Screening and Assessment in TANF\Welfare-to-Work: Local Answers to Difficult Questions. Four County Mental Health (FCMH)/EXTRA Effort

12/01/2001

The Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS; the TANF agency) in Montgomery County, KS has developed a partnership with the local community mental health center to provide a wide range of services to TANF clients. FCMH has a history of providing services to severely and persistent mentally ill (SPMI) adults under contract to the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program within SRS. These services involve barrier resolution, supported work, and employment placement. When SRS was seeking job preparation services for TANF clients, FCMH believed its experience and employer contacts developed through its SPMI services could be applied to TANF clients. FCMH applied and was awarded contracts to provide job club and life skills group services and individual job development and job retention services. Through these TANF and VR contracts, SRS and FCMH have developed a strong working relationship. Therefore, when SRS sought to develop additional services to prevent TANF clients from becoming involved in the child welfare system—they turned to FCMH for assistance with the pilot effort. What resulted was the Extra Effort Pilot Program.

Extra Effort is a program designed to address TANF clients’ multiple, often unobserved barriers to employment that are believed to result in not only continued welfare receipt, but possible involvement with the child welfare system. In an effort provide more enhanced services to these at-risk families, FCMH case managers work closely with small caseloads (approximately five families per case manager) to identify and address unobserved barriers to employment. Barriers are identified through the combined use of formal and informal identification strategies. Case managers noted that although they complete a number of assessment tools, including a strengths assessment and a family risk scale, they also rely heavily on their interpersonal skills to build a positive and trusting relationship with clients.

Once identified, FCMH case managers work closely with clients to assist them in addressing barriers. FCMH staff noted that there is almost nothing that Extra Effort will not address, although they take care to empower clients to help themselves so that they can build problem solving skills to be used in the future. In some respects, the case managers serve as mentors or coaches, getting to know clients and their families very well and visiting their homes. In addition to these one-on-one informal counseling services, Extra Effort also helps clients by providing a wide range of services including scheduling appointments with other social service agencies, providing transportation to appointments, assisting with dental needs, housing searches, and legal matters, and assisting clients in addressing behavior issues with children in the family, or providing supportive services.

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