3.2.1 Comprehensive Evaluation

Created on: 
Apr 09 2018

Revised August 5, 2020

Legal References:

Note:  The DSHS Annual and Returner Updates will not be available until August 22, 2014.
The Comprehensive Evaluation section is divided into three separate sub-sections:

  • Section 3.2.1 – Comprehensive Evaluation describes the purpose and content of the CE and continuous activity planning.  This section includes:
    • What is the Comprehensive Evaluation?
    • How do I complete the Comprehensive Evaluation interview?
    • What topics does the Comprehensive Evaluation cover?
    • What does "special records" category mean?
    • What does "financial literacy evaluation" mean?
    • Who must receive a Comprehensive Evaluation and when should it be conducted?
    • What does "Continuous Activity Planning" mean?
    • When is a new Comprehensive Evaluation or Continuous Activity Planning required?
    • What does "likely to be approved" mean?
    • What are the pathways of the Comprehensive Evaluation?
    • Where is the Comprehensive Evaluation documented?
    • What does "parent involvement in decision making" mean?
    • How will the results of the Comprehensive Evaluation be used to develop an Individual Responsibility Plan?
    • Can a parent be placed in sanction for failing to participate in the Comprehensive Evaluation?
    • Comprehensive Evaluation - Step-by Step Guide
  • Section 3.2.2 – Initial Comprehensive Evaluation describes how to create and complete an active CE.
  • Section 3.2.3 – Comprehensive Evaluation Updates describes how DSHS and WorkFirst partners update recipients’ and returners’ CEs. What is the Comprehensive Evaluation?

Everyone has skills and abilities needed in today's workforce. Weaving those skills and abilities with labor market realities and education levels is the cornerstone of the Comprehensive Evaluation (CE).

The CE is an automated tool for WorkFirst Program Specialists or WorkFirst Social Service Specialists to learn more about an individual's strengths, readiness and ability to succeed in the work place. There are a series of evaluations designed to help parents achieve better and quicker engagement in employment-related activities that lead to self-sufficiency.

The primary objectives of the CE are to:

  • Adopt a strength-based, whole family approach;
  • Gather better information about parents' skills and abilities and more quickly place them in an appropriate activity;
  • Identify barriers to WorkFirst participation that may need to be addressed upfront versus barriers that can be addressed along with work-related activities;
  • Gather information from the parent so staff can identify  when the parent meets  program criteria  and can help parents make objective decisions about what activities are appropriate;
  • Increase parent's involvement in developing their plan for participating in WorkFirst, resulting in more parent buy-in and better results; and
  • Increase consistency in how the WorkFirst program operates across the state.

The CE is the key tool in leading parents directly to employment since job search continues to be the most appropriate pathway for the majority of parents. For other parents, the CE leads to employment through training or employment programs and also identifies areas in which the parent may need additional support. In some instances, parents receive services to help resolve issues while participating in work related activities.

Active participation by the parent is essential. The CE is designated both as an engagement tool and the vehicle to move parents quickly to the most appropriate WorkFirst activity. The parent's involvement in the decision making process helps ensure the parent's success.

As we learn more about WorkFirst families and document that information in the comprehensive evaluation and the on-going observation notes, we can make better informed choices about their participation and achieve the goal of self-sufficiency.

eJAS notes provide a standalone screening for each category. This is an important feature for family violence, because this allows family violence screening to be completed when it is safe for the family member to do so. What is a Comprehensive Evaluation?

First, set a positive tone about getting to Career Scope and work. Ask: "How can I help you get to work?" Explain to the person that we ask screening questions to:

  • Help the parent succeed in the workplace;
  • Ensure that their family circumstances are not a barrier to workplace success;
  • Provide necessary support services;
  • Resolve issues without delay;
  • Stack services, so the parent can make faster progress and preserve/bank months of WorkFirst Cash Assistance; and
  • Ensure the parent not only finds, but also keeps, a job.

Second, start acquainting the person with workplace expectations, such as the need to show up on time, every day, and how to have reliable back up plans for child care and transportation.

Third, some of the questions in the CE touch on sensitive topics (like family planning, substance abuse, or domestic violence). Set some expectations with the person to make the conversation go easier. Tell the person that your interview will:

  • Identify areas in which he or she may need additional help, supplemental accommodations or services that will help him or her be successful in WorkFirst.
  • Not require a lot of details.
  • Result in a referral to experts immediately if there is a serious crisis.
  • Result in other referrals once the comprehensive evaluation is completed. What topics does the Comprehensive Evaluation cover?

