PSI provided noncustodial parents with low incomes support in finding work with the goal of improving participants’ employment skills and ability to pay child support.

PSI provided noncustodial parents with low incomes support in finding work with the goal of improving participants’ employment skills and ability to pay child support.

PSI participants attended a job-readiness course, called Learning Expectations and Developing Employment Readiness Skills (LEADERS), course for two weeks. In addition to providing information about the program services and its expectations, LEADERS included conflict resolution, work readiness, mock interviews, and help preparing resumes. LEADERS was intended to prepare participants for the National Work Readiness assessment, which they took at the end of the course to be placed on a work crew. After completing LEADERS, participants were placed in transitional jobs with either a nonprofit or a public-sector organization, where they worked for six hours per day for four days per week, earning minimum wage. Throughout their participation in the program, participants met with a case manager. Case managers were expected to have weekly meetings with participants through the transitional employment period and to meet participants once or twice per month after transitional employment, until the participant was employed for 90 days in an unsubsidized job. While in transitional employment, participants who had not taken a similar course were enrolled in a family life-skills class, which was intended to help them develop parenting skills and general communication skills and lasted six hours over three sessions. The program provided employment assistance, such as job development services, during and after the transitional job. The program helped participants to access high school equivalency services and occupational training and provided legal assistance, particularly with child support issues. Participants with criminal histories received support addressing barriers specific to that population.

After completing the transitional job, participants could receive financial education instruction and financial incentives to remain in unsubsidized employment, with incentives given at 60, 90, and 180 days of unsubsidized employment. Most participants were permitted to hold transitional jobs for a maximum of four months, and could continue to access some services afterwards, if desired. PSI served unemployed noncustodial parents who had one or more of the following barriers to employment: no history of working full time, no high school diploma or equivalent, a criminal history and an ongoing job search of at least 60 days, or release from prison or jail fewer than 60 days before the time of referral. PSI took place in Syracuse, NY. The evaluation of PSI was part of the Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration evaluation, which also studied Good Transitions; Supporting Families Through Work; TransitionsSF; Next STEP; RecycleForce; and Ready, Willing & Able Pathways2Work.

Year evaluation began:
Populations and employment barriers: Parents, Noncustodial parents
Intervention services: Case management, Education, Employment retention services, Financial incentives, Supportive services, Training, Financial education, Occupational or sectoral training, Soft skills training, Subsidized employment, Transitional jobs, Work readiness activities, Job search assistance, Job development/job placement
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 Supported favorable $774 per year 0.04 1003
Long-term Little evidence to assess support favorable $962 per year 0.05 1004
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term Supported favorable 9% (in percentage points) 0.22 1003
Long-term Little evidence to assess support favorable 4% (in percentage points) 0.10 1004
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term No evidence to assess support
Long-term Supported favorable $-503 per year -0.18 736
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods No evidence to assess support

Implementation Details

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Dates covered by study

The evaluation began in 2011. An implementation study assessed short-term and 12-month impacts, and an impact study assessed participant outcomes after 30 months.

Organizations implementing intervention

The Center for Community Alternative (CCA) in Syracuse, NY, led PSI during the Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration (ETJD) study. CCA is a nonprofit seeking to increase use of community-based alternatives to incarceration. CCA is a member of Greater Syracuse Works (GSW), a network of community organizations providing employment and training opportunities for residents with low incomes in the Syracuse area. GSW contributed program and data management and leveraged its members to provide services.

GSW launched the first iteration of PSI in 2000. Until CCA’s involvement in the ETJD study in 2011, various GSW member agencies led the intervention, although it did not have a transitional job component.

Populations served

PSI served unemployed, noncustodial parents, nearly 94 percent of whom were men. Almost 78 percent of participants were Black, close to 12 percent were white, and 6.5 percent were Hispanic. The average age of participants was 35.4 years. Eligible participants had to have an active child support order or an arrears-only order in the state of New York and be considered hard-to-employ. Hard to employ was defined as having:

  • no high school diploma or equivalent;
  • no history of working full time consistently (four consecutive quarters) for the same employer;
  • a criminal history and actively looking for a job for 60 days; or
  • a release from jail or prison fewer than 60 days before being referred to the program.

PSI engaged a handful of referral partners, including the county’s Bureau of Child Support Services, the state’s Division of Parole, and various GSW members. However, nearly 60 percent of program participants were walk-in clients to CCA.

Description of services implemented

The goal of PSI was to help noncustodial parents with low incomes find employment through a combination of job-readiness training, a transitional job, case management, and wraparound services.

