Less Than Ideal: The Reality of Implementing a Welfare-to-Work Program

by Rebekah Levin

Feb 1, 2001
As of December 1, 1999, Options/Opciones, the Center for Impact Research's pilot project designed to address the multiple needs of domestic violence victims who are trying to move off Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and become self-sufficient, completed its first 29 months of implementation. This demonstration project, in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Human Services, Rainbow House, and Mujeres Latinas en Accion (two community-based domestic violence service providers), is located in an inner-city community on the west side of Chicago whose residents primarily are poor and working-class African Americans and Hispanics. Options/Opciones was designed with the belief that TANF policy sensitive to the needs of battered women not only depends on policy changes in the TANF department itself but also requires a supportive service delivery system to be developed, lest already overburdened battered women's services be overwhelmed. Given the new TANF legislation and concurrent work requirements (U.S. House of Representatives, 1996, pp. 26-32), there was a need to develop a service delivery system that could serve far greater numbers of women who are struggling with the coupled problems of domestic violence and unemployment, using the existing service providers within the community and the TANF office as the beginning access point to provide assessment and case management services. This article addresses one basic research question generated by the Options/Opciones demonstration project: Can local TANF offices serve as an effective access point for large numbers of domestic violence victims and survivors who need specialized services to help them address their domestic violence and employment-related needs.
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