• 0.13,4.00
  • 0.22,4.25
  • 0.10,4.25
  • 0.15,1.50
  • 0.03,1.00
  • 0.06,4.00

The Family Transition Program (FTP) was a welfare reform initiative designed to improve the self-sufficiency of single-parent recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in Florida.

The Family Transition Program (FTP) was a welfare reform initiative designed to improve the self-sufficiency of single-parent recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in Florida.

FTP was one of the demonstration projects made possible by Section 1115 waivers to the rules in effect at the time for the AFDC program. These Section 1115 waivers allowed states to test new approaches to advance the objectives of the AFDC program.

FTP had four main components. First, it offered enhanced services, such as case management, enhanced employment and training services, adult education, unpaid work experience, social and health services, child care, and supportive services. Staff from the Florida Department of Labor and Employment Security (DLES) delivered the enhanced services, often in the FTP service centers. Individuals were required to participate in the enhanced services for at least 30 hours per week until they obtained paid employment.

Second, participants were limited to either 24 months of cash assistance in any 60-month period or 36 months of cash assistance in any 72-month period after entering the program.

Third, participants were required to ensure that their school-age children attended school regularly, to talk to their children’s teachers each grading period, and to begin any necessary immunizations. Their cash assistance grants would be reduced if they failed to do these things.

Finally, FTP offered several financial incentives to encourage work. The first $200 plus half of their remaining earned income were disregarded from the calculation of a family’s cash assistance grant, meaning that families could keep more of their income as their earnings increased.

Individuals not in FTP would instead see their grants reduce by $1 for each dollar they earned. Families could also accumulate more assets than were normally allowed without losing eligibility for AFDC, and they were offered transitional child care for two years after they left FTP.

The program took place in Escambia County, Florida.

Year evaluation began: 1994
Populations and employment barriers: Parents, Single parents
Intervention services: Case management, Academic instruction, Financial incentives, Health services, Sanctions, Supportive services, Training, Unpaid work experience, Work experience
Setting(s): Tested in multiple settings

Effectiveness rating and effect by outcome domain

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Outcome domain Term Effectiveness rating Effect in 2018 dollars and percentages Effect in standard deviations Sample size
Increase earnings Short-term Little evidence to assess support favorable $565 per year 0.027 2815
Long-term Supported favorable $1,778 per year 0.085 2815
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term Supported favorable 6% (in percentage points) 0.147 2815
Long-term Little evidence to assess support unfavorable -1% (in percentage points) -0.034 2815
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term Supported favorable $-99 per year -0.036 2815
Long-term Supported favorable $-567 per year -0.206 2815
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods No evidence to assess support

Participant race and ethnicity
Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino of any race
Unknown, not reported, or other

Implementation details

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Dates covered by study

FTP operated from 1994 to 1999. The final evaluation assessed outcomes at two and four years after participants enrolled in the study.

Organizations implementing intervention

The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), formerly the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, administered FTP. DLES provided some employment-related services of FTP like job search assistance and coordinated with other agencies for other employment-related services like occupational training.

Populations served

FTP was a mandatory program serving single parents receiving AFDC benefits. Participants were randomly assigned into FTP or into the traditional AFDC program when applying for AFDC benefits or during their annual benefits recertification. Individuals were exempt from the FTP program if they had disabilities, were younger than age 18 and were attending school or working 30 hours or more per week, were caring full time for dependents with disabilities, were parents with children age 6 months or younger, were age 62 or older, or if they were caretaker relatives of AFDC recipients but not themselves factored into the determination of the AFDC payment.

Almost all FTP participants (97 percent) were women. Nearly 52 percent were Black, not Hispanic, and 45 percent were White, not Hispanic. About 91 percent of participants reported having “ever worked,” yet close to 54 percent reported having no earnings in the 12 months before random assignment, and less than 12 percent earned $5,000 or more in that same time frame. The majority of FTP participants were not considered job ready upon entering the program. Being job ready meant (1) having a high school diploma or equivalent and a literacy level of at least grade 10.9 and (2) having been employed for at least 12 of the previous 24 months.

Description of services implemented

FTP was created under the federal Section 1115 waivers to test new approaches to achieving AFDC’s goals. FTP newly introduced a time limit to benefits receipt; recipients were limited to 24 months of cash assistance in any 60-month period, after which the benefits were terminated. However, participants meeting either of the following criteria were eligible to receive 36 months of cash assistance in any 72-month period: long-term recipients who had received AFDC for at least 36 months during the 60 months before enrolling in FTP, or people younger than age 24 with no high school diploma and who had less than 3 months of work history in the year before enrolling in FTP. In some cases, recipients could receive temporary extensions of the time limit if they had been actively seeking a job but had not yet secured one upon reaching their time limit.

FTP provided a broad array of services alongside the benefits time limit:

  • Case management. Participants worked with a case manager who assigned them to either the 24-month or 36-month time limit, based on the participant’s age, education, work history, and benefits history. Case managers helped participants develop a self-sufficiency plan outlining the participant’s goals, barriers to achieving those goals, and ways to overcome those barriers. Case managers monitored participation and introduced sanctions when necessary.

  • Job search assistance. Participants worked with a career advisor from DLES to develop an employability plan outlining job search, education, and training activities. FTP also offered two job search workshops, one emphasizing job readiness and one emphasizing job search and retention. FTP provided intensive, one-on-one job placement support for participants approaching their time limit.

  • Education. Case managers or career advisors could assign FTP participants to classes for Adult Basic Education or the GED certificate if they had low literacy levels or lacked a high school diploma. FTP also offered participants computerized learning labs in the FTP service centers.

