job search activities and receives ongoing assistance, if needed, from her/his case manager and other partner staff. BEST is designed to be a 45-day program, but participants often find a job during that time and do not complete all of the components.

The shared responsibility approach generally requires a greater degree of coordination than the welfare-centered approach. Successful implementation of this approach can offer a wider choice of services for clients and build on the specialized expertise of various workforce development providers. However, depending upon the complexity of the arrangement, inadequate communication can create confusion for clients as they interact with multiple agencies.

Highly Integrated

Only one site visited, Dayton, had highly integrated welfare and workforce development services for TANF clients. Highly integrated programs have the following characteristics:

  • TANF clients receive all of their welfare and employment and training services through one system, although services may or may not be provided in a single location.
  • TANF clients receive work-related services alongside other job seekers and there is no distinction made between welfare recipients and other customers.
  • Since all staff are part of the same system, there is "no wrong door" for the client. That is, any service provider that the client encounters will be familiar with the services available and able to initiate the enrollment process.

In Dayton, all services are provided at one of the largest one-stop career centers in the country, known as the Job Center. Furthermore, for most services, including welfare eligibility determination and enrollment, the one-stop is the only location in the city. Unlike any other county in Ohio, the Montgomery County (which includes Dayton) welfare agency and the JTPA/WIA agency merged several years ago. Thus, a major partner in the one-stop integrates welfare and workforce development functions. The Job Center serves all job seekers, not only those receiving cash assistance. The Job Center does not distinguish between welfare recipients and others when filling employer requests for job candidates. The Dayton example illustrates an approach to providing work-related services to TANF clients that may be viewed as the furthest along a continuum of welfare-workforce system coordination.

Dayton:  Highly Integrated Services at a One-Stop Career Center
  • An individual applies for TANF at the One-Stop Career Center, where s/he is greeted at the center's reception desk. The receptionist refers the individual to the appropriate provider within the Center based on the services s/he is requesting. The Job Center is the only location in the city for welfare eligibility determination and enrollment. If the individual is in need of TANF, he/she is sent to the welfare agency (i.e. Department of Human Services, DHS) reception area. Here, the individual will first meet with a DHS screener, who discusses general types of assistance available and completes the first few screens of a client record in the welfare data system. In this county DHS is merged with the JTPA/WIA agency, so many of the other services the client receives are also provided by DHS staff or contractors. 
  • After viewing an orientation video, the TANF applicant is referred to one (of the nine) DHS units housed at the Job Center. During the initial visit, the individual will meet with a DHS eligibility specialist, a DHS work activities specialist, and a DHS-contracted (through Goodwill Industries) case manager. The applicant will also be introduced to the many other types of services available throughout the Job Center. All of this occurs in the initial visit, which typically takes 2-3 hours. 
  • The DHS eligibility specialist will take the individual through the eligibility determination process for cash assistance, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and other types of assistance, and will discuss grant diversion--if it seems appropriate. Necessary data screens will be completed to determine eligibility and the individual receives a listing of documents s/he will need to submit to DHS before her/his application can be finalized. 
  • Next, the TANF applicant meets with a DHS work activities specialist to discuss TANF work requirements and the various available work assignment options. The DHS work activities specialist also takes the client to the Job Center's Job Bank to familiarize the individual with the job search resources available at the Center (including computerized job listings maintained by the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services). Following this meeting, the applicant meets with a Goodwill case manager, who reviews the various types of support services that are available. 
  • The Goodwill case manager tracks the client's progress throughout her/his involvement in TANF, helping to arrange for support services, serving as an advocate in securing needed services, and troubleshooting problems as they arise. In subsequent visits to the Job Center to meet with the Goodwill case manager, the TANF recipient may access a variety of services available at the Job Center through the 47 agencies located on-site. For example, among the services available for job seekers (anyone from the general public may use Job Center facilities) are: lists of available job openings; labor market information; information on all local education, training, and re-training programs; hiring requirements; assistance with job search skills; resume preparation; free access to a telephone and fax machine; and typing and word processing tests/tutorials. 
  • TANF recipients also take part in the activities that the Job Center hosts for area employers. For example, the Center screens and tests job seekers, takes job applications, sponsors job fairs, and provides space for employers to conduct recruitment and even some job training activities. The Center also works with employers to customize training programs, link employers with educational and training facilities, and provide funds for training of TANF recipients, dislocated workers, and others. Companies come to the Job Center to recruit workers, including entry-level workers, as well as high-skilled workers. TANF participants are blended in with other job applicants from the general public for many recruitment activities conducted by employers at the Job Center and in referrals of applicants to fill job openings.