National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Final Report. Serving Noncustodial Parents: A Descriptive Study of Welfare-to-Work Programs

09/01/2004

This report examines the strategies used by 11 WtW grantees to design programs for and delivery services to low-income noncustodial parents (NCPs). Two of the sites were in-depth study grantees for the formal WtW evaluation; the other nine were selected to represent a range of services and approaches. Six of the programs were operated by workforce development agencies, four by nonprofit community-based organizations, and one by a corrections department. The programs brought together a wide range of partners, including workforce development agencies, child support agencies, courts, and TANF agencies. For most grantees, the availability of the WtW funds often spurred an interest in  or further impetus for  serving NCPs.

  • Programs used similar services, focusing primarily on job search assistance. All programs conducted some type of employability assessment and job search assistance (usually in a group setting) and post-employment support to help participants retain jobs. The programs also provided a case manager for each participant. Some programs offered education and job training, but most participants were uninterested, preferring to get a regular job. Parenting and relationship services were typically not emphasized, although a few programs placed high priority on these issues (all programs could refer participants to other special agencies for assistance).
  • A variety of public and private organizations can establish and operate programs for NCPS. no single model or provider is necessarily preferable, and collaboration among agencies can ensure a range of services to address families varied problems
  • Outreach and recruitment are major components of  and challenges to  NCP programs. The target population was difficult to reach and often initially reluctant to participate, fearing repercussions from the child support enforcement agency. Programs developed a variety of approaches to outreach and to retaining participants in the program once enrolled.
  • A combination of positive incentives and pressures may prove more successful than either a voluntary or harshly punitive program. Positive incentives may not only enhance outcomes, but facilitate recruitment. Among the positive incentives for participating were employment services, transportation assistance, vouchers for workrelated expenses, and help in communicating with the child support agency. Requirements and sanctions in some programs took the form of a threat of incarceration for nonpayment of child support. Most programs, though, were voluntary.
  • Helping NCPs understand and navigate the child support enforcement system may be an important program service. Most of the programs incorporated some focus on child support, including helping participants work with child support, often with a designated worker at the child support agency.

[Full report: Serving Noncustodial Parents: A Descriptive Study of Welfare-to-Work Programs]

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