WorkFirst HandBook

Engaging Parents in WorkFirst

1.1 Overview

The Engaging Parents in WorkFirst Overview section includes:

1.1.1 How do we introduce parents to WorkFirst?

How do you introduce parents to the WorkFirst program? You get them engaged, right from the start and begin to develop a trusting relationship. Tell them that WorkFirst offers many supports and services to help them through their temporary situation, but they must do their part by taking advantage of program opportunities to help them find and keep a job. They need to know that:

1.1.2 What brought you here?

This is a very simple question that you should ask every parent when she or he first applies for WorkFirst. Their answer can give us important clues about how to get them off to a good start in the WorkFirst program.

Begin by building a rapport and a partnership with the parent. Then focus on how they need to do their part and take advantage of WorkFirst supports and services so they can go from where they are to earning a living for their family

Perhaps this is their first time on public assistance and they only came in because they faced an unexpected crisis, like illness, divorce, or job loss. Emphasize this is a temporary situation, deal with the crisis, then move on to how to get back into the workforce.

On the other hand, maybe the parent has been on WorkFirst before. Start off talking about how they managed to leave WorkFirst before, what happened while they were off, and what made them reapply. Knowing what worked for them in the past can help you figure out where to start in getting them back on track.

1.1.3 What is the very first step?

First you deal with the immediate financial crisis. You:

1.1.4 What are the next steps?

The next step is to tell the parent about the WorkFirst program, it's message, "A job, a better job, a better life" and how they can earn a living for their family. Be sure to explain that they are responsible to participate and make good use of WorkFirst services and supports. They may not remember everything you are telling them, particularly if they are in crisis mode the first time you meet. This makes it very important to continue WorkFirst engagement throughout a person's stay on assistance.

The following sections of this chapter describe the other important "first steps" you take with newly approved WorkFirst families: setting appropriate participation requirements, making referrals and orienting them to the program. The chart below shows this initial work you do to help families progress as quickly as possible.

Triage the case for required…
Accountability

Explain program participation requirements and the parent's responsibility to participate. Let them know that if they choose not to participate, they risk losing cash aid.

Participation

Determine what the family's WorkFirst participation requirements will be. Is someone in the family:

  • Exempt from participation?
  • A dependent teen (16-19 years old)
  • Pregnant (third trimester) or parenting an infant?
  • A minor parent (unmarried and under the age of 18)?
  • In need of stabilization or issue resolution?
  • Able to participate in work or work activities?
Up-front referrals All families must get family planning and family violence information and be offered referrals for more in-depth follow-up.
Orientation Reach out to every member of the family; tell them what is available, what you expect from them and what you can do for them.
Comprehensive Evaluation Let the family know that they will receive a comprehensive evaluation to help get them into appropriate WorkFirst activities as quickly as possible.
1.1.5 What are the WorkFirst Principles?

Telling people the WorkFirst message is the best way to set the stage for a successful WorkFirst experience. Look at the program through their eyes and talk about it the way most people would. These parents want to earn a living for their family. Build on that.

A job, a better job, a better life.

Eight words sum up the common goal of the many pieces that make up Washington WorkFirst.

A job, a better job, a better life.

A job…
Work is still first. Paid work offers the best opportunity for families to escape poverty. Work is better than welfare. Work pays more than welfare. A job – any job – is the best place to start. Employment is still at the center of WorkFirst.

A better job…
But that first job is likely to be entry level or part-time for people who have spotty work histories or other barriers to overcome. Once parents go to work—even if they earn enough to leave assistance–-WorkFirst continues to support them. WorkFirst parents can take advantage of training opportunities, job referrals, Basic Food benefits and help with child care, transportation and medical coverage. Even help managing the chaos of balancing work and home.

A better life…
WorkFirst gets involved with people's lives in ways that the old welfare system never could: treatment for drug/alcohol addiction, English language training, reliable transportation, freedom from domestic violence, building a career ladder or new glasses. All these things are offered to help people become more employable, but they also improve people's lives in general. Increased self-esteem. Better role models. Healthier kids.

A job, a better job, a better life. While every story is different and every traveler takes his or her own unique journey, the destination is clear. Work hard, improve yourself and take care of your family. WorkFirst is there to help.

Resources

Related WorkFirst Handbook Sections
Other Resources