The issues presented in this report suggest that states and localities face a number of decisions when selecting an approach to screening or assessing TANF clients for unobserved barriers to employment. In fact, this paper merely scratches the surface, presenting some of the questions to be considered. Each question prompts a number of sub-questions, only some of which are addressed here.
Although some states and localities have been screening or assessing for unobserved barriers for some time, few of these methods have been studied and little is known about their effectiveness. These outstanding questions suggest that, regardless of the chosen strategy, states, localities, and the federal government should consider incorporating evaluation into approaches implemented and research related to TANF.
Further, there is much that can be learned from studying approaches in different states and localities to determine the contextual factors that contribute to successful outcomes. Just as no two TANF clients face the same circumstances, no two states or localities face the same policy environment, service delivery structure, or service mix. These dimensions present a number of questions regarding what factors influence the effectiveness of different screening and assessment methods. Below we offer a few of the possible questions that may guide future research.