Designing Participant-Centered Programs: Participant Reflections on What Works Well in Social Services Programs

Designing Participant-Centered Programs: Participant Reflections on What Works Well in Social Services Programs

Published: Sep 15, 2021
Publisher: Mathematica and MEF Associates
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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

Authors

Akanksha Jayanthi

Asaph Glosser

Jordan Engel

Key Findings

The brief identifies three broader themes that resonated across programs. Based on these perspectives, practitioners and policymakers might consider incorporating the following elements to design more participant-centered programs:

  1. Enable supportive and collaborative relationships between staff and participants to support participant engagement
  2. Provide wraparound supports to make it easier for participants to focus on employment and training services and support participants’ emotional well-being
  3. Facilitate relationships among peers to create sources of connection, informal networks and support, and shared progress

The State Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Case Studies project 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.

This brief describes the perspectives of people participating in the programs featured in case studies. It highlights what the interviewed participants most appreciated about these programs and how the services supported their goals. These participant perspectives can provide insight for people designing policies and programs.

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