As shown in the chart below, the CE covers all the topics needed to determine where the person is placed on the employment pathway. It also includes legally required screening for specific issues.

Below you will find a list of categories reflecting the required screenings for WorkFirst families. Dependent teens do not have a CE requirement; however, it is recommended to document the dependent teen's educational activities, or other pertinent information in the dependent teen's eJAS case in the appropriate category. Equal Access status and limited English proficiency screening occurs in ACES.

CE Topics

Part 1 – Screening for Urgent/Emergent Needs

  • Housing
  • Medical Conditions
  • Mental Health
  • Substance Abuse
  • Family Violence

Part 2 – Family Issues

  • Strengths, Supports & Goals
  • Children’s Education & Health
  • Caregiving
  • Housing Stability
  • Family Violence*
  • Mental Health/Substance Abuse*
  • Adult Health (includes optional special records for HIV/AIDS/STD*)

Part 3 – Employability

  • Financial Literacy
  • Employment
  • Legal Issues
  • Transportation
  • Education

*This is a special record screen and highly protected.

For more information on CE topics and documentation please refer to the "Comprehensive Evaluation Documentation Guidelines" What does special records category mean?

All individual information is confidential under state and federal law. In eJAS, there are also four categories of client information, called "Special Records", with increased protection. These categories contain information about:

  • Mental Health
  • Family Violence
  • Chemical Dependency, and
  • HIV/AIDS and STD* (Optional category)

* Please note that DSHS staff is not required to screen for HIV/AIDS/STD. This is an optional category to be used when a parent voluntarily provides information about HIV/AIDS/STD issues that could interfere with WorkFirst work activities.

It is important to document these four topics only in the matching note type in eJAS. Invite the person to discuss the matter(s) directly with her or his service provider (such as her or his job service specialist). What does financial literacy evaluation mean?

For a variety of reasons many parents may lack the basic financial knowledge necessary to spend their money wisely, save for the future and manage money challenges. Financial literacy can provide families with tools for a smoother transition from a benefit-based to a wage-based income, and keep them from unknowingly entering into financially devastating credit arrangements. It is an essential element in parents' achieving financial stability, self-sufficiency and long-term financial well-being.

During the CE determine if financial literacy activity might be beneficial to the parent, and, regardless of the results, ask if the parent wants a referral to money management training available in the local community. (This is not a mandatory activity and does not have an eJAS code). Who must receive a Comprehensive Evaluation and when should it be conducted?

The CE is conducted by the WFPS in the Community Services Office (CSO) for:

  • Newly approved applicants, and,
  • Likely to be approved applicants,
  • Parents currently in sanction must do the sanction reengagement portion of the CE.

Child only cases do not require the Comprehensive Evaluation.

NOTE: CSOs refer "likely to be approved" applicants to the CE to save time and engage the parent quicker (see likely to be approved definition)

The CE  is completed when the parent is approved (or likely to be approved) for WorkFirst cash assistance and stays active until the parent has been off TANF for at least 12 months., However, a new CE may be  done any time at staff discretion. (See Section 3.2.2 – Initial Comprehensive Evaluation.)

Staff will update the active CE when a parent exits and reapplies within 12 months.  DSHS and WorkFirst partners will also update recipient’s CE periodically.  (See Section 3.2.3 –Comprehensive Evaluation Updates.) What does "Continuous Activity Planning" mean?

"Continuous Activity Planning" (CAP) is an informal meeting or joint evaluation with the parent, available WorkFirst partner(s), DSHS co-workers and the WorkFirst Program Specialist (WFPS) or WorkFirst Social Service Specialist (WFSSS). This meeting is to discuss the parent's progress and participation as well as a recommendation for the parent's next activity. This meeting can be conducted via phone or in person and must be documented in eJAS under the "Continuous Activity Planning" note type.

The WFPS or WFSSS must document:

  • The names of all the participants in the meeting
  • How the meeting was conducted (phone or in person)
  • When the CAP took place
  • Results (the outcome of the meeting) When is a new CE or CAP required?

The WFPS/WFSSS decides whether the parent needs a new CE or a CAP based on the last complete CE. This decision cannot be made based on a partial or incomplete CE.

  Timeframe (from CE finish date) Situation Required Action
Complete Within 6 months

A parent is:

  • Transitioning to a new activity,
  • Not progressing in an activity, or
  • Failing to complete the current activity
Conduct a "Continuous Activity Planning" meeting.
Over 6 months A parent is progressing in the plan identified in the previous CE and moving onto the next step. Conduct a "Continuous Activity Planning" meeting.
Not progressing or participating

Update the CE as needed unless the parent is going back to their last required activity.

