Pervading the questions of how, when, and by whom screening and assessment should be conducted are questions relating to staff training and privacy and confidentiality. Although these are two important additional questions, these are merely some of the many questions TANF agencies and their partners must answer.
What training issues are related to screening and assessment?
Regardless of decisions related to the use of tools or informal identification methods, the timing of identification efforts, staffing arrangements and partnerships, it is likely that some training will be necessary. Training may need to be conducted on a wide range of topics including: general awareness of the characteristics of particular barriers, the details of how to administer specific assessment tools, how to determine appropriate services to address barriers once identified, and how to facilitate referrals to partner agencies. Training may also need to be conducted on broader issues of TANF and other program policies as they affect allowable services and the timing of different activities.
Additional training considerations include who to train (including the importance of cross training of partners) and the costs of training (including materials, trainers, and staff time required to attend training). However, there are costs associated with not conducting, or not training, the appropriate staff. Such costs may include inconsistent implementation of screening and assessment approaches, inconsistent information provided to clients by program staff unfamiliar with the program rules or requirements of partner agencies, and unsuccessful program initiatives.
What issues related to privacy and confidentiality should be considered?
Fundamental to the issues of obtaining information about barriers to employment faced by TANF clients and sharing this information with partner agencies in efforts to remove or mitigate such barriers are questions related to privacy and confidentiality. These issues are affected by a variety of laws, perceptions, and individual fears too complex to discuss fully in this report. However, the potential negative consequences of not seriously confronting the importance of these provisions makes the issues worth raising, even briefly. Examples of negative consequences include, but are not limited to: the fear of social stigma, the inability to obtain health insurance, and physical harm (or even death, particularly in the case of sharing information about domestic violence situations). Despite the challenges presented by privacy and confidentiality provisions, states have found ways to address these requirements and meet clients needs.
What other questions should be asked?
Questions One through Nine address some of the common issues that arose during the background research for this paper. However, there are numerous other questions that states and localities should consider. Examples of other important questions include: Should drug testing be used to identify substance use among TANF recipients? What can be done to help medical professionals understand the implications of their assessment or diagnostic findings? Is gaming the system a problem?