How Effective Are Different Welfare-to-Work Approaches? Five-Year Adult and Child Impacts for Eleven Programs. Program Features

12/01/2001

This report presents the long-term impacts, or effects, that the 11 NEWWS programs had on outcomes such as employment, earnings, welfare receipt, and child and family well-being. This section provides a context for interpreting the results in the chapters that follow by showing the range of programs on key implementation dimensions. As will become apparent, there is no typical "package" of welfare-to-work program features. As examples, the most work-focused programs are not necessarily the toughest, and those that use integrated case management do not necessarily monitor their enrollees' progress more effectively than others. Given this information, it is important to interpret each program's impacts as a result of its entire "bundle" of services and features. It is likely that a combination of features rather than one specific feature is associated with successful outcomes and specific impacts.

Nonetheless, this section focuses on the two implementation dimensions used to categorize the 11 NEWWS programs: the self-sufficiency approach used and the level of participation mandate enforcement. These particular dimensions are discussed at length here because they clearly demonstrate the division between the programs and provide a general framework for thinking about program results. In addition, this section explores other implementation features that provide an important context for interpreting the impact results in later chapters.

It should be kept in mind that sample members were subject to the welfare-to-work programs being studied only as long as they were receiving welfare. Welfare recipients frequently cycle on and off the welfare rolls. In the first two years of follow-up in these programs, for example, sample members received welfare and were required to participate in the programs for an average of 9 to 17 months, depending on the site. On average, sample members were either participating in a program activity, employed while subject to the program, or sanctioned for program nonparticipation between 22 and 68 percent of these months, depending on the site.(14) (Those not in one of these statuses in any given month may have been waiting for case managers to refer them to an activity or sanction them, waiting for support services to be arranged or for activities to begin, temporarily deferred from participation for reasons such as illness or caring for an ill relative, or temporarily "lost track" of by program staff.) While such figures on program "dosage" might seem surprising, it is important realize that the goal of welfare-to-work programs is to enable individuals to leave welfare and/or get a job. As a result, one would hope that sample members had not been participating in program activities during every month in the follow-up period, since this would mean that they had never left welfare and/or found employment during the period.

As noted earlier, the implementation features discussed here primarily relate to how sample members would have experienced the programs in the first three years of follow-up in the evaluation. Section V describes changes in program focus in the last years of the five-year follow-up period analyzed in the report. Table 1.3 summarizes for all programs the implementation features discussed in this section.

Table 1.3
Client-Experienced Program Features, by Program Approach Implemented in Years 1 to 3 of Follow-Up
Program Degree of Emphasis on Self-Sufficiency Approach Degree of Enforcement of the Participation Mandate Type of Child Care Support Provided for Participation Extent of Partnership Between Eligibility and Self-Sufficiency Staff
Employment Education Enrollment Monitoring Sanctioning Message Availability
Atlanta LFA High Moderate Broad-
delayed
Moderate High Encouraged use; licensed care only No shortage Limited
Atlanta HCD Low High Broad-
delayed
Moderate High Encouraged use; licensed care only No shortage Limited

Grand Rapids LFA

High Low Broad High Very high Suggested use; choice of provider No shortage Limited

Grand Rapids HCD

Low High Broad High Very high Suggested use;choice of provider No shortage Limited

Riverside LFA

High Low Broad High High Encouraged low-cost, informal care Occasional shortage Limited

Riverside HCD

Moderate High Broad High High Encouraged low-cost, informal care Occasional shortage Limited

Columbus Integrated

Low High Broad Moderate Very high Suggested use; choice of provider No shortage Strong

Columbus Traditional

Low High Broad Low Very high Suggested use; choice of provider No shortage Limited

Detroit

Low High Selective Low Low Organizational emphasis on providing assistance; choice of licensed or approved provider No shortage Very limited

Oklahoma City

Low High Selective Low Low Organizational emphasis on providing assistance; licensed care only No shortage Limited

Portland

High Moderate Moderately selective High Moderate Emphasis on necessity of arrangements; choice of provider No shortage Strong