KRA Corporation’s last Spotlight! for 2013 is shining brightly on a truly unique pilot program that proved highly beneficial for DC recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) enrolled in KRA’s Job Development, Work Readiness, and Placement Services Programs funded by the Department of Human Services (DHS). The Department helps low-income individuals and families maximize their potential for economic security and self-sufficiency, and provides temporary assistance and support. With more than 20 major programs, operated by three Administrations—Economic Security, which oversees TANF; Housing & Shelter; and Family Services, it no wonder that DHS is regarded as the “go-to” agency for DC residents requiring emergency or short-term services.
The DHS Family Services Administration (FSA) provides intervention, protection, and social services in the areas of risk-reduction and self-sufficiency promotion. An integral FSA component is the Strong Families Program, which, according to the website, “strives to strengthen the individual and family unit, foster healthy development and help address the issues that create ongoing challenges for District residents. Strong Families’ social workers and case managers provide a range of social services that include assessment of client needs, development of case plans, short-term social work intervention, referral, and coordination of services with District and community agencies.”
All TANF recipients referred to KRA for workforce services have assigned to them a Career Agent, and on occasion, a Strong Families Case Manager/Social Worker. Monee Thomas, KRA Career Agent, reported, “As dictated by the needs of the customer, it is customary for the Case Manager to hold a ‘team meeting’ with me and a customer to review his/her DHS Case Management Plan. It was during one of these meetings with Thomas young, Case Manager, that multiple interpersonal issues surfaced—serious issues that posed critical barriers to the customer’s prospects for obtaining, and more importantly retaining, sustainable employment.”
Strong Families’ general protocol for dealing with this customer’s challenges would be immediate one-on-one counseling, and referrals to targeted, local social service agencies for remediation. KRA Career Agents’ response to this information would be to juxtapose barrier removal and job placement. This particular scenario was all too familiar to Mr. Young; Ms. Winston-et Williams, KRA Operations Manager; and Thomas, so they began discussing how to maximize their collective efforts by convening a series of workshops that could address the most-encountered crisis-oriented situations, and could potentially reach hundreds of customers in a short span of time.”
Williams commented, “Mr. Young consulted with his DHS/FSA colleagues, and subsequent to several requisite levels of “review and approval”, both at DHS and other public-stakeholder entities, including the DC City Council, the idea became a pilot program: the Strong Families Barrier Removal Workshop Series! We believed that in a familiar and non-threatening environment—and on a volunteer basis—customers might feel comfortable learning the “do’s” and “don’ts” of handling psycho-social/emotional situations that present obstacles to healthy interpersonal relationships, as well as serious barriers to successful employment.
Though DHS held the option of partnering with any DC workforce-services provider, the Department chose KRA, in September 2013, to collaborate on the recruitment, planning, and implementation of the proposed 6-week Workshop Series. Held at the KRA/DC office, and facilitated by Mr. Young and another Case Manager, Victoria Perriman, and Shawntelle Nesmith, a DHS Social Worker, the Series ran—with an enrollment of 130 customers—September 12th through October 17th.”
Workshop sessions focused on Anger Management, Domestic Violence, Effective Parenting, and Self Esteem. During the Series, some customers would remain after the sessions to speak with their KRA Career Agents—or one of the facilitators—about specific challenges they were facing, but had not brought to light. As a result of these impromptu sessions, many customers were linked directly to agencies equipped with the expertise and resources to deal with immediate-need and/or long-standing crisis situations.
Based on extremely positive feedback from customers and facilitators, DHS approved a second Series, which ran from October 24th through December 12th, with 185 customers enrolled! The original four Workshop topics were scheduled, with the addition of two more, Coping with Depression and Overcoming Trauma.
Between October 25th-28th, KRA validated the success of the first Series by administering an Opinion Survey to a random sample of 36 participants, asking them to comment on/rate the effectiveness of the Workshops related to the Presenter; Course Applicability and Quality; and Visuals, Activities, and Handouts. For the second Series, KRA administered the same Survey December 19th-20th to a random sample of 27 participants.
Anthony Featherstone, KRA Program Manager, commented, “It would be an understatement to say that KRA/DC was pleased to have been chosen to assist DHS in this endeavor; quite frankly, we were over-joyed to offer this opportunity to our customers! I believe that the Workshops were a life-line for some participants; they learned that they are not alone, that they are not the only one dealing with crises, and that they can overcome barriers and obstacles they thought were insurmountable.”
In November, KRA submitted to DHS an Interim Activity Report, with Survey results, for the first Workshop Series. In December, we submitted a Final Activity Report, with Survey results. Featherstone added, “We are hopeful that the Strong Families Barrier Removal Workshop Series will be considered for continuation, so that its value can be experienced by more KRA/TANF jobseekers who need this unique type of intervention to contribute to their success in the workforce.
Featherstone concluded, “The bottom line—for DHS, KRA, and our customers— is job readiness, placement, and retention. And, due to the effectiveness of the Workshops, all of the participants are better prepared to identify and confront those relationship barriers, with family members and others, that were impeding their progress. Already, we are observing a direct correlation between Workshop participation and successful job placement. At the end of the day, this is what we do: prepare job seekers for a global economy and supply employers with a trained and reliable workforce.”