The state of Virginia gives counties wide latitude to determine how to operate the TANF employment program, Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare. In supporting this locally-operated system, the state has offered a variety of resources to assist with identifying barriers to employment among TANF clients. Among these are a compendium of tools that could be used to identify barriers to employment, and support for involvement in the National Institute for Literacy’s “Bridges to Practice” training. 15 The state also invested in services jointly provided by the Departments of Social Services (DSS) and Rehabilitation Services (DRS).
The state identified Arlington as a county that has implemented efforts to enhance its focus on barrier identification. Arlington has engaged in an effort to train staff to identify learning disabilities following the “Bridges to Practice” model, including using a formal screening tool for learning disabilities. Their efforts to support hard-to-serve recipients also include developing a team approach to working with welfare clients. The core team consists of an eligibility worker, a case manager, a job developer, and a social worker from the Crisis Assistance Bureau. Depending on the needs of the client, the team may be expanded to include the on-site substance abuse/mental health therapist. In addition, Arlington also partners with the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) and Sheltered Occupational Center (SOC) Enterprises to assist clients suspected of having a learning disability. If a client is referred for these services, she would also work with a team of staff consisting of a DRS counselor, a case manager from SOC Enterprises, and a psychologist.
15 The National Institute for Literacy’s (NIFL) “Bridges to Practice” guide is a research-based guide for practitioners serving adults with learning disabilities. This guide includes topics such as, ‘Understanding Learning Disabilities’ and ‘Creating an Appropriate Learning Environment.’ For more information see www.nifl.gov.