The Grand Rapids LFA program focused on rapid job placement for single-parent Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) recipients to increase employment and earnings and to decrease benefit receipt. This evaluation directly compared LFA to a separate intervention called HCD in order to better understand which of the two interventions might be more effective; the distinctive features of LFA are rapid job placement and an emphasis on building work-related skills.
The Grand Rapids LFA program encouraged clients to move quickly into work without being selective about which job to take. Participants spent two weeks in a job club operated by public school staff, then began applying to jobs for up to three weeks. Participants who did not find a job during this period participated in unpaid work experiences, more job searching, vocational training, or basic education. Case managers focused primarily on monitoring and enforcing participation and could impose financial sanctions for nonparticipation. Child care and transportation assistance were available. Participants who completed the job club but remained unemployed could receive multiple rounds of short-term education or vocational training for periods of nine months.
The program’s primary population included single parents who received AFDC and were required to enroll in the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills program. AFDC recipients were exempt from the enrollment requirement if they met any of the following: (1) had a child younger than 1, (2) had 3 or more children younger than 10, (3) were employed 30 hours or more per week, (4) were medically unable to work, (5) were in the last trimester of pregnancy, (6) had resided in a mental institution at all in the last 5 years, (7) had been enrolled in a rehabilitation center, or (8) were taking medication for a mental illness. Grand Rapids LFA was administered in Grand Rapids, MI.
The effectiveness of LFA when compared with HCD indicates the effect of the services that are unique to LFA, or how much better LFA meets participants’ needs than HCD. LFA focused on placing people into jobs quickly to build work habits and skills, whereas HCD focused on providing education and training as a precursor to employment. Grand Rapids’ LFA and HCD programs were examined as part of the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies that also evaluated LFA and HCD programs in Atlanta, GA, and Riverside, CA, and also compared the effectiveness of two distinct strategies for AFDC recipients: HCD and LFA.