Implementing Welfare Reform Requirements for Teenage Parents: Lessons from Experience in Four States . APPENDIX A: CASE STUDY OF ARIZONA

10/31/1997

Arizona implemented statewide welfare reform in November 1995, through its EMPOWER program (Employing and Having People Off Welfare and Encouraging Responsibility). The provisions of EMPOWER relating to teenage parents deal primarily with teenage parents under age 16. Minor custodial parents and pregnant girls between the ages of 13 and 15 must attend school full-time or participate in the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program, requirements already in effect for older teens. In addition, Empower requires that minor parents live with their parents to receive cash assistance.

A. OVERVIEW OF POLICIES AFFECTING TEENAGE PARENTS

1. School Attendance Policies

Arizona's school attendance requirement for teenage parents was implemented and enforced through the state's JOBS program. Under JOBS program rules at the time, Arizona received its AFDC waivers, all parents between 16 and 19 were required to attend school or be mandatory JOBS participants unless they had a high school diploma or its equivalent. This requirement applies even if the teenage parent has a child under one year of age. Arizona's waivers extended requirements in effect for teenage parents 16 and over to those parents between 13 and 15.

These policies apply to assistance recipients differently, depending on their age. All custodial parents who are 18 or 19 years of age (and pregnant women in their third trimester) and lack a high school diploma or equivalent are mandatory JOBS participants, except that an 18-year-old full-time student who can reasonably expect to graduate before turning 19 may be exempt. All 16- and 17-year-olds, whether custodial parents or not, must be referred to JOBS unless they are attending school full-time or qualify for some other exemption. Finally, as noted, a waiver granted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in November 1995 extended this requirement to welfare recipients between the ages of 13 and 15 who are either custodial parents or in the third trimester of pregnancy.

Although teenage parents attending school full-time are not required to participate in JOBS, they are encouraged to do so voluntarily. As voluntary JOBS participants, they qualify for child care, training-related expenses, and other support services.

2. Minor Parent Living Arrangement Requirements

Arizona's minor parent living arrangement requirement applies to custodial parents under the age of 18 who have never been married. To receive cash assistance, these unwed minor parents must live with their parent(s), an adult nonparent specified relative, or a legal guardian, unless they can establish good cause for living on their own. When the unwed minor parent cannot establish good cause, her assistance unit (mother and child) cannot receive cash assistance, although they may receive medical assistance and support services, including child care and JOBS services.

B. ORGANIZATION OF SERVICE PROVISION FOR TEENAGE PARENTS

The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) provides services to teenage parents receiving cash assistance under Arizona's JOBS program and according to JOBS policies. Serving people under age 20 has been a priority of the JOBS program since its inception in 1990. Arizona DES and the City of Phoenix Department of Community Affairs received a DHHS grant to establish Young Families Can (YFC), which, for more than 10 years, has provided case management services to teenage parents receiving cash assistance in Phoenix. In addition, since 1993, DES has entered into agreements with local school districts and community agencies, which provide a broad range of services to help teenage parents receive health care and remain in school. The AFDC waivers granted by DHHS in spring 1995 and implemented in November 1995 did not greatly alter Arizona's system for serving teenage parents; rather, they extended the system's reach to include parents between 13 and 15, seeking to ensure that their needs for health care, schooling, counseling, and support services are met.

Eligibility workers in the Arizona DES Family Assistance Administration (FAA) identify teenage parents at intake or at periodic case reviews. The FAA worker determines whether each teenage parent is attending school or has a diploma. The FAA worker refers to the JOBS program all teenage parents who are not attending school and do not have a high school diploma. The FAA worker also determines the monthly grant amount, including any sanctions levied for failure to comply with JOBS requirements.

The referral from FAA to the JOBS program for JOBS services is accomplished through the Arizona DES automated data system. The name of each person being referred to JOBS is transmitted to JOBS staff in a "referral file," with an indicator showing the person's status for JOBS services. Those on the referral file are called for an appointment with a JOBS case manager, usually within one week. If a backlog exists for JOBS services, custodial parents age 19 or younger, with no high school diploma or GED, are in the JOBS target groups that receive the highest priority.

JOBS case managers help mandatory participants identify a suitable school or training option and then enroll. The case manager also determines the need for child care and transportation assistance and helps arrange for these, as well as having DES pay for the services, if necessary. The case manager also monitors participation and, if participation is not satisfactory, requests a sanction and generates notices of adverse actions. As described in Section D, the organization of case management and the available school/training options vary considerably across the state.

