The program provided employment and training services to improve employment outcomes, decrease receipt of public benefits, and improve parenting practices of people receiving welfare in Indiana.

The program provided employment and training services to improve employment outcomes, decrease receipt of public benefits, and improve parenting practices of people receiving welfare in Indiana.

The Indiana Welfare Reform Initiative was one of the demonstration projects made possible by Section 1115 waivers to the rules in effect at the time for the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. These Section 1115 waivers allowed states to test new approaches to advance the objectives of the AFDC program. Participants were required to take part in employment and training activities that emphasized the job search, and they remained eligible for Medicaid and supportive services if their earnings increased over time, up to the federal poverty level. Participants were required to sign an agreement committing to immunize their children; to ensure their children attended school; and, if they were minor parents, to live with a responsible adult. Those who did not participate in work activities for at least 20 hours per week or uphold the commitments from the parenting agreement could be sanctioned and have their welfare grant reduced by $90 a month until they complied. Participants could receive services and welfare benefits for up to 24 months. The program served welfare program participants in Indiana. The program was provided in Indiana.

Year evaluation began: 1995
Populations and employment barriers: Parents, Cash assistance recipients
Intervention services: Financial incentives, Sanctions, Supportive services, Work readiness activities, Job search assistance
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 $1,046 per year 0.05 74804
Long-term Supported favorable $1,213 per year 0.06 74806
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term Supported favorable 2% (in percentage points) 0.05 0
Long-term Supported favorable 3% (in percentage points) 0.07 71360
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term Supported favorable $-182 per year -0.07 74838
Long-term Supported favorable $-371 per year -0.14 74846
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods Little evidence to assess support favorable 1% (in percentage points) 0.02 2359

Implementation Details

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Dates covered by study

The program began in May 1995 and continued under a federal waiver through May 2002. Evaluators studied service provision from May 1995 through June 2001. The study included an early cohort (with impacts measured for five years) and a later cohort (with impacts measured for two years).

Organizations implementing intervention

The Division of Family and Children (DFC) of the FSSA directed the Indiana Welfare Reform Initiative. Local DFC offices oversaw program benefits and services at the county level. The local DFC offices provided some services directly and selected contractors that provided many other program services.

Populations served

The Indiana Welfare Reform Initiative served an early cohort consisting of single-parent families and two-parent families and a late cohort of single-parent families. Program participation was mandatory for a subset of participants. Participants in the early cohort were welfare recipients across the state of Indiana who were randomly assigned to either the Welfare Reform or Traditional Welfare group. Most received welfare benefits at some point before participating in the evaluation. Participants in the later cohort were mostly single mothers who were new welfare recipients in 12 counties. Nearly all single-parent participants in both cohorts were female (97 percent in the early cohort and 95 percent in the late cohort). On average, single-parent participants were in their late twenties when they enrolled in the study (29 for the early cohort and 27 for the late cohort). Most single-parent participants were white (58 percent in the early cohort and 53 percent in the late cohort) and about 40 percent in each cohort were African American (38 percent in the early cohort and 41 percent in the late cohort). Most single-parent participants had at least twelve years of education (59 percent in the early cohort and 57 percent in the late cohort). The study did not specify the demographic statistics of the two-parent families who were served.

Description of services implemented

Participants were required to engage in work activities, could access supportive services, and signed a personal responsibility agreement. The program emphasized a work-first approach, and work activities varied greatly by county and contracted provider. Intervention services and policies included the following:

  • Job search. Job search assistance was commonly provided through job clubs and in one-on-one settings.
  • Work-readiness activities. Work-readiness activities included topics like résumé assistance, interview advice and practice, and appropriate behavior in the workplace.
  • Work experience. The program emphasized unsubsidized work over education and training activities.
  • Supportive services. Supportive services included transportation assistance, child care, and health coverage. Participants remained eligible for Medicaid and supportive services if their earnings increased over time, up to the federal poverty level. Transitional Medicaid eligibility lasted for up to one year and transportation assistance lasted for 90 days once participants were employed. Information on the length of time participants remained eligible for other supportive services was not reported. In addition, supports were provided for work-related attire for employed individuals upon request.
  • Personal responsibility agreement. Participants committed to immunize their children; to ensure their children attended school; and to live with a responsible adult (as defined by the program) if the participant was a minor parent.
  • Family cap. Cash grants for participants were not increased in response to the birth of a child if the child was born at least ten months after the family started receiving benefits.
  • Sanctions. Participants could be sanctioned if they did not comply with work participation requirements or the personal responsibility agreement.

