Tracking TANF recipients is critical to continuous participation in program activities. The process allows case managers to (1) identify nonparticipation immediately, (2) respond to it by quickly re-engaging recipients and/or helping them to resolve issues that stand the way of participation, and (3) document compliance/noncompliance as the means to holding recipients accountable for their progress.
The study sites use a range of procedures to track participation. Processes differ with respect to the types of information reported, who reports it, the format in which it is reported, and the frequency with which it is reported. Despite variations in procedures, program administrators and front-line staff in all of the study sites reported that tracking was generally timely and consistent. However, heavy workloads sometimes interfere with case managers' ability to respond immediately to reported lapses in participation.
Types of Information Reported. At a minimum, study sites gather information on the types of activities in which recipients participate and on the number of hours they devote to these activities during the reporting period. For recipients enrolled in school, staff collect information from instructors on attendance and grades. Examples of other types of information that are gathered in some sites include the length of time recipients have spent in each activity, and notes on their progress within each activity.
Who Reports on Participation. Case managers gather information from in-house workshop instructors, contracted service providers, collateral contacts, and recipients.(1) The flow of communication between case managers and these entities is essential to reliable reporting. Three of the seven sites rely primarily on contracted service providers to gather information on participation hours and activities, and to submit this information to case managers in a monthly report. This process appears to work well.(2) El Paso County is the only site that relies exclusively on recipient self-report.
Reporting Format. A well-organized, common-sense format helps case managers easily identify recipients who are not participating in program activities. The format is generally a standard summary report from contracted service providers or recipient activity log timesheets. Some study sites, such as Riverside County, use activity logs from recipients as well as more formal reports from contracted service providers.
Reporting Frequency. Frequent reporting allows case managers to respond quickly to lapses in participation. In all sites, the formal process for reporting is at least monthly, and three of the seven sites report more often. In addition, program staff often notify case managers directly and immediately when a recipient is not participating in program activities.