This report reviews issues related to developing and implementing screening and assessment approaches and offers a review of tools that may assist in this process. Identification of the issues to be considered, as well as the tools currently being used to screen or assess for barriers, was primarily based on a series of semi-structured telephone interviews with:
Selected state TANF agency officials, and
"Experts" in particular areas of interest (specifically substance abuse and mental health problems, learning disabilities, and domestic violence).
Respondents were identified through Urban Institute contacts and a review of relevant literature. This process was not intended to systematically uncover screening, assessment, or identification practices used in all states.2 Instead the objective was to identify approaches and tools used in TANF agencies or tools used in other programs that could be used in TANF agencies. (Although other [non-TANF] agencies have been conducting assessments for some time, many experts were hesitant to recommend tools for use by TANF agencies, believing instead that TANF staff should refer clients they suspect may have a particular barrier to a specialized agency that serves such clients for assessment and diagnosis by a trained professional. 3 ) To accomplish this task, we spoke with 65 knowledgeable individuals between December 1999 and April 2000, including TANF and other state and federal government agency officials, researchers, practitioners, and association representatives.
Screening and assessment are on-going and dynamic processes. However, the telephone interviews allowed for a limited review of the range of different points in a TANF client's experience when screening or assessment might occur. For this report, we focused primarily on identification efforts that exist within a TANF agency (although these too may occur at multiple points in time). Where available, information about additional assessment efforts outside of the TANF agency is also included. Further exploration of the complete range of opportunities to conduct screening, as well as in-depth assessment or diagnosis of specific barriers or disabilities, will be a primary objective of the case studies undertaken in the next phase of this project. Services provided in response to assessments will also be a focus of the case studies and are not addressed in this report.
2 The American Public Human Services Association has undertaken a 50-state survey that includes identifying screening and assessment tools used by TANF agencies.
3 See additional discussion of this issue under Question Five.