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Supportive Services Resources - Welfare to Work Vouchers

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 -   Strategies for Identifying Families in Need
 -   Assessing Participant Performance Through Observation
 -   Formal Screening Tools
 -   Developing Trusting Relationships

Strategies for Identifying Families in Need

PHA staff and their partners need to be able to recognize clients who need supportive services. Techniques for making these assessments include:observation, formal screening, and developing trusting relationships that encourage clients to confide in someone.

The effectiveness of these methods will vary by participant, so staff may want to try more than one strategy and tailor their approach as appropriate.

Assessing Participant Performance through Observation

A participant's poor performance in Welfare to Work activities can be a good indicator of barriers requiring additional attention and possibly supportive services. Communication between partners will be important - what may seem like an isolated incident to one staff person may turn out to be a recurring problem observed by partners as well.

The following behaviors may indicate a problem:

  • Non-participation in required activities. Participants may miss activities for numerous reasons. For example, they may encounter problems with their transportation or child care arrangements. Consistent attendance problems, though, may indicate that a participant faces one or more serious barriers to employment.

  • Failure to make progress. Some people manage to attend and complete the required activities, but fail to make progress toward achieving their employment or self-sufficiency objectives. Very often, these individuals will benefit from supportive services. Assessing the need for supportive services in the early stages of your program will enhance your ability to help participants achieve self-sufficiency.

Consider implementing the following protocol to address non-participation and failure to make progress:

  • Establish a threshold. The threshold for non-participation may depend on the frequency (# per week) or duration (# of weeks) of activities. You might follow up when the participant has missed two job training classes in one week or after two consecutively missed classes. The threshold for failure to make progress may be the length of time someone has been unable to obtain employment. It may also be the number of jobs someone has held in a time period.

  • Identify follow-up procedures. You (or the appropriate partner) may want to call the person or visit their home. A mailed notice may not be as effective when you are trying to assess the need for intervention.

  • Train your staff. Staff knowledge about the need for supportive services may vary. At minimum, staff (both PHA and partner staff) should have a working knowledge about:

    • barriers participants may encounter;
    • questions to ask and how to ask them;
    • ways to interpret answers;
    • signals to observe; and
    • procedures to follow after a potential problem is identified.

You can gather information from established sources (like the health department, nonprofits, this Web site, or other Web sites) and distribute it in a handbook or hire someone to conduct a seminar.

  • Establish identification and referral procedures. The specific procedures will depend on the problem. You may offer services in-house, such as on-site counselors for substance abuse. Alternately, you may refer participants to partners or outside resources such as hotline numbers, mobile health service vans, or outpatient clinics.

Formal Screening Tools

Formal assessment tools can be useful for screening new participants or for assessing participants with whom you have not established a trusting relationship. In either case, you - or the partner conducting the screening - will need to establish a strong comfort level with the participant so that s/he will share information openly and honestly.

For instance, you may want to identify participants who are at high risk of abusing or neglecting their children, particularly if the risk is heightened by the changes and demands associated with moving or participating in an employment program or a new job.

The Kenosha, WI JOBS program has used two screening methods:

  • The Parenting Stress Index identifies factors that are predictive of a heightened risk of child abuse or neglect.

Staff counselors administer both tests, but a psychologist analyzes the results. You may want to determine if these tests are right for your program or research other options.

Developing Trusting Relationships

Most people in need are eager for help but have difficulty trusting people, do not like admitting that they feel out of control, or are fearful of change or repeated failure.

Visiting participants in their homes can be a good way to develop trust. It also provides insight into how the voucher participant lives, including how s/he interacts with his/her children.

You may also want to consider developing a series of programs designed to increase participants' self-sufficiency by:

  • identifying their needs;
  • setting realistic goals; and
  • increasing their awareness of educational and training opportunities.

Such programs would reach a larger number of people, but the relationships may not allow your staff to work as closely with participants.

Content current as of 9 March 2004   Follow this link to go  Back to top   
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