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


Although Kentucky’s welfare-to-work program, the Kentucky Works Program, focuses on moving clients to employment as quickly as possible, there is a recognition that some barriers to employment make it harder for TANF recipients to find and keep a job. Building on earlier efforts to identify substance abuse among TANF clients, in 1999 the Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children (CFC) partnered with the University of Kentucky’s Institute on Women and Substance Abuse to operate a pilot project called the Targeted Assessment Project (TAP). The TAP places experienced clinicians (TAP assessors) who are employees of the University of Kentucky in welfare offices to assist in screening and assessing barriers to employment, facilitating appropriate referrals to partner agencies, and involving community agencies in further assessing and serving TANF recipients.12 Owensboro was included in the study because it was the first of eight communities where the TAP was implemented and was therefore furthest along in its implementation.13

In Kentucky, TANF is administered locally through the CFC’s Department of Community Based Services. Case managers in the Department of Community Based Services, Division of Family Support are responsible for determining financial eligibility for TANF and other programs, as well as employment service planning and monitoring compliance with program requirements. Staff of the Divisions of Child Support and Protection and Permanency are also commonly involved with TANF clients.

In addition to services provided directly by the Department of Community Based Services, TANF clients have access to several barrier-removal services that are located in Owensboro. Some key partners in this site include, the Owensboro Area Shelter and Information Services (OASIS) which provides services to domestic violence victims, the Cabinet for Workforce Development, Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, and River Valley Behavioral Health (the local community mental health center). As noted earlier, the University of Kentucky’s Institute on Women and Substance Abuse, a service arm of the University, operates the Targeted Assessment Project.

12  TAP assessors are placed in both the Division of Family Support which administers TANF and the Division of Protection and Permanency which is responsible for child welfare. Although the assessors fill similar roles, for the purposes of this study, we focused on the assessor placed within the Division of Family Support.

13  Since our site visit the TAP pilot has expanded to serve 17 communities in Kentucky. For more information see:

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