Florida Family Transition Program Evaluation (FTP), 1997-2000

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Project Overview

Provisions of the Florida Family Transition Program (FTP) Evaluation demonstration included: (1) a time limit of 24 months on assistance in any 60-month period for most recipients, with a limit of 36 months of receipt out of any 72 months for certain groups of particularly disadvantaged individuals; (2) requiring parents of children age 6 months or older to participate in employment and training programs; (3) school attendance requirements for teenagers; (4) immunization requirements for pre-school-age children; (5) an earned-income disregard of $200 plus ½ the remainder; (6) a higher motor vehicle asset limit; (7) increased eligibility for two-parent families, relative to AFDC rules; and (8) a requirement that parents meet regularly with their children's teachers.

Policy impact questions were: (1) Was self-sufficiency increased according to various measures of employment, earnings and income? (2) Was welfare use reduced according to various measures of the duration and amount of welfare receipt? (3) Was participation in program activities and use of program services increased, according to such measures as attendance at, and completion of, assigned training or employment activities? Questions related to policy impact on family structure and stability, child well-being, and health benefits were also explored.

The evaluation used a random assignment experiment in one county. Data on implementation, operations and impacts were obtained from administrative records, client surveys at 24 and 48 months, a survey on post-welfare experiences of families who have lost benefits because of time limits, staff interviews, client focus groups, site observations, and program documents.

Background

ACF provided multi-year grants for 23 evaluation projects in 21 States that continued or modified evaluations initiated under welfare reform demonstration. These demonstrations were begun under waivers prior to implementing TANF. Nine States (Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin) received funding as Track 1 projects to continue, unchanged or with limited modifications, the evaluations of the welfare reform demonstrations that they had begun operating prior to the implementation of TANF. Thirteen States (California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia) received funding as Track 2 projects to continue, modify or replace evaluations of welfare reform demonstration they had begun operating prior to implementing TANF. Although there was significant variation among the States in the actual policy strategies that they adopted, the policies had common goals related to promoting self-sufficiency. The policies included time limits on assistance, stronger requirements to participate in work or work-related activities, stronger sanctions for non-cooperation, making work pay, and promoting personal responsibility.

By the end of FY 2003, most of these evaluation projects had been completed. Evaluation work continued on five projects in four states (California, Indiana, New Hampshire and Ohio).

The major research questions include: Common research questions about impacts included: (1) Was self-sufficiency increased according to various measures of employment, earnings and income? (2) Was welfare use reduced according to various measures of the duration and amount of welfare receipt? (3) Was participation in program activities and use of program services increased, according to such measures as attendance at, and completion of, assigned training or employment activities? Also, most States included policies to improve family stability and child well-being, and these were reflected in their impact research questions. In addition to these impact issues, each evaluation assessed program strategies and problems in implementing and operating welfare reform programs, including such major factors as planning, staffing, training, organizational structure, management and supervision, and application of program rules and delivery of services to clients.

Some projects (particularly Track 2) are limited to process evaluations related to assessing program strategies and problems in implementing and operating welfare reform programs, including such major factors as planning, staffing, training, organizational structure, management and supervision, and application of program rules and delivery of services to clients.
Some examine the breadth of a mix of welfare reform policies related to time limits, stronger work requirements and personal responsibility and their effects on self-sufficiency, welfare receipt and participation in program activities. Meanwhile, others focus on more specific issues such as post-employment services or front-line assessment and placement in job activities where policy choices have devolved to the county level.

Although States varied in particular elements of their design, all States funded under Track 1 used a random assignment experiment to answer impact questions. Under this approach, experimental group cases are subject to welfare reform policies as modified by waiver policy and control group cases are subject to AFDC policies in place prior to welfare reform. Each evaluation also utilized record data, surveys, site observations, staff interviews, and program documents to obtain information about the research population, and completed process, impact and cost-benefit analyses.

All Track 2 projects provide for process analyses on the implementation of welfare reform policies. Some include impact analyses based on either experimental or non-experimental research designs.

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