In several sites, partner agencies not only assist with identification and service provisions, but they also fill an educational role. By sharing their expertise, consulting on specific cases, participating in staffings, and conducting more formal training, partner agency staff help educate TANF staff about recognizing and addressing unobserved barriers to employment. For example, TAP assessors in Owensboro, KY:
consult frequently with TANF case managers about cases;
educate TANF staff on unobserved barriers through informal discussions;
conduct training sessions for TANF staff on topics such as the characteristics associated with depression and substance abuse, and anger management;
educate community partners on TANF program requirements by serving as a bridge between the TANF agency and barrier-specific service providers.
Like the TAP assessors in Owensboro, many partner agency staff are colocated in the TANF office in Kent, WA. Staff of the Employment Security Department, the state substance abuse agency, a public health nurse, and an independent psychologist are co-located in the Kent welfare office.40 By having the opportunity to interact with these partners on a daily basis, TANF agency staff have more immediate access to services for clients and can use this frequent, often informal consultation, as an educational tool.
Partner staff in Las Vegas, NV have also conducted training for TANF agency staff. For example, staff from local domestic violence shelters and substance abuse treatment programs provided training to help TANF staff improve their abilities to recognize these potential barriers to employment. Educational sessions were also held with staff of the Vocational Assessment Center to educate case managers and social workers on how to interpret the results of vocational assessments. Similarly, staff of Four County Mental Health and RADAC in Montgomery County, KS also conducted training for TANF
agency staff to help raise awareness of the characteristics of mental health and substance abuse problems.
In addition to conducting training sessions, partners in Las Vegas, NV also help to educate each other about service availability and strategies through Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meetings. These meetings allow community partners to share information about resources and services available generally, but they also provide a forum for brainstorming about specific, difficult case situations, within the bounds of confidentiality guidelines. While the format and composition of these meetings may vary from office of office, MDTs are usually organized by TANF social workers and may include up to 25 partners agencies representing a wide range of service providers such as transportation, housing, utility, substance abuse, domestic violence, vocational rehabilitation, health and counseling services. At the time of welfare reform implementation, MDTs were held in the local offices monthly, but as the partners have learned how to best share resources and become more familiar with each others’ services and staff, the frequency of these meetings was reduced and they are now held on a quarterly basis.
40 The psychologist was co-located 2-3 days/week. At the time of our visit, plans were underway to colocate staff of a domestic violence partner agency as well.