Screening and Assessment in TANF\Welfare-to-Work: Ten Important Questions TANF Agencies and Their Partners Should Consider. Research Questions Regarding Key Dimensions That May Influence the Effectiveness a Screening OR Assessment Method

03/01/2001

Which barriers are most prevalent among remaining TANF cases? Despite the range of prevalence estimates offered in Question Two, there is actually little known - particularly at the local level - about the specific challenges faced by remaining TANF recipients. Further, what data are available is based on differing methodologies and definitions resulting in wide-ranging estimates. For policy makers and program administrators to determine how to allocate resources and make service delivery decisions, more precise data about prevalence of, and circumstances surrounding the existence of, barriers is needed.

What staffing requirements are associated with each approach? In many states and localities, TANF agency staff have seen significant shifts in their responsibilities. In some cases, former eligibility staff are now responsible for case management. In others, what was formerly a program geared toward education and training now has a Work First focus. Given these changes TANF staff are already facing, is it realistic to expect them to assume responsibility for, and effectively carry out, screening and assessment? Do TANF agencies need to reconsider skill requirements for TANF staff or purchase expertise from another source?

What training approaches are effective? If staff requirements change due to the adoption of a screening or assessment approach, training will be necessary. Some argue that training to raise awareness of barriers also enhances identification efforts. However, little is known about what training approaches are effective.

What partnerships are most effective in identifying unobserved barriers? Non-TANF agencies have been serving clients with unobserved barriers to employment for some time. Much can be learned from these agencies regarding identifying and serving TANF clients facing these barriers. However, this requires new partnerships and an understanding by all partners regarding different program requirements and philosophies. How should such partnerships be structured to facilitate effective cooperation and collaboration? Are formal partnerships (i.e., contracts or memoranda of understanding) more effective than informal collaborations? Does co-location significantly enhance partnerships?

Are there unintended consequences of assessment efforts? While few argue that identifying barriers is the first step in determining how best to serve TANF clients, little is known about unintended effects of assessment. For example, are "false negatives" costly to agencies or clients? Does assessment label or stigmatize clients? Does it divert clients from services from which they could benefit?

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