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

06/01/2001

The degree to which a welfare-to-work program is "mandatory" can be considered a product of three factors: (1) how wide a cross section of the eligible caseload is enrolled in the program, (2) how closely the program monitors participation, and (3) how swiftly and consistently the program imposes sanctions (AFDC grant reductions).(8) Accordingly, both programs in Columbus were strongly mandatory, but the integrated program was a bit more so.

As discussed in more detail in Chapter 3, the integrated program enrolled a wider cross section of the eligible caseload than the traditional program. As expected, the integrated program also provided closer monitoring of recipients' progress through the program. Integrated staff reported receiving attendance information from service providers and contacting participants about attendance problems more quickly than traditional staff (see Figure 2.4). Fewer integrated staff members reported receiving a lot of information on participants' progress from service providers, but field research indicated they may have received a bit more information than traditional staff. The survey responses may reflect integrated staff's high expectations about monitoring and their frustration based on their higher than anticipated caseloads. In addition, integrated case managers typically saw their clients more often because they were responsible for income maintenance functions as well.

Figure 2.4
Participation monitoring

Participation monitoring

Staff in both programs believed that those who receive welfare should be obligated to take part in JOBS activities, and they strongly emphasized the program participation mandate. According to survey responses (presented in Figure 2.5), a higher proportion of integrated case managers (86 percent) than traditional JOBS case managers (71 percent) strongly emphasized penalties for noncompliance to new clients. Field research uncovered no evidence that the traditional program communicated a less mandatory message, and client survey responses (illustrated in the figure) indicate that the integrated and traditional group members heard similar messages about penalties for noncompliance. Perhaps traditional staff felt less compelled to communicate the possible penalties since all the recipients they met with had seen an orientation video that stressed the mandatory nature of the program (the integrated program did not use the video).

Figure 2.5
Rule Enforcement and Sanctioning

Rule Enforcement and Sanctioning

Although staff in both programs said that they usually gave recipients a few chances before sanctioning them for program noncompliance, they did not tolerate persistent attendance problems. Thirty-eight percent of traditional JOBS case managers reported never delaying sanction requests, a relatively small percentage compared with most of the other programs in the NEWWS Evaluation. Seventy-one percent of IM workers and integrated staff said that they never delayed imposing sanctions, also toward the low end in relation to the other programs. The field research offers some evidence that the IM staff sometimes did not immediately impose sanctions because they prioritized other duties, especially processing welfare benefits, ahead of sanctioning.