Understanding what possible partners exist in a community requires an understanding of the community and its service infrastructure. When considering screening or assessment options, TANF agencies should assess the availability of assessment resources and barrier-specific expertise that already exist within their communities. Because TANF agencies often rely heavily on community-based organizations as service providers, they may already possess this knowledge.77 Further, other government sponsored programs also serve clients with similar barriers and may serve as a resource for TANF agencies. It goes without saying that resources in each community will vary but it should be noted that rural areas may face a greater challenge in this regard than urban areas.
In addition to identifying organizations with the desired expertise, TANF agencies must also consider the capacity of these organizations to serve as a partner. In some cases, community-based organizations are small and have few staff resources to dedicate to on-going supervision and reporting. Additionally, many organizations face limited funding, or specific program eligibility requirements, that affect service capacity and renders them unable to accept additional service referrals from the TANF agency. For example, Kansas used to rely on its Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program to receive referrals for assessment of learning disabilities. However, because VR instituted an order of selection process that slowed the response time for some referrals, Kansas chose to contract directly with local psychologists for this service. Before assuming a partner agency can receive and serve TANF referrals, the TANF agency should explore these capacity issues with administrators and consider funding requirements associated with additional referrals, including using TANF funds to support services.
77 For many TANF agency staff, being aware of community resources is an implicit job requirement. For new staff, or where this understanding does not exist, often communities have developed resource guides, or state agencies can assist in identifying local resources.