The Office of Family Assistance launches National Policy Academy to share innovation
By Damon L. Waters, Program Specialist, Office of Family Assistance
Each day at the Office of Family Assistance (OFA), we work hard to make sure families struggling to get into the middle class are given a chance to reach their dreams.
That’s why I’m excited to announce that the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is entering its second generation providing cash assistance, job readiness and employment supports for low-income families.
Today, programs across the country continue to face new realities. Despite economic challenges, the amount of people on TANF and their benefits have sharply declined.
Localities are looking for ways to improve program response. They also want to improve the well-being of children and families. Some states have taken steps to improve available services. They have new strategies and supports. Others are considering ways to increase family economic stability with new innovation that will:
- Improve case management
- Integrate two-generation approaches
- Engage workforce partners
- Enhance training
OFA has provided technical assistance on these and other topics, like assessment, coaching and case management. Our program office has addressed the shortage of skills and barriers to getting a job. We’ve also provided resources on:
- Financial literacy
- Summer youth employment
- Toxic stress and trauma
- Tax credits
- New Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act opportunities
To help us share these ideas, we’ve launched a national policy academy. This new effort will help a group of programs develop and use various strategies. Participating sites want to strengthen their employment practices, client services or administrative activities to get better outcomes. The Systems to Family Stability Academy does exactly that. It encourages peer-to-peer exchanges and information sharing. Participants will benefit from publications, webinars and other resources.
Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina, Ramsey County (Minnesota), Utah, Washington and West Virginia are the first group chosen to enter the academy. Each state team wants to better align their service delivery with the needs of families. The sites will attend a two and a half-day meeting and a closeout session. They will engage in peer training, workshops led by experts and strategic action planning. Before attending, sites will complete a readiness assessment and work with coaches to figure out their specific needs. Each site will develop an asset map, action plan and build an expanded team to apply the changes they want.
Many states and localities want cutting-edge approaches to transforming human services programs. With support from OFA, teams will be able to take important steps to shore up the safety net. Stakeholders will have access to tools and strategies to meet demands. They will be able to use new ways to deliver service, program practices and administrative structures to change systems and help make families stable.