Privatization in Practice: Case Studies of Contracting for TANF Case Management. Performance Measures


The 1990s saw a growing interest in using performance measurement for government programs and passage of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 and the Government Management and Results Act of 1994. Government agencies are now more frequently subject to performance standards and pass those performance standards onto their contracted services providers. Reflecting this trend, contracts in all the study sites contain performance measures. Table IV.1 summarizes the performance measures used in each contract.

Performance measures can be outcome or "process" measures. Outcome measures focus on the results of services that contractors provide and include client employment, job retention, and wages and earnings. They could also include measures of more intermediate outcomes, such as participation in vocational training. Four contracts include measures of participation in work activities, aligning the definition of participation with federal and state performance measures. Process measures focus on whether and how services are delivered. They include the number of program enrollments, completion of assessments, accuracy of referrals, and even the amount of staff training. Client satisfaction can also be thought of as a process measure. A measure of the participation of a faith-based organization was included as an optional measure in the contracts in Wisconsin.

Table IV.1.
Performance Measures in Contracts in Study Sites
Number of Measures Outcome Measures Process Measures
Placement Contract  
5 Employment(a)
90 days job retention(a)
Full-time employment at 90 days
Program enrollment(a)
Referral to retention contractor
Retention Contract  
7 30 days employment (after enrollment)(a)
90 days job retention(a)
180 days job retention(a)
270 days job retention(a)
360 days job retention(a)
Full-time employment for second 180-day period
Program enrollment
7 Participation rate as defined by federal measure
Average wage
Average wage in unsubsidized jobs
90 days job retention
180 days job retention
Program enrollment or sanction referral
5 Employment(a)
Participation rate for one-parent families(a)
Participation rate for two-parent families(a)
Number of cases in which the head of household meets work requirements
Program enrollment(a)
Employment Services Contract  
6 Employment(a)
90 days job retention(a)
180 days job retention(a)
365 days job retention(a)
Completion of vocational education or training(a)
Completion of employment plan and assessments(a)
TANF Eligibility Determination Contract  
7   Client satisfaction
Applications processed within 30 days
Benefits determined accurately
Accurate referral to employment program
Sanctions executed within 10 days
Clients complaints addressed within 30 days
Information used to determine eligibility provided to public agency for checking within 3 days of receipt
12 Participation rate for one-parent families
Participation rate for two-parent families
30 days job retention
90 days job retention
180 days job retention(a)
Increase in average hourly wage
Exiting TANF due to employment(a)
Completion of appraisals
Completion of assessments
Engagement in job search activities
Signing a Welfare-to-Work plan
20 plus 3 optional Employment(a)

Job retention (30 and 180 days)(a)
Participation in appropriate activities(a)
Participation in education(a)
Completion of education activity(a)
Earnings gain(a)
Average wage at placement
Earnings during and after program participation
Rate of recidivism
Number of 18 to 19 year olds in school

Health benefits are available(a)

Caseload per case manager
Staff training(a)
Completion of assessments(a)
Processing extension request(a)
Timely submission of audits(a)
Compliance with contract and no corrective action plans(a)
Client satisfaction(a)
Percentage of participants who receive services to address barriers
Number of nonTANF clients served
Level of in-work supports

Subcontract with faith-based organization(a)
SSI advocate available(a)

a Triggers payment

The types of performance measures included in the contracts depend on whether the contract is for employment-related TANF case management, case processing functions such as eligibility determination, or both. Not surprisingly, the contracts for employment services focus on work-related outcomes. Contracts that include case processing  those in Palm Beach County and Wisconsin  focus much more on process, using measures such as client satisfaction, accuracy of referrals, and timeliness of actions.

The number of performance measures varies by contract (Table IV.1). The contracts in Delaware and Lower Rio Grande Valley include only five, while Wisconsin uses 23 (including three optional measures) in its contracts. Most contracts contain seven or fewer measures.

Selecting performance measures is not straightforward. Public agencies in the study sites devoted considerable effort to choosing and refining the performance measures in their contracts. The challenge for the public agencies is to choose measures that create incentives to meet program goals, avoid unintended consequences, and can be assessed without costly data collection.

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