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Appendix B

The Welfare Reform Academy

In 1997, the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland created an academy to help state and local officials, private social service providers, and other interested parties take full advantage of the new welfare reform law. While the law pressures public officials and service providers to make their programs more efficient and better targeted, it also presents an unprecedented opportunity for states to reshape and improve their programs.

The Welfare Reform Academy will provide training in program design, implementation, and evaluation for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Food Stamp, Medicaid, job training, child care, child welfare, and child support programs. Instruction will cover the following topics:

  • understanding the new welfare reform/block grant environment;
  • estimating the costs and behavioral consequences of policy decisions;
  • implementing programs;
  • monitoring programs and evaluating program effects; and
  • performance contracting for services.

The academy maintains a small staff of professionals skilled in program management and development. Directing the academy is Douglas J. Besharov, a member of the faculty who teaches courses on family policy, welfare reform, and the implementation of social policy. Assisting with curriculum development and instruction is Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., one of the most respected public policy research organizations in the nation.

Founded over 25 years ago, Mathematica has expertise on a wide range of social welfare programs. Recent projects include extensive evaluations of the Food Stamp program, analyses of whether health maintenance organizations reduce health care costs, and the development of microsimulation software for modeling the effects of changes in welfare programs.

A West Coast site will be established by the School of Social Welfare at the University of California at Berkeley, whose faculty is distinguished in areas crucial to the academy, including program evaluation, contracting for services, and connecting program support from various funding streams. Members of the Berkeley faculty will conduct some of the training at Maryland, and Maryland faculty will do the same at Berkeley.

Start_up funding for the academy was provided by the Lynde and Harry Bradley and Annie E. Casey Foundations.

The New World of Welfare Reform

States now receive federal welfare funding mainly through an open_ended, but narrowly constrained, categorical program. The new law combines a number of federal income support (TANF), child care, and job training programs into two interrelated block grants. Under the new system, states get more flexibility in return for fixed amounts of federal funding each year.

State and local officials now have much greater freedom to design and implement welfare, job training, child care, and other social welfare programs. For example, the new TANF law seems to allow states to harmonize their welfare and food stamp programs. Such integration could result in the more efficient delivery of services, and might even create more effective services.

A Teaching Academy

Although some states and localities have already begun reshaping their welfare programs, their success will depend on the analytical and decisionmaking skills of agency managers and planners. The Welfare Reform Academy was created to help state and local agencies meet this challenge.

The primary goal of the academy is to create a cadre of managers and planners who can respond fully and creatively to the challenges‹and opportunities‹presented by the new welfare system of block grants. Through hands_on training in program design, implementation, and evaluation, the academy will equip participants with the skills necessary to reshape social welfare programs according to state and local needs and priorities.

For example, many states and localities may wish to use their welfare block grants to convert traditional welfare programs into workfare or supported work programs. Under workfare, welfare recipients must accept either private or community service jobs in exchange for cash benefits. Under supported work, welfare mothers take private sector jobs and receive benefits in the form of a wage supplement. If designed and implemented properly, these programs might reduce welfare rolls and help recipients become self_sufficient.

Curriculum

Eventually, we expect the academy to train executive and agency officials, legislators, legislative staffers, private social service providers, and other interested parties from across the country.

Training sessions will take place at the University of Maryland School of Public Affairs and the University of California at Berkeley School of Social Welfare. Participants will attend two weeks of intensive training, with a brief break between each one_week session.

Everyone who satisfactorily completes the program will receive a certificate of completion from the University of Maryland or the University of California. The academy will offer graduate_level education in five areas:

Understanding the New Welfare Reform Environment: What are the specific provisions of the new welfare law, and the choices that states and localities face? This introduction will familiarize participants with the new law and explain critical policy and budget implications. Instructors will explain the policy options that exist under the new system, including ways in which funding streams can be redirected. Participants will explore the possibilities of integrating programs while targeting resources more effectively on specific populations. For example, a state may decide to focus TANF resources on child care services for its low_income population. In addition to covering the range of flexibility states and localities will have, instructors will address the implications of new restrictions included in the legislation.

