A Study of Work Participation and Full Engagement Strategies. Using Specialized Assessments to Identify Intensive Service Needs

09/01/2004

A comprehensive assessment strategy also includes specialized assessments, which are typically conducted by licensed professionals who contract with the TANF agency. The assessments, designed to uncover hidden and complex barriers to employment--including mental health conditions, substance abuse, domestic violence, and learning disabilities--can provide the basis for clinical diagnoses and treatment plans.

The procedures involved in setting up specialized assessments and the staff who conduct the assessments vary by site. In Utah, TANF recipients are screened during orientation for drug and alcohol use and domestic violence. If the results are positive, they are referred to a licensed social worker outstationed at one of a number of local employment centers who conducts an in-depth psychological assessment. In El Paso County, recipients are screened for learning disabilities during the case-planning interview. In addition, mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence specialists are stationed in-house to conduct specialized assessments. In Montgomery County, Goodwill Industries conducts an Abilities Assessment for those suspected of having serious barriers to work that includes basic skills and aptitude tests and a four-hour psychological evaluation. In all three of these sites, the specialists give case managers an in-depth evaluation report with treatment recommendations. In some sites, case managers refer recipients directly to specialized treatment providers for an assessment if hidden barriers to employment are suspected. In addition, recipients may self-refer to a co-located mental health, substance abuse, or domestic violence specialist for assessment.

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