C. IDENTIFYING TEENAGE PARENTS AND REFERRING THEM FOR SERVICES

FAA workers appear to identify most teenage parents, but they do not consistently refer the youngest teenage parents to the JOBS program. To ensure that teenage parents who do not have a diploma attend school, it is important to identify and focus attention on them.

Arizona state DES staff believe FAA intake and eligibility workers correctly identify most pregnant and parenting teens. FAA workers are trained to ask about the relationships among all the people in an AFDC household. The DES automated data system allows workers to record information by which teenage mothers and their babies are linked, even if the mother is not the head of the assistance unit.

DES state staff believe that the number of younger teenage parents receiving public assistance may be low compared to Arizona's high rate of child-bearing for this age group. They noted that many Arizona communities and families, especially Hispanic ones, prefer to care for the children of their children without public assistance. Thus, while Arizona has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the country, state staff believe many of these teenage parents do not apply for cash assistance and many are ineligible due to the income of their parents or adult relatives with whom they reside.

We have no firm basis for assessing how well Arizona teenage parents are identified. However, the proportion of cases that include a teenage parent is similar in Arizona to the proportion in other states included in this study. In February 1996, Arizona's cash assistance caseload included 3,660 custodial parents age 19 or younger, which is nearly six percent of the 63,000 cases receiving AFDC at that time. The number and share of total caseload are shown in Table A.1. Minor parents (age 17 and younger) were approximately one percent of cases, and parents age 18 and younger were just over three percent of the caseload.

TABLE A.1

TEENAGE CUSTODIAL PARENTS IN ARIZONA, FEBRUARY 1996

  Number Percentage of Caseload
Less than 16 147 0.2
16 263 0.4
17 356 0.6
18 1,282 2.0
19 1,612 2.6
Total 3,660 5.8

 

Source: Tabulations on data of all teenage parents receiving assistance in Arizona during February 1996.

In assessing the completeness with which Arizona eligibility workers identify teenage parents, it is important to bear in mind that being a parent does not affect the school attendance requirements of recipients between ages 16 and 18: all people age 16 to 19 are required either to attend school or be mandatory JOBS participants. Younger teenage parents, however, are subject to more stringent school attendance requirements than their nonparenting peers.

Referring younger teenage parents for JOBS services if they drop out of school has been a problem. State DES staff reported that FAA eligibility workers continue to have difficulty remembering to refer younger parents who have dropped out of school and thus should be referred to JOBS as mandatory participants under the waiver rules. Data on the JOBS status of teenage parents receiving assistance in February 1996 support these concerns. Exemptions from jobs in Arizona is granted only for persons under 16, and the waiver rules eliminated this exemption reason for parents age 13 to 15. Assuming that all 112 exemptions for age were granted to 13- to 15-year-olds, it appears that the exemption was incorrectly applied for nearly three-fourths of the approximately 150 custodial parents under 16. (Some of these persons may have been in school; others have dropped out and should have been mandatory JOBS participants.)

The small number of teenage parents under age 16 suggests an explanation for the problem: workers encounter so few young teenage parents that they do not remember to apply the revised rules for them. Indeed, less than 1 in 10 of Arizona's 1,400 FAA workers will have encountered even one case.

Despite this problem, most cases are being handled correctly, according to the data on JOBS referral status. Nearly half of teenage parents statewide are mandatory JOBS participants (40 percent) or full-time students (4 percent). Approximately one-fourth were exempt from JOBS because they were remote (5 percent), needed at home as a caretaker (less than 1 percent), employed (11 percent), in their third month of pregnancy or later (5 percent), or unable to obtain child care (3 percent). Another one-fourth were exempt as the caretaker of a child under one year, an exemption available to teenage parents who have a high school diploma or equivalent.

D. IMPLEMENTING THE SCHOOL ATTENDANCE REQUIREMENTS

Teenage parents have access to the same JOBS services as regular JOBS participants. Arizona JOBS policy states that pregnant and parenting teens may be served in separate programs tailored to their needs. The nature of the services varies in different communities. In Phoenix, DES contracts with the City, whose staff provide intensive case management for teenage parents. While applying the appropriate JOBS rules, case managers provide close monitoring and extensive support to help the teenage parent overcome the many obstacles to staying in or returning to school. In the remainder of the state, however, JOBS case managers themselves oversee the activities of teenage parents, along with those of the adult participants in their caseloads. In some JOBS offices, notably those in Tucson, a few specialized case managers work exclusively with teenage parents. By ensuring that eligible teenage parents are enrolled in JOBS, DES staff make sure that JOBS support services, especially child care, are available to help teenage parents stay in school and graduate.