  Every 12 months The family violence and family planning screenings are due. Complete the DSHS Annual CE Update (which completes the family violence and family planning screening). What does "likely to be approved" mean?

  • Definition : "Likely to be approved" means those who appear to meet financial and resource eligibility based on available information. The only reason the application is pending is for verification of items such as:
    • Personal identification
    • Household composition
    • Shelter costs
  • Pending verification : If eligibility is pending for other verification, such as applying for Unemployment Insurance, job start verification, or income, these parents may not be good candidates for a referral for a CE under the new "likely to be approved" definition. Applicants who do not appear to meet financial and resource eligibility should not be referred for a CE until eligibility is verified.
  • Participation : The parent begins to participate in activities that resulted from the CE when financial eligibility is determined. Parents are not required to participate in WorkFirst activities until financial eligibility has been approved. Parents cannot be sanctioned for not participating while their application is in pending status. What are the pathways of the Comprehensive Evaluation?

The following criteria is designed to help the WFPS make an informed decision about which employment pathway(s) is most appropriate for a participant after completing the CE.

CE recommendations should be designed to meet participants' needs while maximizing federal participation requirements. Refer to the Stacking Activities Chart when determining the appropriate stackable activities for the participant.

Prior to approving referrals to any of the employment pathways listed, WorkFirst staff must advise participants of WorkFirst program requirements and their responsibility to participate in the activities identified in their Individual Responsibility Plan.

Ensure participants have child care and transportation plans in place prior to referral. Participants reporting to an activity without arranged childcare and transportation may be referred back as they are unable to begin participating as required.

If the CE results don't identify an appropriate pathway(s) based on the following criteria, a Continuous Activity Plan (CAP) may be conducted immediately.

Career Scope

Referrals to Career Scope may be appropriate for participants who:

  • Have current employment or employment within the last 90 days
  • Are receiving UI benefits or have a 'pending' UI claim ( note: JS should be the requirement for parents in this category )
  • Indicate an interest in pursuing employment
  • Have recently completed an education or supported work program
  • Are participating in another core activity for no more than 20 hours per week and need another activity to meet federal requirements and can accept employment within four (4) weeks
  • Additional details available in WFHB section 4.1.3 for assessing "work ready" participants

Exception: Participants who are working full-time and want assistance finding a better job are appropriate for Career Scope services as long as they can come into the office at least once a week to receive assistance. Otherwise, you may refer them to the WorkSource Center as a self-directed job seeker.

Education & Training Activity

Referrals to Education & Training may be appropriate for participants who:

  • Have little or no work history
  • Currently attend an educational activity
  • Indicate interest in pursuing educational opportunities or want to enter an occupation that requires training
  • Indicate an interest in getting a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate
  • Completed high school equivalency (HSE) but need or want to brush up on their skills
  • Have had difficulty in school with reading, writing, math, following verbal directions, etc. and want to improve their basic skills in order to get a job or a better job

Community Jobs

Referrals to full-time Community Jobs may be appropriate for participants who:

  • Are currently working on barrier/issue resolution and are ready to combine issue resolution with work in a supportive setting
  • Are ready to learn to self-manage issues that affect the ability to obtain or keep employment
  • Aren’t viable candidates for placement through Job Search
  • Are open in WF sanction and are interested in curing the sanction
  • Are ready and able to be employed full-time (32-40 hours per week) within six months of the CJ enrollment
  • Are able to participate full-time (40 hours per week) right now
  • Have childcare and transportation plans
  • Have demonstrated workplace behaviors that adversely affect the participant's ability to fully engage in Job Search
  • Have participated in other activities without success
  • Don’t currently hold an unsubsidized job unless these hours are minimal and career progression is unlikely.  These will be approved on a case-by-case basis by Commerce Headquarters. 