Some elements of the programming were not implemented as intended. Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) anticipated that the program would include intensive case management, but that largely did not occur because the state moved to an integrated worker model, which resulted in increased duties and staff primarily focusing on eligibility work. In addition, there was variation in how county offices administered the program. For example, local offices varied in how they partnered with schools to ensure compliance with the personal responsibility agreement requirement that children attend schools and in how they issued sanctions.

Service intensity

Participants could receive services and welfare benefits for up to 24 months. Those who did not participate in work activities for at least 20 hours per week or uphold the commitments from the personal responsibility agreement could be sanctioned and have their welfare grant reduced by $90 a month until they complied. About 7 percent of the early cohort reached the 24-month time limit during the study period. The time limit applied only to the placement group (less than twenty percent of the intervention group) for the first two years of the study. Most of those it applied to left welfare prior to hitting the limit.

Comparison conditions

The Traditional Welfare comparison group was subject to pre-reform welfare policies. Members of this group were required to participate in work activities but were less likely to be referred to the work component of the state’s welfare program and were more likely to participate in education and training activities than the intervention group. The Traditional Welfare comparison group did not receive so-called work-first messaging. Staff rarely enforced sanctions for noncompliance with work requirements for Traditional Welfare clients. These clients did not face a time limit on welfare receipt, have to sign a personal responsibility agreement, or face a family cap.

Partnerships

Contractors delivered the Indiana Manpower Placement and Comprehensive Training (IMPACT) program, the work component of the Indiana Welfare Reform Initiative. Many contractors also provided case management in the second half of the study period. Roughly 70 public, private, and nonprofit contractors provided services when the program began, but the number and type of providers differed as time went on.

Staffing

DFC frontline staff included public assistance caseworkers, who handled eligibility, and IMPACT family case coordinators (FCCs), who oversaw clients’ work requirements and provided case management. In 1998, the two roles were integrated into a single FCC role that managed eligibility and work requirements for clients required to participate in welfare-to-work activities. Contractor staff provided many IMPACT services. The study authors did not include information on the number of staff or their training, degrees, or certification.

Local context

The Indiana Welfare Reform Initiative took place statewide in Indiana.

Fidelity measures

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

Funding source

The Indiana FSSA funded the program.

Cost information

Evaluators calculated administrative costs and service costs in 2001 dollars of serving single-parent family members of the Welfare Reform intervention group and the Traditional Welfare comparison group who were enrolled in the first year of the study. Administrative costs per month ($171 per participant) and the costs of providing services per month ($449 per participant) were consistent across both groups. However, differences in total costs for the Welfare Reform intervention group and the Traditional Welfare comparison group exist because of 1) differences in the number of months of participation in each program and 2) differences in participation in services. Because the Traditional Welfare group spent 2.5 more months on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), on average, the Welfare Reform group reported savings in administrative costs of $161 per participant over the five-year study period. Welfare Reform group members were more likely to participate in IMPACT and receive subsidized child care, which led to increased service costs of $449 per participant over the five-year study period.

Evaluators also calculated costs and benefits to taxpayers and participants. The estimated savings to taxpayers was $2,015 per participant over five years. These savings were largely driven by decreased TANF payments (which occurred because of a drop in the overall TANF caseload during this period), with an average decrease of $1,180 per participant. The economic benefit to participants was estimated to be about $900 per family over five years, driven by participants’ improved employment and earnings outcomes.

 

Studies of this Intervention

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Study Quality Rating Study Counts per Rating
High High 3