Irvine Aids Welfare Reform Projects

California foundation provides $1 million
in partial support of four programs in state

Aided by a $1 million grant from the James Irvine Foundation, the Army’s four California divisions will each seek to implement a unique welfare-to-work program model designed to increase the economic self-reliance of welfare recipients by moving them to employment, strengthen the linkage between the Army and county departments of social service, and move individuals into a closer relationship with the Army’s overall services, according to Gordon Bingham, territorial social service secretary and project director.

While the total program will seek to achieve a common purpose, the four divisions will have somewhat variable models due to the policies and procedures in force in the four counties served. They are: San Diego County (Sierra Del Mar); Orange County (Southern California); Stanislaus County (Golden State); and Sonoma County (Del Oro).

Project leaders anticipate that it will provide the territory with effective models of service to clients living on welfare who are now losing benefits and must return to work. A valuable side effect will be the development of close working relationships among personnel within the four divisions as they seek to achieve common goals.

“This is the first time,” Bingham notes, “we have attempted a coordinated project involving national headquarters, territorial headquarters and four divisional headquarters. This represents a challenge for us, but so far the cooperation has been tremendous.”

The project is designed to provide clients with a quick orientation to the world of work, taking approximately one month during which the client undergoes a thorough assessment intended to reveal whatever barriers to employment need to be addressed. Case managers will facilitate client movement and re-orientation, and job developers will seek to secure client placement in an employment setting of best fit for the client and which has promise for success. The project will continue to provide supportive service with the establishment of support groups, child care programs, spiritual, social and recreational activities, counseling and material assistance.

Throughout much of 1997, studies reveal significant movement of a number of individuals from welfare to work. These are often able-bodied individuals with some experience in the workplace who live in a state with a low unemployment rate and whose children are either at or close to school age. Another large segment of the population seems to have some denial of their eventual requirement to leave welfare. Some have never worked, are undereducated, have disabilities inhibiting their ability to work, or have infants or toddlers and no support system. It is this population that the four projects will seek to assist.

Dr. Robert Docter, territorial social service consultant, has been assigned responsibilities as program coordinator and will assist the divisions in developing a common program and relating to county offices where flexibility is required. He will provide overall supervision of the four program sites under Bingham’s supervision. Each site will have a project manager, a number of case managers and a job developer.

WorkNet, a company that provides training and assessment and which has significant experience with this population, will provide consultant help as well as direct assistance in staff training. Debra Angel, WorkNet president, is co-author of the book No One is Unemployable which examines barriers to employment experienced by this population.

The project has been developed by the Western Territory in conjunction with National Headquarters. Mr. Jerry Hill served as the NHQ consultant and project writer. A coordinating council with representatives of each of the four programs will establish procedures for project implementation.

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