Welfare-to-Work Grants Programs: Adjusting to Changing Circumstances. 4. Population Targeting


All nine of the study sites still operating in 2003 were serving the same types of WtW-eligible individuals they had been serving since the start of the grant. In general, programs were serving any individuals who met the federal WtW eligibility criteria. In a few sites, programs targeted special populations for whom the programs were originally developed (e.g., noncustodial fathers on probation or parole in Milwaukee).

In addition, in about one-third of the sites, administrators indicated that in 2002 and 2003 they had increased their focus on some special group — particularly noncustodial parents — usually in addition to serving the general WtW eligible population. The Chicago Workforce Board added a new WtW-funded program, Working Together, specifically targeting TANF recipients with substance abuse problems.

In the study sites, "increased focus" on certain groups means either (1) placing more priority on recruiting specific populations, (2) having more active coordination of services or referrals with other programs serving the group, and/or (3) increasing the number of target group individuals served.

In 2001 most of the programs had been focused on serving any parents who met the WtW eligibility criteria established by Congress, although the law did allow programs to specialize, or target, specific subgroups. In general, though, in 2001, programs were serving custodial mothers receiving TANF who met the WtW eligibility criteria. More specifically, with the exception of the NOW program in Milwaukee and the SHARE program in Yakima, few noncustodial parents were participating in the study programs, although most administrators expressed a desire to serve them. At that time, program administrators explained that while they were interested in serving noncustodial parents, especially fathers, they had not yet done so for a variety of reasons including early difficulties identifying and engaging this group and other pressing operational issues related to the challenges of conducting outreach and recruitment for the general eligible groups.

By 2003, some administrators indicated that they were emphasizing NCPs more than they had in the past. Two explained that they had been interested in serving this population from the beginning of WtW, but because they had to devote so much effort to general recruitment and enrollment of eligible individuals, that had not been possible. Once the core projects reached a steady state, these administrators then turned their attention to NCPs.

The expansion of services to NCPs in WtW programs also appears to have occurred because of a general increase in the availability of other funds to serve both noncustodial fathers and ex-offenders. Several WtW administrators, for example, noted that their agency or other agencies in their community had "fatherhood grants" from federal or state child support enforcement agencies or from private foundations. Some also explained that they had "prisoner reentry grants" from either DOL or the Department of Justice. These other grants were being used in combination with remaining WtW grant funds to serve low-income fathers with employment barriers. Some grantee administrators reported that they are also actively planning to expand programs for non-custodial fathers in their agencies, and that their experience with WtW grants was part of a longer-term plan. In Fort Worth, Yakima, and West Virginia, for example, long-range plans in the grantee agencies include expanding programs for NCPs. Exhibit 3 describes a few of the NCP initiatives in study sites.

Exhibit 3.
Selected Profiles of WtW Programs Targeting Noncustodial Parents

Beginning in 2002, Work Advantage in Tarrant Co., TX used WtW funds for a staff person located at the courts to help NCPs secure work and navigate the child support system. Work Advantage also began working closely with the Attorney General and the state's child support enforcement agency to identify and secure additional funds to develop employment programs for NCPs. Work Advantage will receive Project RIO (Reintegration of Offenders) funding starting in 2003. Project RIO is a joint initiative of the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the State Youth Commission, local WIBs, and local school districts. Project RIO funding will supplement remaining WtW funds to expand services for NCPs (especially ex-offenders) in Tarrant County. Both the number and types of NCPs served through WtW-funded programs in Ft. Worth have expanded over time. Where originally the program had planned to serve primarily homeless and substance abusing NCPs, the program expanded to serve a wide range of low-income/disadvantaged NCPs.


The Yakima WtW grant had been used by the Workforce Development Board from the beginning to implement the SHARE (Support Has A Rewarding Effect) program for NCPs, in addition to a general employment WtW program for all who met the eligibility criteria. A decision was made in 2002 to devote the remaining WtW funds to SHARE, mainly because, unlike TANF mothers, these individuals are not eligible for Community Jobs, a state-funded paid-work program for TANF recipients. The funds are going to People for People, the main contractor for serving NCPs. NCPs are still recruited the same way as they have been since the beginning of the program, through the Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

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