Improving Employment Outcomes: Using Innovative Goal-Oriented Strategies in TANF Programs

April 3, 2019
Topics:
Self-Sufficiency, Welfare & Employment
Projects:
Goal-Oriented Adult Learning in Self-Sufficiency (GOALS), 2014-2020 | Learn more about this project
Types:
Reports
Improving Employment Outcomes: Using Innovative Goal-Oriented Strategies in TANF Programs Cover
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  • File Size 408kb
  • Pages 14
  • Published 2019

Introduction

New evidence from neuroscience, psychology, and other behavioral sciences suggests that TANF programs may be able to improve participants’ outcomes by applying the science of self-regulation. Self-regulation refers to a foundational set of skills and personality factors that enable people to control their thoughts, emotions, and behavior. It is what helps people set goals, make plans, solve problems, reason, organize, prioritize, initiate tasks, manage time, and persist in and monitor their actions. Mathematica engaged four TANF programs implementing new interventions informed by evidence on self-regulation and designed to help participants reach their personal and job-related goals in a process to improve the quality of the interventions and their implementation. The process, called Learn, Innovate, Improve (LI2), brings social science theory, research evidence, and practice wisdom together, with the goal of creating innovations that are practical, effective, scalable, and sustainable.

Primary Research Questions

  1. 1 What is LI2?
  2. 2 How can the LI2 process be applied in TANF programs? What changes to service-delivery approaches and staff practices did the LI2 process suggest for the TANF programs included in this project?
  3. 3 What lessons from the LI2 process in the TANF programs included in the project can be applicable to other TANF programs interested in implementing interventions focused on self-regulation and goal achievement?

Purpose

This brief describes the efforts of four TANF programs to implement three new interventions that are informed by evidence on self-regulation and designed to help participants reach their personal and job-related goals. It also offers overarching lessons for the field based on the programs’ experiences on how to adapt, implement, and scale up these types of interventions.

Key Findings and Highlights

. Findings from this brief include: (1) Science-informed, goal-oriented strategies can require time and effort to integrate into the service environment; (2) Strong “champions” at all levels of the organization can be critical to the success of interventions focused on self-regulation and goal-achievement; (3) The purpose of and rationale behind the new tools and processes should be made clear for staff; (4) More specific and tailored guidance is needed on how to use interventions focused on self-regulation and goal achievement with participants who are in crisis; (5) Using a systematic, analytic process like a LI2 can pay off by helping programs uncover “sticking points” in implementation, reinforce desired behaviors among staff, and foster staff buy-in.

Methods

This brief is based on work conducted under the Goal-Oriented Adult Learning for Self-Sufficiency (GOALS) project, funded by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. Mathematica used a framework called Learn, Innovate, Improve (LI2), which involves iteratively refining and testing implementation approaches, in work with four TANF programs deploying new interventions informed by evidence on self-regulation and designed to help participants reach their personal and job-related goals. Mathematica created LI2 in partnership with OPRE and the Harvard Center on the Developing Child. The framework consists of a series of replicable, evidence-informed activities conducted by practitioners (for example program administrators, supervisors, and direct-service staff) in collaboration with researchers to improve the quality of new interventions. They include trying out program changes in contained practice settings, collecting data on the process and results, and making adjustments before scaling up the changes.

Citation

. Derr, Michelle, Jonathan McCay and Jacqueline F. Kauff. (2019). Improving Employment Outcomes: Using Innovative Goal-Oriented Strategies in TANF Programs, OPRE Report #2019-40, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Glossary

Self-regulation
a foundational set of skills and personality factors that enable people to control their thoughts, emotions, and behavior (Bunge, 2014; Dawson and Guare 2009; Zelazo et al., 2008)
Last Reviewed: April 1, 2019