Screening and Assessment in TANF\Welfare-to-Work: Ten Important Questions TANF Agencies and Their Partners Should Consider. Question Four: How can the case management process aid in identifying unobserved barriers to employment?


The term "case management," as used in the context of TANF, is a multi-faceted process. It is the on-going process of staff interacting with clients, determining needs, establishing goals, addressing barriers, and monitoring compliance with program requirements. Defined this way, case management has always occurred within the welfare system. For example, after an applicant has met the eligibility requirements of TANF, the client is assigned to a case manager.52 Case managers have historically worked with TANF clients and perform a number of functions including conducting orientation and intake, assessing aptitudes and abilities of participants and their families, developing employability plans, identifying, coordinating, and expanding services for participants, and monitoring implementation of the employability plan.53 Similarly, assessment has always been a part of the case management process, although previously it was more focused on identifying recipients who were exempt from work, education, or training programs. As noted previously, with welfare reform and the changing needs of recipients remaining on welfare, the nature of case management has also changed.

Case management - in the era of welfare reform, "harder-to-serve" welfare recipients, and unobserved barriers - has taken on a slightly different meaning. Often terms such as "intensive" or "enhanced" case management are used to describe this new process that contains features always included in case management but that now frequently involves more time identifying and addressing barriers to employment. In so far as this new form of case management involves greater and often more individualized attention to identifying barriers, it may also include several methods of screening and assessment for disabilities or unobserved barriers to work. Included in the case management process are efforts to identify unobserved barriers using approaches relying on self-disclosure, observing "red flags," and professionally- or state-developed tools.

In this section we discuss self-disclosure and red flags as identification methods used within overall case management efforts. The implementation of professionally- and state-developed tools - also implemented as part of the overall case management process - are discussed separately in Question Five. It is important to reiterate here that welfare agencies are screening and assessing for disabilities within the context of the TANF program and to meet the employment objectives of the TANF program - an objective that may differ from those of other organizations. Within the TANF context, the existence of an unobserved barrier is not, in and of itself, an issue of primary concern. This philosophy is consistent with the language of the ADA which stipulates that "a public entity may not make unnecessary inquires into the existence of a disability."54

52  States may use a term other than case manager, such as employment counselor, case coordinator, or caseworker.

53  American Public Human Services Association. Case Management Definitions, Goals, Principles from their Organizational and Professional Development Curriculum. Washington, DC: APHSA, undated.

54  U.S. DOJ undated.


View full report


"scrnasmt.pdf" (pdf, 816.37Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®