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Breaking the cycle: Welfare to work in Washington, DC

Situation

  • 38 million Americans live below poverty level, including 1 in 3 black and Hispanic children. Many rely on TANF to help provide for their family’s basic needs.
  • In Washington, DC, significant gaps in job readiness and training often prevent TANF recipients from getting work.
  • Coming from multi-generational poverty, they lack the essential skills, basic support system, and role models necessary to navigate the work world.

Challenge

Close gaps in job placement and retention by providing low-income citizens with the tools and support they need.

Solution

To address barriers and improve chances of success, we developed a comprehensive, wrap-around case management approach that radically reimagined how TANF programs could work with community partners.

Our approach fosters personal accountability rather than forcing it. Instead of focusing solely on a program’s individual participants, we create a culture of empowerment around these “customers” by engaging their entire household and addressing issues from skill development to dependent care to education.

This wrap-around case management helps get all stakeholders — families, employers, the government, and community — vested in the participant’s success.

How we did it

Our 360º approach empowered individuals by:

  • Providing work experience, work trials, job leads, and mentoring
  • Engaging family members through home visits, assessments, and other services
  • Coordinating services with government, social, and faith-based organizations
  • Offering employment readiness activities, training, and, if needed, additional education
  • Providing support services such as mental health and substance abuse counseling

In total, we’ve helped thousands get back on their feet by addressing gaps in their consumer experience. By reducing dependency on government benefits, we’re helping them work toward a future they believe in.

Results

8,000
jobs secured

68%
job retention after 6 months

4,000
educated and trained

$13.73
average wage

Top Performing Vendor
(Department of Human Services)

Being measured on outcomes

One key to our success was a performance based contract. Instead of being paid for simply delivering services, we were rewarded for the results we achieved, primarily continued employment after placement.

With this goal in mind, we had the flexibility to think beyond the terms of the contract and innovate. In fact, our central role in coordinating and aligning services was conceived as a solution to effectively overcome barriers to employment within budget.