Screening and Assessment in TANF\Welfare-to-Work: Local Answers to Difficult Questions. Chapter One: Introduction

12/01/2001

One of the most significant challenges facing states and localities is identifying specific conditions and disabilities clients have that may be a barrier to finding and maintaining employment.

 

Nearly five years after federal welfare reform, states and localities have experienced unprecedented caseload declines. With this caseload decline, there has developed a commonly held belief that those remaining on welfare face multiple barriers to employment, or are in some way “hard-to-serve.” Clients with complex barriers to employment, disabilities, or medical conditions, are commonly grouped under this broad heading.

One of the most significant challenges facing states and localities related to serving  the hard-to-serve population is identifying specific conditions and disabilities clients have that may be a barrier to finding and maintaining employment. Pressure to address this challenge is increased by the time limited nature of federally funded TANF assistance. This challenge is made more complicated because welfare agencies know relatively little about the specific nature of clients’ disabilities or health conditions. This lack of knowledge is the result of the fact that clients with barriers to employment were exempt from participating in the employment and training program that preceded TANF, the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) training program. Exemptions from participation in JOBS were based on the existence of a condition that fell under the broad headings of illness or incapacity. Federal time limits and work participation rate requirements have led many states to change their exemption policies and require participation in welfare to work programs by clients who were previously exempt, and some states are beginning to collect more specific information about the nature of disabilities and health conditions.1 Nonetheless, states and localities face a number of key challenges including overcoming their general lack of experience with identifying unobserved barriers to employment and developing effective service strategies to address unobserved barriers.2

In 1999, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contracted with the Urban Institute to conduct a Study of Screening and Assessment in TANF/Welfare-to-Work (WtW). The first phase of the study involved a review of issues and challenges faced by TANF agencies and their partners in developing strategies and selecting instruments to identify substance abuse and mental health problems, learning disabilities, and domestic violence situations among TANF clients. The issues and challenges identified through that review are presented in Ten Important Questions TANF Agencies and Their Partners Should Consider (hereafter referred to as Ten Important Questions). The second phase of the study involved case studies of a limited number of localities to further explore how these agencies and their partners responded to the issues and challenges identified during phase one. The findings from the case studies are presented here.3


1  See Thompson, et al. State Welfare Reform Policies for People with Disabilities: Changes Since Welfare Reform. October 1998.

2  See Holcomb and Thompson, State Welfare Reform Policies for People with Disabilities: Implementation Challenges and Considerations, August 2000.

3  Another component of the study involved convening a series of three regional discussion meetings. Held in the spring of 2001, these meetings brought together state and local TANF agency representatives from across the country to discuss screening and assessment issues, challenges, approaches, and solutions. Although not discussed separately, key points from the discussion at these meetings are incorporated throughout.


 

View full report

Preview
Download

"diffques.pdf" (pdf, 1.9Mb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®