Welfare program case management is usually organized in one of two ways. Under traditional case management, welfare recipients interact with two separate workers: one who deals with welfare eligibility and payment issues, often called income maintenance, and one who deals with employment and training issues. Under integrated case management, welfare recipients work with only one staff member who handles both the income maintenance and employment and training aspects of their case. Although both strategies have certain advantages — for example, the traditional structure allows staff members to specialize in one particular role, and the integrated structure allows staff members to quickly emphasize the importance of employment and eliminates failures in communication between staff members — little information exists on the effects of the two approaches.
This report presents the results of a random assignment study designed to evaluate the two case management approaches, and thus it addresses some longstanding issues in the management of welfare programs. The study was conducted in Columbus (Franklin County), Ohio, as part of the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies (NEWWS Evaluation), a large-scale evaluation of 11 welfare-to-work programs in seven sites across the nation. The evaluation is being conducted by MDRC, under contract to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with support from the U.S. Department of Education For the study, Columbus operated two separate welfare-to-work programs: one that used integrated case management, referred to in this report as the integrated program, and one that used traditional case management, referred to as the traditional program. Apart from the case management difference, the welfare-to-work programs were the same: They required welfare recipients to participate in activities to build their skills and eventually move into the labor market; provided child care and other services to support this participation; and penalized those who did not follow program rules by reducing their cash grant. Participants in the programs were also subject to the same public assistance eligibility and payment system.
This report provides information on how the integrated and traditional programs were implemented, how they affected participation in employment-related activities, and the costs of providing employment-related services in the two programs. It also discusses program effects, measured three years after sample members’ entry into the study, on employment, earnings, and welfare receipt. (The final report in the NEWWS Evaluation will present program effects measured five years after study entry.) To facilitate this assessment, from 1992 to 1994 over 7,000 single-parent welfare applicants and recipients, who were determined to be mandatory for the Columbus welfare-to-work program, were randomly assigned for the evaluation. The study’s rigorous research design allows researchers to determine the effects of each program as well as the relative effects of the programs, thus providing two types of information.
Columbus’s integrated and traditional programs were operated under the Family Support Act (FSA) of 1988. The FSA required states to provide education, employment, and support services to Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) recipients, who were, in turn, required to participate in the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) program created by the act to equip them for work. In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act replaced AFDC with a block grant program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The law limits most families to five years of federal assistance, offers states financial incentives to run mandatory, work-focused welfare-to-work programs, and requires states to meet relatively high work participation rates or face reductions in their block grant. The 1996 law’s overarching goal is similar to the FSA’s: to foster the economic self-sufficiency of welfare recipients through increased employment and decreased welfare receipt. Columbus began operating its TANF program in October 1997, after the follow-up period covered in this report. (author abstract)