TANF agencies in the study sites work with a variety of partners to assist with unobserved barrier identification and to provide services to clients once barriers are identified. Key partners include other government agencies, community mental health centers, substance abuse treatment programs, domestic violence shelters and counseling agencies, educational institutions, and others. In some cases these partners have had longstanding relationships with the TANF agency, while in other cases, new partnerships have formed as efforts to expand the identification of unobserved barriers have grown. In all sites, partnerships offer TANF clients access to staff with skills and expertise related to identifying unobserved barriers and, in some cases, barrier specific services. Thus, partners’ skills and services complement and supplement services provided by the TANF agency.
Partnerships in the study sites were created in a variety of ways. This variation is in part based on the responsibilities maintained at the state level, as compared to those passed to regional or local TANF offices. In some cases, partnerships grew out of past experience working informally with other organizations within a community’s social service system. Overwhelmingly, TANF staff at all levels reported having little difficulty securing services necessary to support efforts to identify and address unobserved barriers. In part this may be a result of the study sites being service rich communities. However, staff commonly attributed this ease to the general availability of TANF funding to purchase or create services.
Forging and maintaining partnerships to provide services to welfare recipients is neither a new nor a simple challenge for TANF agencies. Each of the study sites has faced this challenge and has undertaken different efforts to facilitate partnerships, including taking care to set clear expectations, obtaining support from staff at all levels, and co-locating partners.
In all sites, partners fill multiple roles. Partners typically conduct additional assessment or diagnose a condition and determine the appropriate level or type of treatment or services. In many situations, partners also provide the treatment or services required to address or mitigate barriers. A less formalized although potentially valuable role for partners in some sites is that of educating TANF staff on how toidentify unobserved barriers.