At the state level, the Virginia Departments of Social Services (DSS) and Rehabilitation Services (DRS) have funded a small number of jointly-administered projects intended to assist TANF clients with disabilities that may be barriers to employment. One project is being implemented in Arlington, VA through a partnership between the local DHS and DRS offices with a contract with SOC Enterprises. This project is intended to assist clients suspected of having a learning disability or other disabilities requiring rehabilitation or accommodations and requiring intensive one-on-one services.
Under this three-way collaboration, TANF employment case managers screen all clients for learning disabilities using a learning disability screening tool. If the employment case manager suspects that a client has a learning or other disability, she meets with both the DRS counselor assigned to work with TANF clients, and the SOC Enterprises case manager, to discuss the case. If appropriate, the case manager makes a written referral for services provided by DRS/SOC Enterprises. The SOC Enterprises case manager then schedules an intake and assessment meeting and meets with the referred client. If the client is agreeable, she is referred to DRS for a vocational assessment and eligibility determination.1 Once DRS eligibility is determined, DRS works with the client and the TANF case manager to develop an employment plan and to coordinate the services required to carry out the goals outlined in the employment plan.
For example, if a client had not had a recent psychological evaluation, and further assessment is needed, the client may be referred to a clinical psychologist who works with DRS and SOC Enterprises for additional psychological testing and evaluation. The psychologist meets with clients in the TANF office on a regular basis, therefore alleviating the problem experienced earlier in the project by clients who fail to keep scheduled offsite appointments with psychologists. During this assessment meeting, the psychologist may administer a variety of assessment instruments such as mental health/ personality screens, intelligence tests, and other assessments to identify the presence of learning disabilities and/or cognitive issues. Once a formal diagnosis is made, the psychologist meets with the client, the case manager, the Substance Abuse/Mental Health therapist, and other team members as needed, to explain the results and the implications of the testing process. If warranted, it may be recommended that the client engage in individual counseling. Additional referrals, for hearing, vision, or speech and language problems or for individualized tutoring may also be made.
Once DRS eligibility is confirmed, an SOC Enterprises case manager specifically assigned to work with TANF clients facilitates the provision of many employment-related services. The SOC Enterprises case manager generally carries a smaller caseload of about 25 clients and is able to augment the work done by the TANF employment case manager by providing more intensive, one-on-one services. Services provided by SOC Enterprises may include individual counseling, career exploration and development, skills training, work assessment (short-term try-out employment which may lead to permanent employment), job development with the SOC onsite job developer, job retention services, and/or employment at the SOC facility (e.g., jobs in the company mailroom or copy center).
The key to services provided by SOC Enterprises is that the case manager provides the client with very hands-on, intensive service and support. For example, it would not be unusual for the case manager to drive to the client’s home to pick her up, take her to the bus stop and help her master the transportation system. Additionally, the case manager might work closely with a try-out employer to stay on top of any job-keeping issues the client might have (e.g., attendance) and work quickly with both to address this or other problems.
1 A client must have an open DRS case in order to work with the SOC Enterprises program.