1. Case Management and Education Programs

For the most part, JOBS case managers guide teenage parents to enroll in existing programs funded through schools. In addition, where appropriate programs exist, DES contracts with local community agencies to provide comprehensive services for teenage parents receiving public assistance. In some instances, DES contracts for GED or basic education services for teens who cannot return to school and for ancillary services such as counseling, prenatal care, and life skills. In other instances, DES collaborates with existing school-based programs for teenage parents.

Programs for teenage parents in Phoenix illustrate the diverse ways in which Arizona DES serves teenage parents receiving cash assistance in an urban setting. In February 1996, the Phoenix DES district served approximately 2,040, or nearly 56 percent, of the state's 3,660 custodial teenage parents receiving cash assistance. JOBS program case managers oversee the activities of most teenage parents in Phoenix. DES also contracts with the city of Phoenix Human Services Department to provide case management for 150 to 180 teenage parents per month.

YFC case managers provide counseling to teenage parents and assistance in finding services to support their efforts to stay in school. They also ensure that JOBS program guidelines are followed. Assessment activities upon entry to the program include a self-survey for indications of literacy problems or learning disabilities. If the teenage parent appears to have a learning problem, a complete educational assessment can be requested through JOBS. A teenage parent who is learning disabled can be exempted from the school attendance/JOBS requirements.

Arizona DES contracts with Young Families Can (YFC), an agency of the Phoenix Human Services Department, to provide case management services for teenage parents in Phoenix. Begun 10 years ago as a demonstration project with funding from the DHHS, the program currently is a partnership between DES (which provides just over 20 percent of its annual budget of $360,000) and the City of Phoenix (which provides about half the program's annual budget). The balance of funding comes from a variety of sources, including the Social Services Block Grant program.

Under its contract, YFC provides intensive, specialized case management services for a small but significant fraction of teenage parents in Phoenix. It is funded for 150 to 180 slots in fiscal year 1997, or just under 10 percent of all Phoenix district teenage parents. YFC was serving 150 teenage parents at the time of our visit in February 1997. Located in South Phoenix (where a high proportion of teenage parents reside), YFC primarily serves local clients who receive FAA services at an office across the street. Teenage parents residing in other parts of the city may also come to YFC, but distance and lack of transportation lead most to receive case management services from regular JOBS case managers at their local offices. Each YFC case manager works with 25 to 35 clients. In contrast, regular JOBS case managers who do not specialize in working with teenage parents typically have about 80 clients. Thus, through a contract with YFC, Arizona DES is able to provide more intensive and specialized case management services to a significant number of its teenage parents.

Case managers recommend educational placements that are realistic for the teenage parent. If a client is 19 and has no high school credits, a high school diploma or a GED is not a realistic goal. In this case, the case manager seeks a suitable educational or work activity, but does not insist that the client return to high school. If the teenage parent is 16 and has some high school credits, the case manager will strongly encourage her to return to high school.

Case managers consider a range of school placement options for their clients in Phoenix:

  • Regular high school or junior high school
  • Metrotech, a city alternative high school designed specifically for students who have encountered problems in regular school. It provides vocational programs and a regular high school diploma. It has a variety of programs for learning-disabled students, including food service training.
  • Charter high schools, which are alternative public schools serving multidistrict areas.
  • Maricopa County College, which offers GED, English as Second Language, and Adult Basic Education programs
  • GED programs for which JOBS contracts with selected providers

In considering JOBS activities for teenage parents, case managers emphasize high school equivalency completion (GED) programs, while discouraging programs designed to provide vocational skills without a high school credential. They urge clients to focus on a GED first, because they feel the high school credential is important and because JOBS may support vocational training for teenage parents after they complete a GED if deemed appropriate.

JOBS program rules lead to adaptations in GED programs for teenage parents. The JOBS program requires 20 hours a week of education and training activities, but many GED programs offer only 16 hours. In this circumstance, the remaining four hours required are devoted to other approved JOBS activities, such as participation in a support group and attendance at parenting and life skills classes.

The Arizona JOBS program expects that teenage parents may need to participate in GED for a longer period of time than most adults. For teenage parents, JOBS will approve participation in a GED program for periods of six months at a time. In general, they try to keep GED participation to one year for the teenage parents, although longer periods can be approved. After a teenage parent earns a GED certificate, the JOBS program may support post-secondary or vocational skills training for up to one year. The immediate goal is to have the teenage parent become employable in a trade at an entry level.

