A Study of Work Participation and Full Engagement Strategies. Monitoring Progress Toward Self-Sufficiency


Monitoring progress toward self-sufficiency, the third component of individualized case planning, is intended to help recipients stay on track toward employment. Addressing multiple personal and family challenges can be painstakingly slow. To keep recipients moving toward their goals, several sites have developed formal procedures to encourage and record progress. For example, caseworkers in Wisconsin take an incremental approach, seeking to move recipients from one tier to the next, increasing the amount of work and reducing the level of support provided at each level. In Oswego County, staff debriefings are held after each Pathways case management meeting so that caseworkers can identify recipients who are making progress and those who are not.

Case Study: Moving Hard-to-Employ TANF Recipients Toward Work in Wisconsin

Mary Wise(3) received W-2 for six months after fleeing an abusive relationship. A felony charge prevented her from getting a job. Initially, she was placed in the W-2T tier until she could get a handle on her life. During that time the activities included in her employability plan were (1) attend mental health counseling sessions, (2) participate in a domestic violence support group, (3) look for housing, and (4) write in a journal for at least five hours a week. After five months in the W-2T tier, Mary was reassigned to a CSJ placement at a local food pantry. In the CSJ tier, her employability plan changed. She continued to attend mental health counseling and a domestic abuse support group, but spent the majority of her time in a work placement at the food pantry, which she reportedly enjoyed and attended regularly. According to her CSJ worker, she did not complete all of her hours during some pay periods. However, most absences were excused for good cause. The case manager is optimistic about Ms. Wise's outlook, noting that, "She is very motivated and driven."

Riverside County uses education and training "career ladders" to encourage progress for working TANF recipients. TANF recipients who are employed for at least 30 days, for at least 20 hours per week, and earn at least minimum wage move from Phase I (job search) to Phase II (job retention and advancement). Recipients complete CHOICES, a computer-based assessment tool used to identify employment and training that may lead to job retention and advancement. The assessment information is used to develop career advancement plans in Phase II that combine education--basic, ESL, or occupational and vocational training--with work. Case managers on site at community colleges and adult schools help with day-to-day challenges and monitor attendance and progress. Those who no longer qualify for TANF because of earnings are moved to Phase III, where case managers continue to follow up with them periodically. In addition, transportation assistance continues for 12 months and child care for 24 months after cash assistance case closure.

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