Case Study of a Program Addressing Participants’ Barriers Before Providing Training and Other Work-Related Activities: Rhode Island Works

Case Study of a Program Addressing Participants’ Barriers Before Providing Training and Other Work-Related Activities: Rhode Island Works

Published: Sep 02, 2021
Publisher: Mathematica
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Associated Project

State Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Case Studies

Time frame: 2018-2021

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation

Key Findings
  • RI Works’ main approach to serving people with low incomes is to provide wraparound supports to help them prepare for and engage in work.
  • RI Works’ primary services include developing a six-month employment plan with DHS staff and referring participants to one of four vendors for supportive services; providing case management through vendor staff to identify participants’ barriers to employment—such as mental health issues, substance abuse, and the need for housing, transportation, and child care—and providing referrals and resources to help overcome the barriers.
  • Promising practices include actively monitoring vendors’ performance and enhancing coordination between them, using excess TANF funds to implement new services and programs, and prioritizing supportive services to improve participants’ chances of success on the job.

This case study describes Rhode Island Works (RI Works), the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which is administered by the Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS). The program was redesigned in 2018: now, before directing participants to look for jobs, RI Works connects them with supports to help them overcome barriers that keep them from succeeding in the workforce. RI Works participants can receive supportive services from one of four vendors and then, when they are ready to focus on employment, they can engage in vocational training and work readiness activities. This case study highlights how RI Works provides supportive services to help participants overcome their barriers, participate in employment-related activities, and find sustainable employment.

This case study is part of the State TANF Case Studies project, which is designed to expand the knowledge base on innovative approaches to help people with low incomes, including TANF recipients, prepare for and engage in work and increase their overall stability. Mathematica and its subcontractor, MEF Associates, were contracted by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to develop descriptive case studies of nine innovative state and local programs. The programs were chosen through a scan of the field and discussions with stakeholders. TANF practitioners and staff of other programs can learn about innovative practices through the case studies. The studies also can expand policymakers’ and researchers’ understanding of programs that support people’s success in work and highlight innovative practices to explore in future research.

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