“One cannot hire a hand – the whole man always comes with it.” - Peter Drucker
The ACF Region 4 Regional Administrator (RA), Carlis Williams, met with workforce professionals at the 2019 Southeast Employment and Training Association (SETA) Spring Conference to discuss the broad needs and services that must be addressed if our nation is to successfully move vulnerable adults and families into self-sustaining employment and well-being; and on how this work can reduce foster care placements and help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
In addition, Carlis led a panel presentation and workshop discussion in which workforce professionals heard first hand from front line human services leaders regarding the need for coordinated case management and effective partnerships to make it happen. Strategies to improve outcomes by better involving service partners from across the human services spectrum were shared. A particular focus of the workshop was for heightened priority in serving youth transitioning out of foster care, especially single young women with children. Leaders from Agape in Memphis, TN spoke of their strong collaboration with workforce partners, vocational training, 2 Gen leaders, education, child welfare and transportation providers and the outstanding results they have been able to achieve for their clients. Community Action Agency leaders and local workforce boards from Waccamaw, SC shared similar examples of partnership that provided paid work experience, early childhood services, soft skills, tutoring and educational success.
As you may know, all states provide employment services that are funded through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA services are designed to help participants that experience barriers with a special emphasis on the employment needs of young people ages 14-24. Among youth with barriers to employment are a significant number of single young women with children. In this workshop, the workforce community was encouraged to give heightened priority to serving single young women with children and to develop specific strategies that recognize the inherent strengths of these clients and to more effectively engage and employ this youth population. The goal of this focus includes reducing foster care placements due to neglect. In addition, as a number of these women may themselves be in or just exiting foster care, this work may contribute in breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
Workshop participants reviewed information on single female heads of households as being most represented among people experiencing poverty; the importance of working with this most vulnerable population to mitigate and PREVENT circumstances so they don’t become homeless, targets of traffickers or parents whose kids enter foster care.
Research shows a one percent increase in the unemployment rate correlates to a 25% increase in child neglect referrals while child neglect accounts for the majority of foster care placements. The workshop provided workforce development professionals with insight and understanding of the direct connections among child neglect, foster care placement and caregiver employment.
Panel discussion examined service strategies to close gaps that hinder effective engagement and outcomes. As expected, strong case management across needed systems of support was a recurring theme. The panel also identified information and tools that can be used to raise for this population the service priority as established by local workforce governing boards. In addition, the discussion recognized the need to also better serve TANF and SNAP clients who fall into this population type. By providing comprehensive assessments and comprehensive individual employment plans (IEP's) when referred to job centers, participants believe positive outcomes for these groups can be realized as well.
It is intended that participants use the information from this discussion to develop strategies and services to better engage partners to best target resources and services and to help break intergenerational cycles of dependency and adverse childhood experience. The workshop was well received and interest in further work in this realm has emerged from additional Region 4 states including Alabama and North Carolina adding to the support present in South Carolina and Tennessee. Region 4 continued in this discussion and is seeking input on if/how further work can be piloted and measured.