A Study of Work Participation and Full Engagement Strategies. Site Selection


Our primary objective in selecting study sites was to include a wide range of programs that intend to engage all or nearly all TANF recipients (excluding those in child-only cases) in work or work-related activities, regardless of the extent to which they have succeeded in doing so. Sites were not selected for their best or promising practices for engaging clients, nor were they selected on the basis of their federal participation rate.

We used a two-step process to identify the sites. In the first step, we analyzed the 2001 TANF data all states submitted to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) for the purpose of calculating federal participation rates. We also reviewed reports and databases on state participation requirements, including "State Welfare-to-Work Policies for People with Disabilities" (the Urban Institute 1998), the 2000 Welfare Rules Database (the Urban Institute), and the 1999 State Policy Documentation Project Database (Center for Law and Social Policy/Center on Budget and Policy Priorities). On the basis of this information, we then divided the states into two groups: those that appeared to require most TANF recipients to participate in work and work-related activities and those that did not. We considered a state to have such a requirement if it met either one of two criteria:

1. It grants no or few exemptions from work requirements  regardless of whether exemptions are for a personal disability, caring for a family member with a disability, caring for a young child, etc.  or it has a set of exemptions that does no apply to most of the caseload.

2. It counts at least 90 percent of its adult caseload in the denominator of the federal participation rate and exempts under 5 percent of its caseload from work requirements according to the ACF participation data.(2)

Using these criteria, we found that 10 states require most TANF recipients to participate in work and work-related activities: Arizona, Idaho, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Montana, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

In step two of the site selection process, we asked a diverse group of researchers, policymakers, and staff at community-based and nongovernmental organizations  such as the American Public Human Services Association and the National Governors Association  to suggest sites that (1) exempt very few recipients from work or work-related activities, (2) have an explicit goal of engaging all or nearly all recipients in program activities, and (3) have an explicit strategies in place to achieve this level of engagement. The sites identified in this process include programs in the states of Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin, and local programs in El Paso County, Colorado; New York City, New York; Norfolk, Virginia; Oswego County, New York; and Riverside County, California.

To make the final selection, we compared the results of the two steps and included each state that appeared in both groups.(3) We also attempted to include each county suggested by the individuals we consulted. All but two of the counties suggested were included in the study  one was not interested in participating in the study, and the other was too early in its program implementation to add value to the study.

The sites included in the study represent three types of programs, distinguished by (1) whether some or all recipients are required to participate in activities and by (2) the activities in which recipients are required to participate (see Table I.1). The first type of program requires all TANF recipients to participate in work or work-related activities. These include programs in El Paso County, Colorado, Franklin and Montgomery counties in Ohio, Utah, and Wisconsin. The second type of program requires only some recipients to participate (by providing exemptions for circumstances such as disabilities or the need to care for very young children) but strives to engage all nonexempt recipients in work or work-related activities. Riverside County, California, falls into this category and is most typical of TANF programs nationwide. It was included in the study, in part, because of its efforts to maximize participation among employed TANF recipients. The third type of program requires all recipients to participate in activities but not necessarily in work or work-related activities. Oswego County, New York, represents this type of program in that it mandates that all TANF recipients take part in case management but attempts to engage in work or work-related activities only recipients who are not exempt from work requirements for medical or other reasons. More detailed descriptions of each site's approach to engagement are presented in Chapter II.

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