Early Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Findings From Exploratory Site Visits and Review of Program Plans. Many WtW Programs Target Particular Subgroups, but Seldom to Exclusion of Others


The population eligible for WtW-funded services is defined in the legislation. Given that definition, the population served consists of individuals with various combinations of characteristics:

  1. ong-term welfare recipients who have received cash assistance for 30 months or more,
  2. people approaching a TANF time limit,
  3. individuals who lack a high school diploma and have low reading and math skills,
  4. substance abusers,
  5. those with a poor work history,
  6. teenage parents, and
  7. noncustodial parents with employment barriers.

Grantees have latitude in targeting particular subgroups of the eligible population, as long as the overall use of resources complies with the 70/30 spending criterion described earlier.

Based on both the first grantee survey and the exploratory visits, it appears that most WtW programs are prepared to serve all categories of WtW-eligibles. Among the 22 grantees whose programs were examined in the exploratory visits, only two are explicitly serving only a particular subgroup (Table D.1). The Wisconsin Department of Corrections regional office in Milwaukee (which received a share of the governor's discretionary funds), and the Los Angeles PIC are both focusing exclusively on noncustodial parents.

Population Focus Number of Local Sites Visited
No special targeting within the eligible population 10
Serve all eligibles, but special focus on:(a) 9
  • Chemically dependent
  • Physically or mentally disabled
  • Noncustodial parents
  • Homeless individuals
  • Public housing residents
  • Limited-English speakers
  • Teen parents
Narrow target group within the eligible population 3
  • Noncustodial parents
  • Limited-English speakers
Total Number of Local Sites Visited 22
Source:  National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program, Exploratory Site Visits, 1999.

a  Some programs focus on more than one special population group.

It is considerably more common for grantees to serve the entire range of the WtW-eligible population, but to make special efforts to recruit or serve particular subgroups. The first grantee survey suggested that about 43 percent of WtW programs have developed special services for particular subgroups or are focusing outreach efforts on particular populations. Similarly, just over half of the 22 grantee sites to which exploratory visits were made are focusing to some extent on particular subgroups. Whether or not they are the sole target of services, noncustodial parents are the most common special target group (Table D.1).(9)  Special services for fathers are provided, or are being developed, in 7 of the 22 sites, including the two that serve noncustodial fathers exclusively. Other eligible population groups that appear to be receiving special attention are welfare recipients who have a chemical or substance abuse problem and those with physical or mental disabilities. Nine of the 22 have consciously designed some of their service components for particular populations, although their programs are available to all eligibles. Although this observation is based on a small sample of programs, it is consistent with the results from the earlier survey of all grantees.

Targeting is accomplished in different ways, both explicit and implicit. Some grantees locate their facilities in certain neighborhoods where they expect particular subgroups of the WtW population to live, such as immigrants or public housing residents. Some grantees subcontract with service providers that have particular experience and orientation towards serving certain populations (for example, the homeless, disabled, immigrants, or noncustodial parents). Many programs also have developed outreach procedures aimed at particular groups, such as non-English speakers, or at particular neighborhoods. Strategies that promote targeting were put in place by such grantees as:

  • Dallas County Workforce Development Board, Project ACCESS.  Although not targeted to a specific subpopulation, the program has close links and subcontracting agreements with local housing authorities, and is thus likely to serve a substantial number of individuals in public housing and Section 8 units.
  • Houston Works.  This program is not specifically directed toward special target groups, but the agency has set the ambitious goal of serving 480 noncustodial fathers, more than a third of its overall enrollment projection. Houston Works has also subcontracted with several agencies that have expertise serving specific populations, including homeless individuals, refugees, and persons with disabilities.
  • Seedco/Non-Profit Assistance Corporation, New York City.  The Neighborhood Strategies Project Work Program (NSP) has established partnerships with three neighborhood-based CBOs that have extensive experience providing employment, economic development, and social services in three low-income areas of the city with high concentrations of immigrants and others with limited English skills.
  • City of Detroit Employment and Training Department.  Although particular subgroups are not targeted, three WtW subcontractors specialize in serving specific target groups: Goodwill Industries (individuals with disabilities), SER (the limited English-speaking), and Jewish Vocational Services (the homeless). A goal was also set that one-third of participants would be noncustodial parents.