The difficulties with repeat referrals and job retention raise several important questions about the efficacy of follow-up contacts to One-Stop drop outs and program completers. Most of the One-Stop systems visited were well accustomed to conducting follow-up surveys for JOBS clients, typically at 90-days or in some cases, four months following exit from the program. However, few indicated that they conducted any systematic follow-ups to offer services for continuing training/education or counseling on job conflicts and job retention.
In many respects, it is probably appropriate that One-Stop staff not be too aggressive in pursuing welfare applicants or recipients who have been referred for employment services but fail to show up or drop out. Some of these people will undoubtedly find employment on their own, while others may simply prefer to not receive welfare payments, or prefer a short term, reduced payment, rather than engage in welfare-to-work programs. In all of these instances, the referred client is exercising choice in a manner that may effectively screen out those welfare referrals who lack the motivation to engage and complete the programs offered at the One-Stop. However, there may be some referred clients who face logistical hurdles, or who have significant, compounding problems that either emerged recently or were not picked up in the initial assessment by the welfare agency. While none of the sites identified any useful mechanisms for being alert to these possibilities, the development of some sort of strategy for improving early engagement could prove to be valuable, both for the clients but also for the efficient allocation of One-Stop staff resources. Our sense is that for most TANF clients that make it through the initial orientation period, One-Stop staff typically have the opportunity to try and address these issues before the clients drop out.
Some sort of triage strategy in following up with program completers may also valuable. Some of the staff in Tarrant County indicated that they do some follow-up work with completers, but didn't relate any particular organized approach. At most sites, much of the follow-up contact with program completers seemed to occur either through recidivism or through personal friendships developed between clients and staff during the One-Stop experience. This latter contact seemed to be somewhat more prevalent in the rural areas, but was frequently mentioned in focus groups with program completers.(21) Clearly, some follow-up contacts targeted to clients most likely to have difficulty retaining employment might be aimed at dealing with job conflicts and other home/work logistical issues that would improve employment retention. For the most part, this kind of follow-up is not practiced due to the limitations of time and resources, and it does not appear that any of the sites have done any systematic analysis that would allow them to target those clients most likely to have difficulty retaining employment.
As noted earlier, former participants were very clear about the changes necessary for most One-Stop systems in order to be useful in expanding education and training opportunities to help former welfare recipients move beyond entry-level work and wages. Evening and weekend hours and child care during these times were perhaps the most important ingredients in promoting lifelong learning for these clients. In most respects, these needs are likely to be quite similar to the needs of other mainstream, working families that seek to boost their careers and standards of living. If One-Stop systems are to truly become "career centers," they will need to redesign their services to more closely match the needs of their customers, including those who are currently working. Only through this kind of redesign will One-Stops be able to fully address the lifelong education and training aspects of the One-Stop concept.