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


As noted above, this report presents the findings from phase two of this study. It presents a description and discussion of how TANF agencies in six localities address the issues and challenges associated with identifying clients’ unobserved barriers to employment. Four-day site visits were conducted to each locality between November 2000 and February 2001. During each visit, a team of two researchers met with a wide range of TANF agency staff to discuss how identification efforts were carried out in practice. We also met with staff of key partner agencies who assist with barrier identification and provide services to address unobserved barriers.

Additionally, in each site we conducted a focus group with TANF clients. Focus group participants were recruited by local agency staff. Participants did not have to meet any predetermined criteria and no efforts were made to ensure that participants were representative of clients in that site. While comments from focus group participants should be considered anecdotal, they do provide a sampling of clients’ perspectives on an important dimension of barrier identification—clients’ willingness to disclose their barriers—and raise issues that can be explored in greater depth by future research.

Many factors were considered when selecting sites for inclusion in this study. Most important was the site’s approach to barrier identification, described further in Chapter Two. Potential study sites were initially identified through the course of completing Ten Important Questions. For this more indepth review, we selected sites that were undertaking seemingly proactive and diverse strategies to identify barriers to employment. In reviewing identification strategies, we considered the site’s use of screening and assessment instruments, staffing structure, and the partners involved in identification and service provision. We also sought sites implementing these approaches within diverse TANF policy contexts, across different parts of the country, and in localities of varying sizes. Where approaches were carried out statewide, localities were selected based on input from program managers. The sites included in the study are:

  Montgomery County, KS

  Owensboro, KY

  Minneapolis, MN (the IRIS Program)

  Las Vegas, NV

  Arlington, VA

  Kent, WA

An overview of the TANF policies in each site and approaches to barrier identification are provided in Chapter Two. Figure 1 illustrates the geographical distribution of the study sites. As can be seen from the table in Figure 1, the study sites represent a mix of communities. Montgomery County, KS is a small, rural community containing two welfare offices in the towns of Coffeyville and Independence. Owensboro, KY is also a less urban area. Arlington, VA and Kent, WA both reflect large communities bordering the even larger urban areas of Washington, D.C. and Seattle, Washington, respectively. Minneapolis, MN and Las Vegas, NV are large urban areas.

Figure Figure 1: Location Location of Study Sites


State  Study Site Study Site Populationa
Kansas Montgomery County (Including the towns of Coffeyville and Independence) 36,252
(11,021 and 9,846)
Kentucky Owensboro (Daviess County) 54,067
Minnesota Minneapolis
(Hennepin County)
Nevada Las Vegas
(Clark County)
Virginia Arlington
(Arlington County)
Washington Kent
(South King County)

a  U.S. Census Bureau as of 9/17/01.

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