Case managers in Kent are also supported by social workers. Unlike the social workers in Las Vegas and the TAP assessors in Owensboro, these staff have the title social worker but are not required to have advanced formal education or training or be licensed. However, social workers in Kent can be considered specialists because they carry a specialized caseload of TANF clients with significant barriers to employment. Social workers may have advanced training or be pursuing other professional development opportunities which allow them to better serve their clients, but this is not required. Social workers also work with relatively smaller caseloads than case managers, which further facilitates their ability to focus on barriers such as domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health problems, and learning disabilities.31 Social workers in Kent, as in the other sites, may also assist with crisis needs such as lack of housing, emergency payment of utility bills, or problems with children in the household.
Social workers in Kent, WA, take an individualized approach to exploring barriers.
Case managers in Kent use the VIEW screening tool to guide referrals to social workers. In addition to clients with unobserved barriers to employment, case managers may refer TANF clients who are not progressing in their work-related activities, are sanctioned, or are parenting teens. Case managers have a fair amount of discretion in deciding who to refer to a social worker. As a guideline it is suggested that case managers refer clients who have barriers that will not be resolved within three to six months. Once a client is referred, social workers take an individualized approach to exploring barriers. They often review information in the case record, including responses to the VIEW screening questions. Although there are some formal tools available, social workers reportedly rely primarily on discussion to uncover the issues preventing clients from achieving or progressing toward self-sufficiency. Once a client is referred, social workers assume responsibility for creating and monitoring the client’s service plan which will likely include referrals to partner agencies that provide additional assessment or barrier-specific services. Because, Washington maintains a strong focus on work, social workers are encouraged to combine services to eliminate or mitigate barriers with other work-related activities when possible.
31 As noted previously, the social work units in the Kent office has recently been reorganized at the time of our visit. The goal in Kent is for two social workers to focus on serving TANF clients and carry caseloads of approximately 60 individuals.