Performance Improvement 2008. Goal 3 - Promote the Economic and Social Well-being of Individuals, Families, and Communities

01/01/2008

PROMOTE THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL WELL-BEING OF INDIVIDUALS, FAMILIES, AND COMMUNITIES

This Strategic Goal seeks to protect life, family, and human dignity by promoting the economic and social well-being of individuals, families, and communities; enhancing the safety and well-being of children, youth, and other vulnerable populations; and strengthening communities.[4]

Promote the Economic Independence and Social Well-being of Individuals and Families Across the Lifespan.

From a cross-State comparison of efforts to develop market-based, low cost health insurance products targeted to low income workers, there were several lessons learned: make enrollment goals realistic; pay attention to the whole insurance package; carefully consider the cost sharing requirements and consider implications for the State; market strategically; anticipate higher than expected premiums; understand the trade-offs between adding benefits and keeping program costs low; and know the target population.

A literature review examined education approaches that promoted healthy marriages among low-income stepfamily couples. The review found that stepfamily couples needed the same services as traditional marriages: communication and conflict management skills, effective anger and stress management skills, and friendship building skills; however, programs targeting stepfamilies should also include content tailored to their specific needs.

An investigation into how the Department can better help the poor become employed examined programs that targeted low-income individuals, including those earning low wages, and individuals who received cash assistance. Both populations were likely to encounter barriers to employment. Initiatives included those that: combined elements from multiple models and provided comprehensive services, involved new partnerships of public- and private-sector organizations, were financed with public funds, focused on employment-related skill-development, and involved the private sector.

A research literature review synthesized findings about how adolescent experiences and development affect attitudes and decisions about marriage. The study observed that programs and curricula targeting adolescent romantic relationships must be grounded in an accurate understanding of these relationships.

One random-control trial in California tested whether providing post-employment services and payments helped working individuals who recently left welfare keep their jobs, stay off welfare, and find jobs with better pay, hours, benefits, and career advancement opportunities. Individuals in the program worked more consistently than control group members and obtained substantial increases in total earnings primarily because more of them found higher paying jobs. The program did not affect public assistance received during its first year. Another study examined interim results of a Minnesota employment and retention program serving welfare recipients who had not found jobs through standard welfare-to-work services. The program had little effect on employment or earnings over the one and a half years of follow-up; an early increase in employment did not persist. A third related study, in Chicago, found that the program helped some unemployed people find jobs. The program modestly increased employment during the first two years of the study period, helping some participants move from informal jobs to somewhat higher paying jobs in the formal labor market.

A project synthesizing research and analyzing data on the composition of the welfare caseload and composition of those leaving welfare found that since welfare reform in 1996, the composition of both has remained stable.

A number of Federal programs use vouchers. Investigators summarized the reasons for using vouchers in service delivery, including how they were used in public programs, and identified design and implementation lessons learned from these voucher programs. Vouchers promoted competition and service delivery, enhanced client choice, and provided a mechanism for including faith-based and community organizations´ in-service provisions.

A query was pursued to determine why child support debt in nine States grew and whether it was collectable. Among other findings, it was learned that that most debtors had little reported income; 70 percent of total arrears overall were owed by parents earning $10,000 a year or less.

To examine child care after welfare reform, an extensive study examined the low income child care market in 25 communities in 17 States with a sub-study examining family child care in five neighborhoods. Family child care is different from center-based child care; it is typically provided in a private home, there are fewer children, and the caregiver is often related to the parent. The sub-study found that family child care providers often accommodated the varied work schedules of the mothers: most worked full-time, though their employment was unstable and they frequently did not work normal business hours.

Research to examine how dependent Americans are on social welfare programs found that there were 3 million fewer dependent individuals in 2004 compared to 1996. In 2004, 3.7 percent of the total population was dependent upon welfare benefits, in that they received more than half of their total family income from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Food Stamp, or Supplemental Security Income programs. The 2004 rate was lower than the 5.2 percent rate measured in 1996.

One study sought to determine which poor single mothers both exit and stay out of poverty. Among all single mothers in 2001, thirty percent exited poverty by the end of that year; the most frequent reason was increased earnings from employment. Of mothers exiting poverty, 72 percent returned within two years. Older and more educated women were more likely to exit and stay out of poverty; they also experienced the largest earnings increases. Another inquiry found that single mothers headed most of the families with children receiving Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds. The study found that States used the block grant funds to change conditions that perpetuate poverty, especially emergency services, unemployment, inadequate housing, poor nutrition, and lack of educational opportunity.

