National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Final Report. Appendix A:  Summary of the WtW Tribal Study

09/01/2004

In enacting PRWORA and the BBA,(1),(2) Congress made special provisions to help American Indian tribes move their members from welfare to work. This legislation authorized five new programs: Tribal TANF, Indian and Native American Welfare-to-Work, Native Employment Works, Tribal Child Care, and Tribal Child Support Enforcement. These programs gave tribal governments new latitude to combine funds from different sources to promote employment and to design certain aspects of the programs to meet their unique needs and circumstances. In addition to the core evaluation of the WtW Grants Program, the BBA called for a study of WtW initiatives undertaken by tribes and tribal organizations. This tribal study comprised the following features:

  • A Focus on the Implementation Experience. Given the diversity of circumstances and cultures across the 561 federally recognized tribes, rigorous statistical evaluations of program impacts were infeasible. Instead, the study emphasized developing a clear understanding of program designs, implementation experiences, promising approaches, and lessons learned. The tribal study employed intensive site visits and telephone interviews in three waves of data collection conducted from 1999 to 2003. Each wave included at least 10 sites; the first focused on tribal WtW grantees, the second on tribal TANF grantees, and the third on Indian tribes and Alaska Native Regional corporations. While efforts were made to obtain diversity in such factors as geographic location, population size, and level of unemployment in each of the three study samples, the study results should not be considered representative of every tribe and Alaska Native village.
  • Input from a Tribal Working Group. An advisory group with expertise in employment and training programs and welfare reform in Indian country helped to identify potential methodological problems and develop solutions, select sites for the implementation study, and guide the dissemination of results.
  • Two-Way Involvement of Tribal Leaders at Study Sites. The study team sought and obtained the approval of relevant tribal authorities for all site visits. Site-specific findings were circulated in draft to the participating tribes, tribal consortia, and Alaska Native Regional corporations for comment before they were included in the study reports.
  • Focused Topical Papers. The tribal study had three components, with separate reports produced for each. The first was an evaluation of tribal WtW grants programs for which two reports were prepared. The first report, written for tribal leaders and managers, described preliminary findings of tribal experiences in designing and implementing WtW programs (Hillabrant and Rhoades 2000). The second report on the first component was written for a wide audience and assessed the implementation and operation of tribal WtW programs, describing social, cultural, economic, programmatic, and other factors affecting their operation (Hillabrant, Pindus, Rhoades, and Trutko 2001). The second component of the tribal study examined tribal TANF programs (Hillabrant, Rhoades, and Pindus 2003). The third component focused on innovative economic development efforts in Indian country and their role in moving tribal members from welfare to work (Hillabrant, Earp, Pindus, and Rhoades 2004). The salient aspects and findings of these components are summarized below.

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