National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Final Report. Program Models and Services

09/01/2004

WtW grantees, allowed considerable discretion to design programs, came up with a variety of approaches to serve the enrollees described in the previous chapter. The underlying goal of the WtW grants program was to promote the long-term economic self-sufficiency of people with serious employment difficulties, particularly welfare recipients and noncustodial parents of children on welfare. In pursuing this goal, grantees generally offered similar services classified as allowable under the authorizing legislation. All the grantees in this study offered pre-employment services such as needs and skills assessments, job readiness instruction, and job search assistance. They also offered, at least to some enrollees, more intensive activities such as education, occupational training, transitional subsidized employment, or supported work experience. Some provided job retention services. Grantees diverged, however, in the relative emphasis they placed on different services, each attempting to address the needs of their target population, as they understood them.

The approaches grantees took to the provision of services can be looked at from two perspectives. First, we can classify programs into general models based on grantee service plans and descriptions of their activities, and on our observations of program services. Section A distinguishes four such program models on this basis. Second, we can examine the actual services enrollees received to determine which of the allowed WtW services were most commonly used by recipients, and how these patterns varied across sites. Section B uses data from program management information systems and follow-up interviews with enrollees to characterize the types of services received and the duration of enrollees activities. Patterns of actual service receipt may illustrate how some program model distinctions lead to different enrollee experiences. However, these two perspectives may not always be consistent. In Section C, we examine whether patterns of enrollee activity in WtW services coincide with distinctions in program models based on grantee plans and designs.

Distinctions among WtW programs, whether based on program operators plans or patterns of enrollee experiences, are typically subtle rather than dramatic. One reason is that some granteesВ  especially large ones like the Chicago siteВ  used their WtW funds to support multiple programs, often serving distinct target populations with different service emphases. A second reason is that despite grantees plans, their experiences with program implementation often resulted in shifts in actual practice, sometimes in ways that muted the distinctiveness of their original program ideas. Distinctions evident in program designs, moreover, may be less evident in the patterns of enrollees activities and their paths into employment, which were also a result of whether the enrollees persevered in programs long enough to be exposed to the full menu of services. Finally, it must be remembered that all grantees were focused on employment as a near-term outcome; program models involving extensive job skill training or education before entry to employment, for example, were not among the model options. Thus the programs in this study can be expected to differ only within a limited range.

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