Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation Project, 2001-2012

Project Overview

The Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation project  assessed the effectiveness of programs designed to enhance employment outcomes for current or former TANF recipients and other low-income parents who have demonstrated difficulty entering and sustaining employment. In addition to measuring programmatic effects on adults' employment and earnings, the project  evaluated family functioning, and child well-being (from early childhood through adolescence), and  included a test of a two generation program intervention, which  both provided employment services to adults and direct services to children. The project  also examined the issues and challenges in implementing and operating different approaches that promote employment among the hard-to-employ, the services included in such programs, how programs met the needs of participants with multiple employment or family challenges, the primary sources of funding for various program models, and the benefits and costs of programs studied.

The major research questions addressed include: (1) What are the issues and challenges in implementing and operating different approaches that promote employment among the hard-to-employ? What services are included in such programs? How do programs meet the needs of participants with multiple employment or family challenges? Are there unique challenges associated with more comprehensive models that provide a wider range of services? (2) Are there specific challenges related to serving hard-to-employ parents and their children? What types of changes in program policies or operations are necessary to serve and adequately address the needs of hard-to-employ parents? How are the needs of younger children and teens addressed in the context of employment-focused programs for the hard-to-employ parents? How accurately and efficiently do different definitions and methods of assessment predict employment outcomes? Do different definitions and methods of assessment lead to different kinds of services or outcomes? (3) What are the net impacts of different approaches to enhancing employment outcomes of the hard-to-employ parents on employment, earnings, income, and welfare dependence? (4) What are the impacts on parental attitudes, parental mental health, parenting behavior, family formation including marriage rates, and access to and use of services and benefits such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, SCHIP, and other health insurance, physical health care, and child care? (5) What are the impacts on child and youth well being, including school attendance and performance, health and safety, and social and emotional adjustment (e.g., behavior problems, social competence)? (6) Which program designs work best for those with different characteristics? Are programs as effective for parents with more serious disadvantages or multiple barriers? Do the effects on children vary by age of child or other characteristic? (7) What are the costs of different approaches to enhancing employment outcomes of the hard-to-employ parents? Do two-generation models incur different costs? What are the primary sources of funding for various program models? What are the challenges of utilizing multiple funding sources within programs? What role does funding play in the provision of services? What are the costs and benefits of programs studied?

The HtE project had four sites: a transitional employment program for ex-offenders located in New York City; two alternative employment strategies program for TANF recipients located in Philadelphia; a telephonic outreach and follow-up initiative to get Medicaid recipients with depression into an high quality evidenced-base mental health treatment program connected to employment services located in Rhode Island; and Early Head Start programs which serve both adults and children located in Kansas and Missouri.

Program participants were randomly assigned to either a treatment or control group. The research questions were addressed through the conduct of surveys and site visits. MDRC conducted the evaluation.

The point of contact is Girley Wright.

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