Further Progress, Persistent Constraints: Findings From a Second Survey of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program. Recruitment of Noncustodial Parents Has Been Especially Challenging


Consistent with the expected demographic profile of WtW participants, most individuals enrolled in WtW programs to date are females between the ages of 20 and 40 (see Table III.2). About half of the enrolled individuals are white, with an almost equal proportion of African Americans. American Indians, Alaska Natives, persons of Asian descent, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders comprise a much smaller portion of WtW participants. The representation of these groups among WtW participants enrolled to date is nevertheless consistent with grantee expectations for their participation overall.

However, male participation in WtW to date lags notably behind expectations. On average, grantees have enrolled about 20 male WtW participants. This figure translates into about 11 percent of participants enrolled to date, or about half of the expected 20 percent share of total participation in WtW. This finding reflects the special challenges faced by WtW programs in identifying and recruiting noncustodial parents.

This recruitment difficulty is particularly clear in the experiences of grantees that are placing special emphasis on serving males.(4)  There were 62 such grantees, 13 of which were recent Round 3 competitive grantees and had not begun operations. Of the remaining 49 grantees, 42 had begun enrolling WtW participants and reported having enrolled an average of 44 males, over periods ranging from 3 to 18 months, at an average rate of just five participants per month. This pace falls far short of the 12 new participants these grantees would have to recruit each month, on average, to meet their male participation targets within stated enrollment periods. Data from the second WtW grantee survey thus confirm that organizations placing special emphasis on serving noncustodial parents are finding it especially difficult to reach male customers.

Based on information obtained in the evaluation exploratory site visits, these grantees probably are encountering several kinds of difficulty. First, many of the programs aiming to serve noncustodial parents are relatively new and, therefore, may be facing a steeper "learning curve" as they begin operations and develop all aspects of their interventions. In addition, making initial contact with male customers and getting referrals have proven difficult for some, particularly if they have been attempting to rely on child support enforcement offices for referrals. Establishing eligibility has also been described as a problem by some grantees; TANF agencies are sometimes unwilling to disclose information about the TANF case in which the children of noncustodial parents are members, which has been an essential factor in establishing the noncustodial parents' WtW eligibility. Finally, efforts to get men to enroll in the programs, even once they were deemed eligible, often meet with low success rates.

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