  • Occupational training. In addition to referring participants to occupational training programs operated by junior colleges and other local institutions, FTP established special short-term training programs with particular industries and local employers for participants nearing their time limits, such as courses in office supervision or certified nursing assistant training.

  • Unpaid work experience. Under a program called Workfare, participants could gain work experience in unpaid positions with public or nonprofit agencies. The number of work hours depended on the participants’ individual training needs. FTP required job-ready participants who had not found employment after three weeks of job search to participate in Workfare.

  • Financial incentives. Where the traditional AFDC program decreased the benefit amount by $1 for every earned dollar after the first four months of employment, FTP disregarded participants’ first $200 plus half of their remaining earnings when calculating a family’s monthly benefit amount.

  • Supportive services. FTP participants received a comprehensive suite of additional services, including subsidized child care. FTP also provided various vocational and psychosocial assessments provided by a local mental health facility. Other services included a two-week life skills course for women, payments for transportation and work-related expenses, mental health counseling, and health services provided by an on-site nurse.

  • Parental responsibility mandates. Participants with school-age children were required to periodically speak with their children’s teachers and ensure their children were attending school regularly. Those with preschool-age children had to verify their children had started receiving required immunizations. Failure to comply with these mandates could result in sanctions.

  • Sanctions. Participants who did not comply with program activities or who were not making sufficient progress in those activities could face sanctions, resulting in a reduction of their benefits. Noncompliant participants might be referred to a review panel, which included seven volunteer community stakeholders. These stakeholders reviewed a participant’s case, could recommend services for the participant, determine a participant’s compliance with the program, and recommend reduction or termination of benefits.

Once participants stopped receiving benefits because they had secured work, they could enroll in the Bootstrap Program, which allowed them to continue education or training and remain eligible for transitional child care assistance for two years and transitional Medicaid for one year. Participants in this program stayed with their FTP case manager.

DCF had just three months between implementation and program kickoff, leaving little time to sort through some pilot logistics. Some employment services were not fully operational or streamlined in the early months. For example, contracts with the local DLES offices for delivering employment services were not finalized until two months after enrollment began, the group of FTP career advisors was not assembled until eight months after enrollment began, and the workshops on employability skills did not begin until a year after enrollment began.

Service intensity

FTP participants were expected to engage in program activities for 30 hours a week. Nearly 58 percent of program participants participated in some employment-related activity within 18 months after random assignment. Participants were more likely to start with education or training activities than job search activities. The study authors attribute this trend to the narrow definition of “job readiness,” the program’s robust funding for services, and the program’s messaging around “self-sufficiency” that suggested a focus on skill building instead of job search.

Comparison conditions

The study used a randomized controlled trial to assess the impacts of FTP. Those in the comparison group were subject to existing AFDC rules. They did not face time limits on their benefits, and they had to participate in Project Independence (PI), Florida’s existing welfare-to-work service provider, to develop an employability plan. However, they received fewer services from PI than the employment services offered to the program group.


DLES provided employment and training services to participants. DLES operated some of these services itself and partnered with community colleges and school districts for some education and training services.

Pensacola Junior College ran the computerized learning labs in the FTP service centers.

Children’s Services Center, a nonprofit resource and referral agency for child care providers, stationed a parent counselor in both FTP service centers to help participants identify an appropriate caregiver.

Escambia County Public Health Department stationed a nurse in the FTP service centers to provide immunizations and other health services for FTP participants and their children. A mental health counselor from a local facility, child support enforcement staff, and a Workfare coordinator were also stationed in the FTP service centers.


FTP case managers determined participant eligibility for benefits, helped participants develop plans for self-sufficiency, and monitored eligibility-related mandates and parental responsibility mandates. At the peak of the program, FTP had 35 case managers. They had smaller caseloads—just 30 to 40 active cases at any point—and more responsibilities than the AFDC case managers.

DLES career advisors assigned and monitored participants’ employment-related activities. Career advisors worked closely with case managers to coordinate services. They also had smaller caseloads than PI career advisors working with traditional AFDC recipients.

All FTP staff were state employees. The study authors did not include information on staff training, degrees, or certifications.

Local context

FTP operated in two pilot counties in Florida. This study focused on FTP as implemented in Escambia County, which contains Pensacola, where more than a quarter of the county’s population lived. The county implemented FTP in a healthy economic climate; the unemployment rate in 1994 was 4.7 percent, compared to the state’s 6.6 percent unemployment rate.

FTP was implemented just two years before the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act that introduced time limits on federal welfare dollars. FTP was exempted from the new rules for the duration of the study.

Fidelity measures

The study did not discuss any tools to measure fidelity to the intervention model.

Funding source

Florida’s DCF funded the FTP program through its federal AFDC grant, which switched to its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant following the 1996 federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.

Cost information

Over a five-year follow-up period, the total cost per FTP program participant was $12,482 (1996 dollars), which included all costs to the government and to other organizations providing employment services, supportive services, and health and social services. In comparison, the total cost per comparison group member (AFDC recipient) was $4,507 (1996 dollars). This meant supporting a program participant cost $7,975 (1996 dollars) more than supporting a comparison group member.

A benefit-cost analysis of FTP found the program resulted in a $1,543 (1996 dollars) net financial gain per program group member from the program participants’ perspective over a five-year period. The program resulted in a net loss of $6,325 (1996 dollars) to the government budget, and a net loss of $4,960 (1996 dollars) to society as a whole, which means the net costs borne by nonparticipants, including by the government, were higher than the participants’ net financial gains.

Studies of this intervention

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Study quality rating Study counts per rating
High High 1