  • Case management. Case managers met with participants to develop participants’ goals, provide necessary service referrals, and strengthen their job-readiness skills and job searches.
  • Work-readiness activities. Participants completed a two-week job-readiness class, called Learning Expectations and Developing Employment Readiness Skills (LEADERS), that covered conflict resolution, work readiness, an overview of child support, services available to participants, and the program’s expectations. It also involved mock interviews and help preparing resumes. LEADERS was intended to prepare participants for an assessment (the National Work Readiness assessment), which they took at the end of the course. Partway through the grant, PSI offered two new programs to further bolster participants’ job readiness. Participants with criminal histories could also be referred to the Reentry Clinic at CCA, where staff members counseled attendees on navigating an employment search with a criminal history.
  • Transitional job. After the job-readiness class, participants were placed on work crews at nonprofit or public-sector organizations hosting transitional jobs. These positions mainly consisted of maintenance and janitorial duties. They helped participants strengthen general employability skills, like dependability and collaboration, rather than specific occupational skills. PSI paid participants minimum wage.
  • Job development and placement. Case managers and partner organizations assisted with job development and placement during and after the transitional job.
  • Family life-skills classes. The Children’s Consortium provided a three-session, six-hour parenting education class for those in transitional jobs who had not previously taken similar courses. The classes incorporated communication skills and tried to change mindsets about child support and work.
  • Employment retention services. The program offered financial incentives for participants who stayed in unsubsidized employment for 60, 90, and 180 days, and financial education instruction for developing positive budgeting and purchasing habits.
  • Legal assistance. Two legal aid organizations provided civil legal services mainly related to child support issues. Other civil legal assistance included landlord and tenant issues.

PSI mostly operated as intended with a few modifications. PSI instituted a four-month maximum for the duration of participants’ transitional jobs due to capacity and cost constraints. They had also hoped to set up work crews with private employers, but potential private employers had concerns about complex work crew logistics and hosting participants with criminal convictions. In addition, the Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County, a GSW member and community-based organization dedicated to raising literacy levels in the county, was slated to provide literacy and high school equivalency services. However, they withdrew before the program was fully implemented because of concerns about meeting the program’s outcome goals for literacy gains.

Service intensity

The job-readiness workshops were two weeks long, meeting daily for three hours. Participants were allowed one absence before being required to reenroll with the next cohort to ensure they received all the coursework. Transitional jobs lasted for four months, and participants worked six hours a day for four days a week. Case managers met with participants weekly from enrollment through the end of their transitional jobs. After participants left their transitional jobs, case managers were expected to meet with participants once or twice a month until the participants held an unsubsidized job for 90 days. Participants could continue to access some services afterwards if desired.

Comparison conditions

Comparison group members were not eligible for the grant-funded transitional job. About 59 percent reported receiving help from other community providers with finding and keeping a job, such as job-readiness preparation or assistance paying for job-related transportation costs. Notable portions of the comparison group also received help related to past criminal convictions (about 29 percent) and child support, parenting, or other family issues (about 22 percent).

Partnerships

The PSI model relied on many partnerships to operate.

Three organizations hosted work crews: Syracuse Housing Authority; Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, a nonprofit providing services for vulnerable families and children; and Downtown Committee of Syracuse, a private, nonprofit downtown management organization for the central business district.

Two organizations provided unsubsidized job development and placement assistance for the first two years of the grant: Partners in Education and Business, a GSW member agency, and Career Start, a local staffing agency. After the first two years, CCA did job development in-house.

In addition to CCA’s in-house case management, Catholic Charities of Onondaga County and Westcott Community Center, which offers human services and programming for the Syracuse area, also provided case managers to cover some of the program caseload.

Children’s Consortium, a GSW member and local organization working with children, parents, and caregivers to promote the health and future success of kids, facilitated family life-skills classes.

Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York and Hiscock Legal Aid Society, both law offices serving residents with low income, offered legal assistance to participants.

Staffing

CCA’s deputy director and a PSI director provided oversight for the program. An operations coordinator managed the logistics of the work crews, and crew supervisors oversaw the work crews. The program employed two facilitators who led job-readiness workshops, one in-house job developer (beginning the third year of the grant), and four case managers. Staff in CCA’s Reentry Clinic helped participants address challenges to employment that might arise from their criminal histories.

Local context

During the grant period, there were significant declines in the manufacturing sector in Syracuse. PSI partners noted the slow economy and lack of available local jobs. Jobs that might have been good fits for participants were often outside the city and not easily accessible by public transportation.

Fidelity measures

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

Funding source

PSI first received a Welfare-to-Work grant from the U.S. Department of Labor in 2000. Since then, the program has been supported by five different funding streams, including the ETJD grant, which was the funding source during the study period.

Cost information

Evaluators estimated the cost per participant of program services—which include costs of operating the program, such as staff salaries, fringe benefits, and overhead and administrative costs; supports provided to participants like incentive payments; and subsidized wages for participants—at $7,349 (in 2016 dollars). Evaluators also estimated the costs of education and training programs that study group members participated in other than PSI. Including PSI and these other programs, the total gross cost per PSI participant was $8,663 (in 2016 dollars), and it cost $7,206 more to support a PSI participant than a comparison group member.

The study did not discuss a comparison of costs and benefits.

Studies of this Intervention

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Study Quality Rating Study Counts per Rating
High High 1