The Maricopa Center for Adolescent Parents (MCAP) illustrates the operation of a GED program contracting with DES. The center provides comprehensive services--GED instruction, life skills, and parenting education, as well as child care on-site--for infants as young as two weeks and toddlers up to two years. DES contracts for 20 of the center's 25 slots; the remaining 5 slots, funded from other sources, are reserved for teenage parents not receiving cash assistance. At the time of our visit, 14 of the 20 DES-contracted slots were occupied; the 5 slots funded by other sources had long waiting lists. YFC refers most (but not all) of the center's students funded through DES.

MCAP staff strive to establish a safe atmosphere in which teenage parents can meet clear expectations and draw support from staff and peers. In fact, staff reported that the center program becomes the primary source of encouragement for many teenage parents whose family and partners do not support their efforts to further their education. Individualized GED instruction is the core of the program. Life skills and parenting education are important components as well. Life skills class includes long- and short-term goal setting, career planning, workplace behavior (accepting criticism, dealing with conflicts, keeping a checkbook), communication, self-esteem, relationships, and nutrition. Staff reported that setting realistic long- and short-term goals is especially difficult for teenage parents, because most have never done it (or observed adults who did) and because immediate problems of survival push goals into the background. Parenting skills class focuses on child development, including such topics as the importance of play, bonding, reading, and alternative approaches to discipline. Because many of the mothers have never left their children with anyone else and find it difficult to do so, staff work with the young mothers to help them adjust to leaving their babies in the care of other adults.

The infants and toddlers attending the child care center are at-risk children, many of whom are developmentally delayed in one or more areas and have significant bonding or attachment problems. Child care staff address these needs by developing and carrying out individualized services plans for the children. Staff, therefore, have access to the assistance of professionals who can conduct the necessary assessments and help the teenager's family develop strategies for dealing with these problems.

YFC and MCAP illustrate the types of intensive services available to teenage parents in Arizona cities. However, not all parents are served in such a manner, even those in Phoenix. YFC provides case management services for just 150 to 180 (or 5 to 10 percent) of the teenage parents in the Phoenix district. JOBS caseworkers, who serve 80 clients on average, provide case management services for most teenage parents as part of their adult caseload. In addition to the Maricopa Center for Adolescent Parents, the JOBS program also contracts with three other providers in Phoenix for the same services and with two providers in rural areas.

State staff emphasized that JOBS services for teenage parents in rural areas are far more limited than services in Phoenix, Tucson, and other Arizona cities. This is partially due to the fact that there are no providers in rural areas that specialize in teenage parents. Subject to limited staff resources, Arizona DES seeks to conduct outreach in rural areas by going into schools and letting the teenage mothers know about the support services available to them through JOBS.

2. Child Care

Teenage parents can receive child care assistance through JOBS as voluntary or mandatory JOBS participants if they need assistance in attending school. Data for teenage parents who were receiving cash assistance near the beginning of 1996 show that approximately 27 percent received child care during calendar year 1996. DES pays for child care provided by licensed centers, certified group and family child care providers, and relatives. DES staff reported that centers provide 85 percent of the care for DES clients. Average reimbursement rates are close to the average market rates based on market surveys. Staff reported that clients in some rural areas had difficulty finding a provider, but that, in general, child care posed no obstacle to participation in JOBS. (Only three percent of teenage parents were exempt from JOBS due to lack of child care.) Interestingly, however, despite the evidence that child care generally can be arranged and does not pose a barrier to participation, DES staff reported that in focus groups held with clients (not necessarily teenage parents), child care was cited as an obstacle to JOBS participation, especially in rural areas.

3. Progress Monitoring and Sanctions

Monitoring school attendance and progress is done in a variety of ways. For all people (not just teenage parents) between 16 and 18, who do not participate in JOBS, FAA workers must verify school attendance at application and at each review by asking the school to complete a written form. However, attendance monitoring for AFDC recipients enrolled in schools is not done on a monthly or weekly basis.

If the teenage parent is a JOBS participant, the case manager monitors school attendance. YFC case managers reported that monitoring entails a face-to-face meeting with each teenager at least once a month. Teenage parents must submit weekly time reports signed by their school instructor to show that they are attending school regularly. YFC encourages the client to bring the report to the office; to meet with those who cannot do this, case managers frequently travel to the school (but rarely to the home). Regular JOBS case managers who work with teenage parents also said that they require attendance reports as often as once a week. They emphasized that it is also important for teenage parents to come in and meet with them, although JOBS case managers usually are not able to leave the office to meet with clients at school. Case managers like to receive weekly reports from clients, so that they will be aware immediately of any problems or drop-off in attendance.

