This section is intended to identify some of the pitfalls raised in the focus groups, rather than serve as a laundry list of criticisms. Some of these pitfalls are common to all or most of the sites visited:
- Location and Transportation: Young families who have been living under welfare rules that limit the amount of assets that can be held, such as the value of the family car, are poorly equipped to search for or retain work in rural or suburban locations. For many of these families, the location of the One-Stop, the location of work opportunities, the location of child care, the location of the doctor's office -- all of these can affect the success of a transition from welfare to work. In Tarrant County, the current One-Stop site was the result of a countywide effort to respond to the closure of a state school and make the best use of the facility. As a result, employment services were relocated from a more urban site to the current site which is located near an industrial park at the urban periphery, with only one bus line for public transit access. In Marshalltown, some clients drive as much as 50 or 60 miles one way to attend job club meetings, although the One-Stop staff also "ride the circuit" visiting the Center's outpost facilities once a week in each of the four counties in order to maintain contact with clients. Many of these rural clients must choose between lower-paying and less-skilled jobs closer to home and better opportunities that require a much longer commute. A similar pattern exists in Traverse City, where resort real estate prices in the city itself tend to drive welfare recipients into rural areas in search of affordable housing.(13) While JTPA funds are frequently used to fund gas and public transportation costs, several clients and managers suggested that small grants for auto repair would be one of the most useful tools in boosting job retention.
- Child Care Funding, Availability, and Scheduling: Many of the clients expressed frustrations in dealing with child care, although in most instances, they had found a way to work with the subsidies provided. The most complaints were about availability and scheduling of part time child care and child care during the evenings and odd hours. This is of particular concern to job seekers looking for entry level work with employers that have second, third, or swing shifts where entry level workers typically start. Transportation issues can compound this difficulty as well.
- Job Retention: As noted previously, none of the One-Stop models have well-developed strategy for helping clients retain their employment. As several case workers pointed out, virtually all clients are employable, but not all are capable of remaining employed. Some of the issues around job retention may be more tractable than others. For example, making arrangements for doctors visits and medical care for a chronically ill child may be problematic, but easier for a One-Stop staff to contend with than ongoing mental health or substance abuse problems.
- Substance Abuse: One of the most frequently noted reasons for poor job retention by employers were issues of alcohol and substance abuse. Questions about how these difficulties were dealt with were raised with staff in each One-Stop site, yet very few case managers seemed to be particularly experienced in contending with these issues. In some cases, case workers felt the clients frequently did a good job in masking these issues when present at the One-Stop, but generally case workers seemed unprepared for confronting and contending with clients with substance abuse problems.
- Ongoing Education and Training: Also noted previously was the lack of ongoing efforts to help former clients further their education and training. While it is understandable that young, working families have little time or money to pursue this option, its critical role in helping these families move to full self-sufficiency should not be overlooked. One alternative strategy might be to assist former clients look for opportunities to find better paying work, or an employer that offers more training opportunities, once the client has developed a track record and some skills in their first job. However, an active strategy in this regard may prove to be unwelcome in the employer community, and the availability of resources to assist clients who are successfully employed were quite limited in all sites.