Privatization in Practice: Case Studies of Contracting for TANF Case Management. Types of Case Management and Processing Functions Privatized


The range of TANF case management functions that could be privatized include:

  • Initial Contact with Client. This first contact with the client may include a basic assessment of the appropriate program for the client. Diversion options may also be discussed with her at this point.
  • Assessments. These include evaluating the clients ability to obtain and retain employment and her need for further education or training, or such supportive services as transportation, child care, and mental health or substance abuse treatment.
  • Developing a Personal Responsibility Plan and/or Employment Plan. The personal responsibility plan (in some sites known as the Individual Responsibility Plan or the Contract for Mutual Responsibility) documents the clients goals and her obligations. These may include conducting a job search, obtaining a GED or training, attending parenting classes, ensuring children are enrolled in school and have received immunizations, and addressing any substance abuse problems. Some TANF programs also require clients to develop an employment plan that specifies the activities clients will undertake to move toward stable employment.
  • Referrals. This includes identifying services needed by the client, such as counseling or treatment for substance abuse, and referring her to the appropriate agency.
  • Job Search, Placement, and Retention Support. Job search assistance may include supervising the clients search. It may also involve teaching skills, including resume writing, interviewing techniques, and "soft" skills, such as how to handle conflict on the job. Job placement activities can include developing and identifying employment opportunities and leads, making contact with employers, or helping clients apply for criminal charges to be expunged. Job retention support involves regular contact after the client finds work, including job coaching, and addressing issues such as child care, transportation, housing and other issues that may interfere with a clients ability to retain employment.
  • Monitoring Compliance with Employment or Personal Responsibility Plan. This involves monitoring that the client fulfills each of her responsibilities as described in the personal responsibility plan or employment plan.
  • Recommending Sanctions. Failure to comply with the personal responsibility plan or employment plan may lead to the recommendation of a sanction.

Closely related to these case management functions are the following case processing functions:

  • TANF Eligibility Determination. This involves collecting detailed information about the clients household and determining eligibility and benefits for TANF. It may also involve determining eligibility for other assistance, such as food stamps, Medicaid, and child care subsidies.
  • Monitoring Ongoing Eligibility. These functions include processing reports of changes in circumstances and conducting redetermination interviews.
  • Imposing Sanctions. If the client does not comply with the personal responsibility plan a sanction may be imposed.

The sites in our study divided these TANF case management and processing functions between the private and public agencies in one of two ways. In some sites, the responsibility for all TANF case management and processing functions was given to a contractor. In others, only employment-related case management functions were privatized. Table II.1 indicates which functions are privatized in each site.

Two sites  Palm Beach County and Wisconsin  privatized all TANF case management and processing functions. The clients initial contact with the TANF program, eligibility determination, and all subsequent case management and processing, including the development of a personal responsibility plan, and the implementation of sanctions, is administered by a private agency. In Wisconsin, contractors administer the entire TANF program in some counties, including the payment of TANF benefits. In Palm Beach County, the contractor is responsible for all case management and processing functions, including TANF eligibility determination, but the Florida Department of Children and Families makes benefit payments.

The other four sites  Delaware, Hennepin County, Lower Rio Grande Valley, and San Diego County  privatized only employment-related case management functions. In those sites, clients who are subject to work requirements have two case workers: a public agency case worker (sometimes referred to as a financial worker or eligibility technician ) and a contractor case worker. A public agency retains responsibility for determining eligibility, monitoring ongoing eligibility and compliance with the non-employment aspects of the personal responsibility plan, and imposing sanctions. In addition, clients initial contact with the TANF program is with a public agency employee.

Table II.1
TANF Case Management and Processing Functions Performed by Contractors
Function Delaware Hennepin County Lower Rio Grande Valley Palm Beach County San Diego County(a) Wisconsin(a)
Case Management Functions
Initial contact with client       ü   ü
Assessments ü(b) ü ü ü ü ü
Developing a personal responsibility plan       ü   ü
Developing an employment plan ü ü ü ü ü ü
Referrals for supportive services ü(b) ü ü ü ü ü
Job search, placement, and retention support ü ü ü ü ü ü
Monitoring compliance with the employment plan ü(b) ü ü(b) ü ü(b) ü
Recommendation for sanctions ü(b) ü ü ü ü ü
Case Processing Functions
TANF eligibility determination       ü   ü
Monitoring ongoing eligibility       ü   ü
Monitoring compliance with nonemployment aspects of the personal responsibility plan       ü ü(b) ü
Imposition of sanctions       ü   ü
a In some regions, a public agency performs all TANF case management functions.
b Public agency also performs some of this function

Typically, this staff member develops the personal responsibility plan and monitors the non-employment aspects of the plan, while the contractor designs and oversees the plan for obtaining employment. The contractor case workers are more like traditional case managers. They conduct detailed assessments; make referrals for supportive services; assist with job search, placement, and retention; monitor compliance with the employment plan; and make referrals for sanctions.

In all sites where clients have both a public and private case worker, the contractor case workers conduct much more intensive case management than the case worker at the public agency, reflecting the differences in their functions. Contractor case workers are required to identify and address barriers to employment  a process that is often intensive and time-consuming. The public agency case workers are primarily responsible for determining eligibility and ensuring that decisions are documented appropriately. The contractor case workers typically meet with the client much more frequently. In Lower Rio Grande Valley, for example, public agency case workers meet with clients every three to six months after initial eligibility is determined, while contractor case workers meet weekly with clients during the job search process. Contractor case workers are also more likely to meet with clients outside the agency office and make home visits. As a result, the contractor case workers in each site have significantly lower caseloads than those at the public agencies (Table II.2).

Federal law requires that an employee of a public agency determine food stamp and Medicaid eligibility. In Palm Beach County, a private agency eligibility worker collects information for the food stamp and Medicaid application as well as the TANF application. This worker then takes the client to a public assistance specialist employed by the state and colocated with the private agency workers. This specialist conducts a "mini interview" with the client and reviews their benefits application. After being determined eligible for benefits, the client is assigned a private agency case manager. In Wisconsin, the client first sees a resource specialist employed by the contractor, who assesses the clients needs. This specialist will refer the client to a private agency case manager if she needs TANF, and/or a public sector worker if she needs food stamps or Medicaid.

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