State staff reported that case managers exercise discretion in determining whether the client is making a good-faith effort to fulfill program requirements, and whether a sanction is necessary. Case managers are encouraged to be flexible but to watch for patterns of behavior which indicate that a client is taking advantage of this flexibility. Case managers follow guidelines designed to rule out such factors as "good cause" for missing school (taking a vacation was offered as an example) and that allow others which are clearly valid (illness of the client or child, death in the family). Temporary transportation breakdown is an example of a situation in which the case manager could exercise judgment and would likely not impose a sanction, especially if the client's participation record is otherwise good. Also, the case manager will assist the client in eliminating the barrier.

YFC case managers reported that, although they carry out DES policies on noncompliance, they are more lenient with teenage parents than JOBS case managers are with adult clients. If teenage parents blatantly refuse to go to school, the case manager requests a sanction, though not before working with the client to remedy the problem. The JOBS case managers we spoke with also said they were more lenient with their teenage parents than with their adult clients.

Arizona's sanctioning system has changed with welfare reform. At the time of our visit in February 1997, a sanction entailed removing the needs of the teenage parent from the cash grant. The JOBS case manager sends out a notice of change, which gives the client seven days to call or come in and establish good cause for the infraction. After that period, the case manager requests a sanction and the eligibility worker reduces the grant. The first instance of noncompliance results in a one-month sanction; the second, a three-month sanction. The third infraction brings a six-month sanction. After the sanction is implemented, it must remain in effect for the full period--compliance does not remove the sanction. After the minimum period, the sanction remains in effect if the client does not agree to comply. During the sanction period, the person may not receive JOBS services.

On August 1, 1997, new cash assistance sanctioning procedures became effective. For the first month of noncompliance, the household's grant is reduced by 25 percent; for the second month, it is reduced by 50 percent. For the third month of noncompliance, cash assistance is stopped (the case is closed). Compliance with JOBS ends the sanction, and the grant can be restored to 100 percent without a new application unless the case has been closed.

E. MINOR PARENT LIVING ARRANGEMENT REQUIREMENT

Arizona's requirement that minor parents live with an adult relative or guardian was first implemented in November 1995, under a waiver granted by DHHS. All minor custodial parents who have never been married must live with a parent, legal guardian, or legally responsible adult. If the minor parent refuses without good cause to do so, all cash assistance to the assistance unit is denied. However, the minor custodial parent remains eligible for Medicaid, JOBS assistance, and related support services. Good-cause reasons include the following:

  • The minor parent does not have a living, natural or adopted parent or legally responsible adult.
  • The whereabouts of the parent or legally responsible adult are unknown.
  • The minor parent meets emancipation criteria: has lived apart from parents for the 12 months before application, has been financially independent, and has not received AFDC during the 12 months before application.
  • The minor parent claims abuse and neglect, and a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation has substantiated the claims or has been unable to determine whether the claims are true.

The FAA worker must verify the first three good-cause reasons. If the minor parent claims abuse or neglect, the worker asks whether she can substantiate the claim and refers the case to CPS, forwarding any documentation that the unwed minor parent provides. The case remains eligible for assistance, pending completion of the CPS investigation. If CPS substantiates the claim of abuse, or neglect is substantiated, or CPS is unable to determine whether the claim is accurate, the case remains eligible for AFDC. If CPS finds the claim is not substantiated, AFDC cash assistance is stopped, effective two months after the FAA worker enters the data into the system. If an unwed minor parent supplies additional information to support a claim of abuse or neglect, she must reapply and the CPS investigation must be redone. The case is not eligible for cash but remains eligible for support services until the minor parent turns 18. At that time, the parent may reapply for cash assistance; indeed, she must do so to remain eligible for JOBS assistance and support services.

An unwed minor parent is always part of the assistance unit of the parent or responsible adult if the adult is receiving assistance. If the minor parent lives with a nonparent who is not requesting aid, the minor parent is not eligible unless the adult is also needy.

As noted earlier, Arizona has a relatively small number of unwed minor parents on its cash assistance caseload. Of nearly 3,700 teenage parents receiving cash assistance in February 1996, approximately 700 were unwed parents under the age of 18. Of these, 70 percent were part of an assistance unit headed by an adult, and 30 percent were heads of their own assistance unit. The case heads include minor parents living with an adult who is not receiving assistance, as well as minor parents living on their own for good cause. We do not know how many of the approximately 200 minor parents who head cases are living independently.

Approximately 70 minor parents statewide are receiving only support services because cash assistance was denied for refusal to live at home without good cause. The Arizona DES does not provide alternative living arrangements.