Privatization in Practice: Case Studies of Contracting for TANF Case Management. Local and Regional Nonprofits


Some nonprofits develop as an exclusively local response to the needs of disadvantaged people. Many of these nonprofits, like the affiliates of national organizations, have experience as government contractors, but they tend to operate with fewer funds and administrative resources than nonprofits working within a national network. However, this is not always the case. In Hennepin County, for example, several local nonprofits rival the national affiliates in terms of budget and program scope. These organizations operate an array of social and economic development programs, often focusing their activities on a particular neighborhood, ethnic group, or population in need of assistance. The local nonprofits providing TANF case management services in the study sites are a diverse group, as these examples illustrate:

  • Children and Families First. Children and Families First operates throughout Delaware, offering employment, foster care, family development, and HIV/AIDS services to a broad range of people.
  • Hmong American Partnership. Based in Minnesotas Twin Cities, the Hmong American Partnership serves the areas Hmong community with English language, self-sufficiency, and youth programs.
  • Ministry of Caring. A faith-based organization located in Wilmington, Delaware, the Ministry of Caring focuses its services on homeless and low-income families. Its staff and numerous volunteers operate shelters along with health care, child care, and employment programs.
  • RISE, Inc. As a community rehabilitation organization, RISE specializes in employment assistance, housing, and other services for people with disabilities. RISE provides case management for TANF clients in collaboration with several similar organizations.
  • Texas Migrant Council. From its beginnings with a mobile Head Start program for migrant workers, the Texas Migrant Council has expanded into a variety of services for migrants and other low-income families, including child care and employment assistance. The organization also operates in Ohio and Indiana.

From the perspective of TANF agencies, local nonprofits may bring important qualifications to the task of case management, including familiarity with a local area and the needs of specific groups of clients. In reconciling the responsibilities of TANF case managers with their philanthropic missions, however, these organizations face dilemmas similar to those of their counterparts affiliated with national groups. Smaller local groups also confront the challenge of managing and reporting on a complex program with sometimes limited internal resources.

Several faith-based organizations  both national affiliates and local nonprofits  provide services in the study sites (Table II.4). These organizations missions are rooted in religious principles, but the TANF case management services they offer do not include an explicitly religious component. Agency administrators in the study sites did not express a strong preference for or against working with faith-based organizations. In Wisconsin, however, the agency administering TANF contracts has attempted to boost the involvement of faith-based organizations by offering a performance bonus to prime contractors who have subcontracts with faith-based organizations.

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