In 2011, the District of Columbia (DC) piloted a redesigned Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to customize service delivery based on its assessment of specific client needs. This assessment included an analysis of each individual client’s circumstances and abilities, considering everything from family and work histories, to individual interests, to substance abuse or mental health issues. The assessment is “solution-focused,” with each question designed to solicit information about what has and hasn’t worked for the client in the past.
The assessment helps in creating a customized profile for each client and categorizes them into one of four segments, each of which align to a tailored suite of services. The process incorporates other partner agencies and is high-touch, with outputs such as individual responsibility plans, service referrals, and more. The goal is not just to administer a benefits program, but to help families and individuals climb out of poverty; enable greater levels of self-sufficiency; and help clients to prepare for, find, and keep employment that provides a livable income. While the full rollout of the redesigned program is still in its early days, an evaluation of the initial pilot showed a tenfold increase in work activity among TANF recipients.