Estimating Costs and Behavioral Consequences: How to anticipate the likely costs of policy decisions and their impacts on target populations. Some states may be interested, for example, in reducing work disincentives by increasing earnings disregards in income support programs. Or they may seek to create work opportunities for recipients who do not find jobs on their own. The proponents of such policies may be firmly convinced of their merits, but may not fully recognize their cost implications. The academy will teach participants how to estimate the costs of specific proposals, as well as their probable consequences for the populations served, and how to use a cost_benefit approach to program planning. Participants will use micro-simulation software developed by Mathematica to predict how changes in program parameters may affect caseloads. They will also be taught how to develop methods for examining secondary effects, such as how changes in one program can change the cost of others. Thus, the academy will help states minimize the risk of unanticipated costs and other outcomes.

Implementing Programs: How agencies and service providers should implement the new law. The success of a new program depends on how well it is implemented. Instructors will highlight typical implementation problems and identify useful strategies for overcoming them. Using case examples, the training will focus on effective ways to define program goals, reorganize and motivate staff, redirect resources, delegate responsibility, and assign tasks. Instructors will also discuss how implementation is linked to program monitoring and evaluation.

Monitoring Programs and Evaluating Program Effects: How to monitor programs and assess the actual effects of policy decisions on the well_being and behavior of children and families. Once adopted, new programs must be monitored closely. Instructors will outline the best ways program managers can monitor service delivery, including through specific and quantifiable performance indicators. Participants also will practice using analytical tools for evaluating program effects. New program eligibility rules, administrative arrangements, and program services can change recipient behavior‹for better or worse. Determining the impacts of policy changes requires careful evaluation design. The training will cover: (1) how sample design and sampling procedures affect the research questions that can be answered; (2) the types of data that should be collected; (3) how evaluation can be integrated with program and policy implementation; and (4) how resource constraints affect evaluation strategy.

Contracting for Services: How to Make Effective Use of Outside Resources. To plan policy and program changes, transform agency structure and staff practices, or evaluate the effects of reforms, state and local agencies may find it useful to contract with outside vendors for certain services. Contractors may be used to provide basic services, such as job training and child support enforcement; or to supplement internal staff resources; or, in the case of evaluation, to ensure objectivity. Successful contracts require systematic procurement, a clear definition of contractor and agency roles and responsibilities, a sensible degree of contract monitoring, and ongoing communications between agency and contractor. The academy will teach participants how to select appropriate activities for contracting out and how to evaluate and compare contract proposals. Instructors will also show participants how to attract the kinds of proposals they want, get the most for their money, and avoid common pitfalls of the contracting process. For example, some states and localities may wish to transform traditional services into voucher systems. The training will cover ways to help ensure that such systems work well.

Training will involve assigned reading and homework, class discussions, and individual and team exercises. It will also incorporate various case examples of successful state and local initiatives. During the first stages of the academy's instruction, we will concentrate on the following topics:

1. The History of Welfare and Welfare Reform
2. Current Programs (including AFDC, JOBS, Food Stamp, Medicaid, and Housing)
3. Welfare Caseload Dynamics
4. Eligibility, Income Limits, and Other Requirements
5. Benefit Levels and Interaction Among Programs
6. Earnings Disregards
7. Time Limits
8. Job Training Programs
9. Work Programs
10. Child Care
11. Health Care Coverage
12. Child Support Enforcement
13. Family Caps
14. Learnfare
15. Health-Related Rules
16. Noncitizen Coverage
17. Comprehensive Policy Packages

1997 by the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland.  All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission in writing from the University of Maryland except in cases of brief quotations embodied in news articles, critical articles, or reviews.  The views expressed in the publications of the University of Maryland are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff, advisory panels, officers, or trusties of the University of Maryland


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