Evaluating Two Approaches to Case Management: Implementation, Participation Patterns, Costs, and Three-Year Impacts of the Columbus Welfare-to-Work Program. 1. Introduction

06/01/2001

Welfare program case management is usually organized in one of two ways. Under traditional case management, welfare recipients interact with two separate workers: one worker who deals with welfare eligibility and payment issues, often called income maintenance, and one who deals with employment and training issues. Under integrated case management, welfare recipients work with only one staff member who handles both the income maintenance and employment and training aspects of their case. Although both strategies have certain advantagesВ  for example, the traditional structure allows staff members to specialize in one particular role, and the integrated structure allows staff members to quickly emphasize the importance of employment and eliminates failures in communication between staff membersВ  little information exists on the effects of the two approaches.

This report presents results of a study designed to evaluate the two case management approaches. The study was conducted in Columbus, Ohio,(1) as part of the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies (NEWWS Evaluation), a large-scale study of welfare-to-work programs in seven sites across the nation. The evaluation is being conducted by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), under contract to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with support from the U.S. Department of Education.(2) For the study, Columbus ran two separate welfare-to-work programs: one that used integrated case management, referred to in this report as the integrated program, and one that used traditional case management, referred to as the traditional program. Apart from the case management difference, the welfare-to-work programs were the same: They required welfare recipients to participate in activities designed to enhance their skills before looking for work, provided child care and other services to support this participation, and penalized those who did not follow program rules by decreasing their cash grant.

This report provides information on how the integrated and traditional programs were implemented, how the programs affected participation in employment-related activities, and the costs of providing employment-related services in the two programs. It also discusses program effects, measured three years after people entered the programs, on employment, earnings, and welfare receipt.(3) (A future NEWWS Evaluation report will follow Columbus sample members for five years and present a comparison of the programs' benefits and costs.)

The evaluation's rigorous research design (discussed later in this chapter) allows researchers to determine the effects of each program, as well as the relative effects of the two programs. In other words, the report provides two types of information. First, it describes and evaluates the effects of two mandatory, education-focused welfare-to-work programs relative to the effects of no special welfare-to-work program. The Columbus programs are different from many previously studied programs that emphasized skills-building. Others have engaged most participants in basic education classes; the Columbus programs engaged many people in basic education but also engaged others in post-secondary education, primarily at two-year colleges. (After the follow-up period covered in this report, Columbus's welfare-to-work program changed its focus to quick entry into the labor market. The next section briefly describes the reformed program.)

Second, this report compares the effectiveness of a welfare-to-work program that used integrated case management with the effectiveness of one that used traditional case management. For example, the report discusses which program engaged more recipients in program activities, which produced larger welfare receipt reductions, and which generated larger earnings increases. Because all features of the two programs were identical, except for their case management approach, these comparisons indicate the relative effectiveness of the two case management approaches.