Case Study of an Employment Program for Youth and Services for Families: Community Action Organization of Scioto County

Publication Date: September 2, 2021
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  • Published: 2021


This case study describes the Community Action Organization (CAO) of Scioto County, a community hub for numerous services designed for people from low-income households. This case study focuses on CAO’s employment and workforce services—two in particular: the Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program (CCMEP) for youth, and a behavioral health unit that serves youth and adults. CAO is one of 48 community action agencies in the state of Ohio and one of the few that provide employment and workforce development services.

This case study is part of the State TANF Case Studies project, which 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. The programs were chosen through a scan of the field and discussions with stakeholders. TANF practitioners and staff of other programs can learn about innovative practices through the case studies. The studies also can expand policymakers’ and researchers’ understanding of programs that support people’s success in work and highlight innovative practices to explore in future research.


The purpose of this case study is to describe the CAO of Scioto County and highlight key features of two of its programs. Descriptive information on CAO includes where it operates; what services the Employment and Workforce Division provides; how participants access CAO services; key CAO partners and their roles; how CAO is funded; and future plans to enhance services.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • CAO’s main approach to helping people with low incomes find jobs is to provide wraparound supports to help them prepare for and engage in work. 
  • CAO’s primary services examined in this case study are (1) the Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program (CCMEP), which provides eligible youth ages 14 to 24 with work experience and support services such as financial incentives and career counseling, and (2) the behavioral health unit, which provides counseling and supportive services to youth and adults who have experienced trauma, substance use disorders, and mental health challenges.
  • Key program practices include assessing youth at intake and offering incentives to encourage their participation, providing intensive case management and referrals to necessary services, and offering trauma-informed counseling to school-age youth.


To select programs for case studies, the study team, in collaboration with ACF, first identified approaches that showed promise in providing employment-related services to individuals and linking them to wraparound supports, such as child care and transportation. The next step was to hold initial discussions with program leaders to learn more about their programs and gauge their interest in being one of the case studies. Once the list of programs was narrowed, the project team, in collaboration with ACF, selected the final set of programs to reflect diversity in geography and focus population.

Two members of the research team spent two-and-a-half days at one CAO office in downtown Portsmouth, Ohio, in February 2020. The team conducted semi-structured interviews in one-on-one or small-group meetings with 10 CAO staff members, including administrators and staff who provide direct services to participants, and with 9 representatives from various CAO partner organizations. The team also conducted in-depth interviews with two participants and reviewed the anonymized case file of one participant with a CAO staff person. The team conducted a follow-up telephone call in August 2020 with a program leader to learn how CAO responded to the COVID-19 public health emergency.


Ochoa, L., and P. Holcomb (2021). “Case study of an employment program for youth and services for families: Community Action Organization of Scioto County.” OPRE Report #2021-72, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.