The Minnesota Family Independence Program (MFIP), Minnesota’s TANF program, involves a variety of service providers to assist with the transition of recipients from welfare to work. In Minneapolis, service planning, job readiness, and job search services are provided under contract by more than 30 employment service providers. Employment service providers employ case managers and other staff to assist in this endeavor. MFIP clients also meet with an MFIP eligibility worker who is employed by Hennepin County to determine financial eligibility for benefits.
In addition to employment service providers, there are a number of partner agencies in Minneapolis to which clients with unobserved barriers to employment may be referred. One such provider is the Integrated Resources for Independence and Self-sufficiency (IRIS) Program—the focal program for this study. IRIS, which is a part of Hennepin County’s Children, Family, and Adult Service Department, Vocational Services Program, began serving Welfare-to-Work (WtW) clients in 1999.14 In 2000, IRIS expanded to serve MFIP and WtW clients having trouble fulfilling work requirements because of chemical and/or mental health barriers. Clients referred to IRIS receive vocational, social, and clinical services to assist them with their transitions from welfare to work. Services are provide by a staff team consisting of a social worker, a vocational counselor, and a therapist. In addition to IRIS, other partners include domestic violence shelters such as the Harriet Tubman Center, and the Vocational Rehabilitation program operated by the Department of Economic Security.
14 The Welfare-to-Work grants program was created under the 1997 Balanced Budget Act and is administered nationally by the U.S. Department of Labor. The program is intended to provide job opportunities, employment preparation, and job retention services for welfare recipients who are the hardest to employ. See Nightingale, et al. Early Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Findings from Exploratory Site Visits and Review of Program Plans. February 2000.