An examination of whether the Child Care and Development Funds are serving rural children found that children in rural areas are receiving subsidies under the program; however, as shown in previous studies, rural children participated in center programs at lower rates than urban children. Another inquiry into how to measure outcome performance of state and local community services block agencies found several indices of assistance to low-income participants, including: over 100,000 organizations worked with CSBG programs to promote anti-poverty family and community outcomes; 101,000 households obtained $33.4 million in child support payments; and 44 million hours of volunteer services were contributed to CSBG programs.

Use of Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) Program funds was examined. States used the flexible funding to provide a wide range of critical services to vulnerable older adults, persons with disabilities, at-risk adolescents and young adults, and children and families. In 2005, almost 17 million individuals received services funded partially by the SSBG, 63 percent were children.

Research explored fertility patterns of married and unmarried men, a subject about which little has been known. Data available from 2002 suggest that for most men, fatherhood is restricted to marriage. Importantly, a man's marital status at the time his first child is born is strongly predictive of his marital status when his other children are born. This suggests that any effort to reduce men´s unwed parenthood should be concentrated on delaying first births until after marriage.

Protect the Safety and Foster the Well-being of Children and Youth.

Over the past 15 years, a number of programs have sought to improve their responses to families with children experiencing domestic violence. Findings from a study on this topic included: the child welfare system was severely strained; there were gaps in domestic violence policy and services for survivors; strategies to develop men's roles are needed; and support for children lag behind consideration of parents' needs.

Another new research area explored how child welfare agencies, which are considering privatizing foster care and adoption services, can determine whether their systems are prepared for such changes. Researchers found that reasons for undertaking privatization reform varied; a common theme was to improve child and family outcomes.

A randomized control study examined the long-term impacts on participants´ behavior of four abstinence education programs. Youth in the program group were no more likely than youth in the control group to have abstained from sex. Program and control group youth who reported having sex had similar numbers of sexual partners and had initiated sex at the same age. Contrary to concerns raised by critics of abstinence education, program group youth were no more likely to have engaged in unprotected sex than control group youth. The abstinence programs improved identification of sexually transmitted diseases but had no overall impact on knowledge of unprotected sex risks. Both program and control group youth had a good understanding of the risks of pregnancy but a less clear understanding of sexually transmitted diseases and their health consequences. Targeting youth solely at young ages may not be sufficient. The study found that friends' support for abstinence was a significant predictor of future sexual abstinence but that this support eroded during the teen years. It appears that promoting support for abstinence among peer networks into the high school years would be important.

A study to assess whether efforts to involve parents in their kids´ pregnancy prevention programs found mixed evidence for the effectiveness of this approach. Site visits clarified the difficulty of inducing parents to participate in such programs. Factors preventing parental participation include: timing and location logistics; psychosocial factors; relationship dynamics; and culture.

Encourage the Development of Strong, Healthy, and Supportive Communities.

Program staff analyzed service and expenditure data for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Five million low income households received help with heating costs in FY 2004 compared to 4.8 million the previous year. These households represented 14 percent of all households with incomes under the eligibility cutoff. About 32 percent of the households receiving heating assistance had at least one member 60 years or older, down from 40 percent the previous year; about 32 percent also included at least one member with a disability, compared to 34 percent the previous year.

A survey of grassroots organizations receiving capacity building funds under the Compassion Capital Fund sampled 173 faith-based and community organizations (FBCOs). The organizations were receiving assistance in the form of training, technical assistance and financial assistance from intermediary organizations. Most FBCOs were particularly positive about the extent to which Fund support improved the level or quality of services and improved organizational capacity.

Address the Needs, Strengths, and Abilities of Vulnerable Populations.

Teacher practices were examined in a targeted training project intended to improve teaching for school readiness of at-risk, low-income children in child care in Dade County, Florida. The study looked at two kinds of training outcomes: teacher behavior, interactions with children, and aspects of the classroom environment that support children´s language and literacy development; and children´s language and pre-literacy skills. Researchers concluded that those teachers who received the targeted training and technical assistance were better able to improve young children´s development of language skills.

Another study sought to determine whether cultural competency training for doctors improved their services to and health outcomes achieved by minorities and new immigrants. This project tested curriculum modules that equipped physicians with cultural and linguistic competencies required to interact effectively with racial/ethnic minorities and new immigrants. The online modules enhanced participants' self-awareness, communication practices, and changes in the perception and use of medical interpreters.

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