As noted in Question Four above, the case management process offers a number of opportunities to incorporate efforts to identify unobserved barriers. In addition to relying on self-disclosure and red flags, available screening and assessment tools or instruments can also be implemented as part of the case management process. In this section, we review some of the available screening and assessment tools, followed with a discussion of issues that should be considered when using screening or assessment tools generally.
Although other (non-TANF) agencies have been conducting assessments for problems such as substance abuse and mental health problems for some time, many experts we interviewed were hesitant to identify instruments that could be used by TANF agencies. Instead, many believed strongly that TANF agency staff should refer any clients they suspect are facing barriers to an agency that specializes in that issue. For example, if a TANF case manager suspects a client faces a mental health problem, that client should be referred to the local mental health treatment agency for assessment. This preference is based on the common belief that most TANF case managers do not have the training necessary to conduct assessment and that such assessment should be conducted by staff with appropriate skills and training. Despite this preference, many TANF agencies have demonstrated increased interest in using screening and assessment tools to guide such referrals.
In this section, we discuss tools used to identify multiple barriers to work, as well as standalone or targeted tools intended to identify a single barrier - substance abuse, learning disabilities, domestic violence, and mental health problems. The discussion includes examples of states that have adopted these tools, provided for illustrative purposes. Although we highlight some key features of each tool presented, this section is not intended to promote or suggest the use of any instrument. Instead, it is intended to offer TANF administrators and their partners additional information about tools that are currently used in a TANF agency, or that were suggested for use by subject-matter experts. State and local staff can then use this information to consider the use of tools in the context of their screening and assessment needs and objectives.