A Study of Work Participation and Full Engagement Strategies. Utah A Focus on Individual Strengths


Utah's welfare system is based on the principle that all parents can and should participate to their maximum ability in program activities that raise family income. This philosophy is most obvious in the changing orientation of the state's TANF program over the past decade. The Family Employment Program (FEP), which once focused on identifying why recipients could not work and granting exemptions accordingly, now concentrates on identifying what recipients can do and placing them in activities that are appropriate to their strengths. The new philosophy is reflected in the state's exemption policy; no families are exempt from work participation requirements, and only sanctioned families are excluded from the state's federal work participation rate. Moreover  and perhaps most important  recipients may participate in a range of activities for an appropriate number of hours per week given their abilities and personal and family circumstances.

Utah puts its policies into practice through intensive, individualized case management. Each case manager handles a relatively small caseload of 60 to 90 families, 20 to 30 of which are on TANF. Such caseload sizes enable case managers to work closely with recipients to identify and capitalize on their strengths. Case managers also have the authority to adjust participation hours and activities, and place recipients in a range of activities offered by community agencies. In addition, in-house social workers support case managers by conducting in-depth psychosocial assessments, providing short-term therapy, and linking clients to specialized service providers.

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