Each of the study sites has undertaken a proactive approach to identifying unobserved barriers to employment. Strategies include a mix of different identification methods, including informal and formal screenings or assessments, a mix of staff involved in barrier identification, and a variety of partners to assist with identification and service provision. Although many of these features are discussed in the remaining chapters of the report, this section provides a brief overview of the identification approaches undertaken by each site that led to their inclusion in the study.
TANF clients encounter many different staff persons as they progress through the TANF system. Staff may include TANF eligibility workers and case managers, specialists such as social workers, and staff of partner agencies. 11 The site profiles below provide an overview of the key staff involved in the process of identifying barriers to employment. The roles and responsibilities of these staff will be discussed in greater detail in later chapters (see Table 2).
TANF agencies can benefit from the expertise and services offered by a wide range of partners in their efforts to identify and address unobserved barriers to employment. Each of the study sites utilizes a wide range of government and community-based partners to assist in their barrier identification approaches. These partner organizations, such as local community mental health centers and domestic violence shelters, will be referenced and discussed repeatedly throughout the report. The profiles below provide a brief overview of the key partner organizations in each site (see Table 3).
11 TANF case managers are also called employment case managers and employment and training specialists. For ease of discussion, TANF staff responsible for employability and service planning will be generally referred to as case managers.
Table 2: Key TANF Agency Staff Involved in Identifying Unobserved Barriers by Site
a The staffing structure of employment service providers varies from provider to provider. There are more than 30 employment service providers in Minneapolis.
b Targeted Assessment Project (TAP) assessors are co-located in the TANF office but are employed by the University of Kentucky, Institute on Women and Substance Abuse.
c TANF clients may also be referred to a social worker in the Crisis Assistance Bureau. These social workers assist clients with emergency situations such as rent, utilities, and homeless services/shelters.
Table 3: Selected Key Partners by Site
a Within the Department of Community Based Services the Division of Family Support provides TANF cash assistance and employment services, Medicaid, and Food Stamps. The Division of Protection and Permanency provides child welfare services.
b At the state level, MFIP is administered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Employment services are provided through a joint effort of the Department of Human Services and the Department of Economic Security.
c The Harriet Tubman Center is one of a number of domestic violence service providers in Hennepin County.
d Outside of Las Vegas, mental health services are provided according to an agreement with DHR/NSWD/Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services.
e Safe House is one of a number of domestic violence service providers in Las Vegas.
f Arlington is unique in Virginia in that the TANF program is operated by the Department of Human Services which also provides mental health, substance abuse, and vocational rehabilitation services. At the state level, TANF is administered by the Department of Social Services. Mental health, substance abuse, and other services are provided by different state level agencies.
g Operates the Vocational Rehabilitation program. Managed by Department of Rehabilitation Services at the state level.
Montgomery County, Kansas
Kansas has a history of using screening tools to assess the needs, experiences, and
interests of its welfare recipients.
Kansas has a history of using screening tools to assess the needs, experiences, and interests of its welfare recipients. Several years into its welfare reform effort, Kansas changed its work exemption policy. As of April 1999, having a disability no longer warrants an exemption from participation in the Kansas Works program. To effectively implement this policy and serve these formerly exempt clients, Kansas developed an Assessment Guide for case mangers to assess the goals, strengths, and barriers of TANF recipients. Case managers have also been provided with a protocol to use to determine if additional assessment or testing is needed based on the information collected through the completion of the Assessment Guide. Additionally, Kansas has long been recognized for its involvement in efforts to develop an instrument to screen for learning disabilities among TANF clients, the Adult Learning Disability Screen.
The Kansas Works Program is operated by the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) through the Economic and Employment Service Division. Montgomery County is unique in that it has two SRS offices, one in Coffeyville and one in Independence, whereas other counties in Kansas typically have one SRS office. In Montgomery County, eligibility and case management functions are both carried out by a case manager. Clients with unobserved barriers to employment in Montgomery County may be referred to a number of community partners. The primary partners in this site include, Safe House (the local domestic violence shelter), the Regional Alcohol and Drug Assessment Center (RADAC) which provides on-site substance abuse assessments, and Four County Mental Health Center. Four County Mental Health provides mental health counseling, job readiness services, and operates the pilot program, Extra Effort. Extra Effort is designed to identify TANF clients who are at risk of becoming involved in the child welfare system. These clients often face unobserved barriers to employment, and once identified, are provided intensive services. Two partners are involved in addressing learning disabilities in Montgomery County, SRS’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services and Pittsburg State University.
