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


Overall recipient-to-staff ratios were approximately the same in the two programs. As Table 2.1 shows, in the traditional program caseloads averaged about 260 for both IM workers and JOBS case managers; in the integrated program caseloads averaged 140. In other words, on average every two staff members in the traditional program worked with about 260 recipients and every two staff members in the integrated program worked with 280 recipients.

Columbus caseloads were at the high end of the range of those in other welfare-to-work programs.(2) However, caseloads were defined differently in different places. In Columbus, caseload tallies for JOBS and integrated case managers included some people who were not participating in JOBS. Also, as mentioned earlier, the Columbus JOBS program provided substantial support to help staff manage their large caseloads; in fact, the level of automated and administrative support for Columbus staff was among the highest of the programs in the NEWWS Evaluation.

Caseloads for integrated case managers (140) were larger than planned.(3) When designing the program, welfare administrators and MDRC researchers intended that integrated staff work with about 100 clients, including about 65 active JOBS participants.(4) Integrated caseloads were not so large, however, that they prevented staff from successfully performing their duties.

Evidence from Oklahoma City, another site in the NEWWS Evaluation, showed that when caseloads in an integrated approach are too large, the income maintenance role may overshadow the employment and training function, particularly if management emphasizes the income maintenance role. In Oklahoma City, large caseloads, coupled with the administrators' focus on income maintenance, limited the time that staff spent on employment and training.(5) In contrast, the Columbus program emphasized the importance of the employment and training aspects of cases. Thus, although caseloads were larger than planned and larger than may be ideal, integrated staff still spent a substantial amount of time focused on JOBS duties. On the staff survey, Columbus integrated staff indicated that they spent, on average, about one-third of their day on JOBS-related duties and two-thirds on income maintenance-related duties. In contrast, integrated staff in Oklahoma City said they spent only about one-fifth of their day on JOBS-related tasks and four-fifths on income maintenance tasks.

When surveyed, half of the integrated case managers in Columbus reported that they felt equally like IM workers and JOBS workers, and most of the rest felt more like IM workers. Almost all integrated staff in Oklahoma City, in contrast, said that they felt like IM workers. In Portland, Oregon, the third site in the NEWWS Evaluation using an integrated approach, most integrated staff viewed themselves primarily as JOBS workers or as both equally, and they said their workday was evenly split between JOBS and income maintenance duties. Average caseloads for integrated case managers in Portland were relatively small (95), and program administrators strongly emphasized the importance of the employment and training duties.(6)