The Rural Welfare-to-Work (WtW) Strategies Demonstration Evaluation is using rigorous experimental designs to build knowledge about strategies to help low-income families in rural areas strive toward sustained employment and self-sufficiency. This report examines the 18-month impacts of the Future Steps program on the employment, earnings, welfare dependence, and well-being of work-ready low-income people in rural, southern Illinois. During a recent two-year period, this employment-focused case management program served mandatory TANF and food stamp recipients, as well as low-income volunteers. Through job search and placement assistance, skill-building and support services, and postemployment assistance, Future Steps aimed to help clients overcome obstacles, develop skills, find and keep good jobs, and progress toward economic independence. The program was viewed as potentially effective since it (1) teamed the welfare agency with a community college, (2) benefited from the local connections of program staff, and (3) provided small caseloads of 15 to 35 active clients per case manager.
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and its subcontractors, Decision Information Resources, Inc. and the Rural Policy Research Institute, are conducting this evaluation with funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.