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: http://www.kentuckyconnect.com/heraldleader/news/062701/statedocs/27Welf...
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.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Managers in Nevada realized that some welfare clients have multiple and complicated barriers to employment that require different strategies than those that had been the focus of early welfare reform efforts.
Nevada got an early start on welfare reform by implementing its welfare employment program, New Employees of Nevada, in July of 1995, 18 months before federal welfare reform began. This early start led managers in the Department of Human Resources, Nevada State Welfare Division to realize that some welfare clients have multiple and complicated barriers to employment that require different strategies than those that had been the focus of early welfare reform efforts. In the mid-1990s, TANF managers requested that the state legislature fund social worker positions to assist in serving clients with barriers to employment. Social workers provide an additional resource to clients who also work with an eligibility worker and a case manager.
In addition to this new staffing strategy, the Nevada State Welfare Division has developed partnerships with several state agencies and local service providers in an effort to enhance and provide services to recipients with unobserved barriers to employment. Many of these partnerships are based on formal agreements between state agencies that clarify the expectations and responsibilities of each organization. For example, the TANF agency has formal partnerships with the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services and contracts with Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Abuse contractors for substance abuse treatment. Furthermore, the TANF agency partners with the Vocational Assessment Center and the Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation, Rehabilitation Division for vocational assessment and rehabilitation services, as well as domestic violence service providers.
The state of Virginia gives counties wide latitude to determine how to operate the TANF employment program, Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare. In supporting this locally-operated system, the state has offered a variety of resources to assist with identifying barriers to employment among TANF clients. Among these are a compendium of tools that could be used to identify barriers to employment, and support for involvement in the National Institute for Literacy’s “Bridges to Practice” training. 15 The state also invested in services jointly provided by the Departments of Social Services (DSS) and Rehabilitation Services (DRS).
The state identified Arlington as a county that has implemented efforts to enhance its focus on barrier identification. Arlington has engaged in an effort to train staff to identify learning disabilities following the “Bridges to Practice” model, including using a formal screening tool for learning disabilities. Their efforts to support hard-to-serve recipients also include developing a team approach to working with welfare clients. The core team consists of an eligibility worker, a case manager, a job developer, and a social worker from the Crisis Assistance Bureau. Depending on the needs of the client, the team may be expanded to include the on-site substance abuse/mental health therapist. In addition, Arlington also partners with the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) and Sheltered Occupational Center (SOC) Enterprises to assist clients suspected of having a learning disability. If a client is referred for these services, she would also work with a team of staff consisting of a DRS counselor, a case manager from SOC Enterprises, and a psychologist.
15 The National Institute for Literacy’s (NIFL) “Bridges to Practice” guide is a research-based guide for practitioners serving adults with learning disabilities. This guide includes topics such as, ‘Understanding Learning Disabilities’ and ‘Creating an Appropriate Learning Environment.’ For more information see www.nifl.gov.
Washington has invested in a structured, computerized, multi-barrier assessment instrument to uncover barriers to employment. The Virtual Interactive Employability Worksheet (VIEW) is used with all TANF clients and addresses a range of barriers to employment such as, mental health and substance abuse problems, domestic violence situations, and learning disabilities. If case managers (who are responsible for financial eligibility and service planning) determine that a client has a barrier to employment based on a response to the VIEW questions or other information obtained by the case manager, she may be referred to a social worker.
Social workers are employed by the Department of Social and Health Services (the TANF agency) and are located in local welfare offices. Social workers may subsequently refer clients to a wide range of partners. In the Kent office, many of these partners are co-located. For example, the Economic Security Department provides fast track job search and other job readiness services. Also co-located are a public health nurse, an independent psychologist, and an assessor from the state substance abuse agency. Washington also provides a number of services through contractual or other partnership arrangements. One such service is called Intensive In-Home Services. These services are provided under contract (one local provider in Kent is Rainier Case Management) and are intended to serve clients who are sanctioned or about to be sanctioned due to non-compliance with TANF work requirements. Other partners include Northwest Counseling, the Domestic Violence Women’s Network (DAWN), the YWCA (a domestic violence service provider), and the Seattle-King County Workforce Development Council’s Learning Disability Project.