Referrals to part-time Community Jobs may be appropriate for participants who:

  • Are single parents with a child under the age of six
  • Aren’t viable candidates for placement through Job Search
  • Are open in WF sanction and are interested in curing the sanction
  • Are ready and able to be employed at least part-time (20 hours per week) within six months of the CJ enrollment
  • Are able to participate 23 hours per week
  • Have childcare and transportation plans
  • Are managing known barrier removal issues (such as mental or physical health, chemical dependency and family violence)
  • Don’t currently hold an unsubsidized job


Community Works Program

Referrals to Community Works may be appropriate for participants who:

  • Are currently enrolled/interested in an education component.
  • Are employed less than 32 hours per week.
  • Need additional hours to meet WorkFirst participation requirements.
  • Are transitioning between activities,
  • Need additional support for re-training or additional experience to be competitive in the labor market
  • Will be in the work activity for 1-12 months for at least five hours per week

Unsubsidized Employment

Participants may be in this pathway full- or part-time:

  • Have a paid, unsubsidized job
  • Are self-employed
  • Are participating in a college work study
  • Are participating in a paid work experience, practicum or internship

LEP Pathway

Referrals to the LEP Pathway may be appropriate for participants who:

  • Receive Cash Assistance
  • Have difficulty understanding or communicating in English
  • An LEP participant with ESL Level 1 through 6 who is identified by college staff or an employment counselor as needing specialized assistance to participate
  • Individuals receiving Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) or Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA)

Issue Resolution

Participants may be in this pathway full- or part-time, depending on their ability to participate in work or work-like activities. Whenever possible, these issue resolution activities should be stacked with one of the above activities as appropriate.

Issue resolution activities assist in helping participants (such as parenting minors, teen head of households or pregnant, hard to engage, sanctioned, and disabled/incapacitated individuals)  resolve issues, including:

  • Mental, physical, and/or learning disabilities
  • Caring for a child with special needs
  • Alcohol or substance abuse/chemical dependency
  • Family violence
  • Homelessness
  • Family planning
  • Parental education or support
  • Pregnancy to Employment
  • Child Protective Services


Referrals to the Exempt Pathway may be appropriate for participants who:

  • Are a needy caregiver relative and aged 55 or older
  • Have a severe and chronic disability (including those likely to be approved for SSI or other federal benefits)
  • Are required to be in the home to care for a child with special needs
  • Are required to be in the home to care for an adult relative with a disability

3rd trimester of pregnancy Deferral

  • Participants in the third trimester of pregnancy can choose not to participate in WorkFirst activities if there are no identified mental health and/or chemical dependency issues.

Infant and Toddler Exemption

  • The Infant and Toddler Exemptions may be appropriate for participants who parent a child two years or younger (730 day lifetime limit in these exemptions). Where is the Comprehensive Evaluation documented?

The CE is recorded in the CE screens in eJAS. The information, except special records, is accessible and readable by all the WorkFirst partners and will be used to make decisions regarding program participation and expectations. What does "parent involvement in decision making" mean?

Parent input is essential to an effective CE. We want and value the parent's input and take their desires and wishes into account when developing a plan.

However, a parent's wishes alone do not substitute for the CE and program pathway criteria. Parent input should not be the sole basis for deciding what activity a parent will participate in. A parent's wishes need to be factored into the larger picture, which includes family and health issues, education, skills and abilities, job availability, and training or rehabilitation resources.

Decisions on what pathway a parent participates in must first be made on the basis of program criteria and policy. At that point the parent's wishes should be a major factor in deciding on the pathway choice. How will the results of the Comprehensive Evaluation be used to develop an Individual Responsibility Plan?

The results of the CE will be used to develop the IRP. It will indicate the best pathway for the parent and what support services WorkFirst will provide the parent to participate. Decisions will be made objectively and consistently, based on program policy criteria - See "Criteria for Decision Making" . The IRP will be developed by the WFPS and the parent to:

  • Describe the parent's responsibilities, activity requirements and authorized support services.
  • Maintain progress towards independence.
  • Document the action steps the parent agreed to do. (This is essential to holding the parent responsible for her or his participation.)
  • Describe DSHS responsibilities and which support services will be provided.
  • Describe for the parent the consequences of not meeting the requirements.

IRPs will be developed for longer-term activities if parents are participating in consecutive program elements. The expectation is that all activities are preparing parents to go to work. IRPs will be developed to find the best mix of activities, including for those clients who are participating in issue resolution activities. Parents will be expected to participate full-time.

WFPSs will use the criteria for developing an IRP and making referrals to a pathway as outlined in "Criteria for Decision Making" .

Community Jobs referrals will be made only for the parents least likely to succeed in attaining unsubsidized employment. Based on the CE results, CJ will be an option for those parents who have participated in other activities and have not been successful or where other activities may not be deemed appropriate. Can a parent be placed in sanction for failing to participate in the Comprehensive Evaluation?

Yes. If a parent fails to show to any CE appointment, the worker must go through the good cause process to determine if the parent had a good reason for not completing the CE. For more on excused and unexcused absences, see section - How do we treat excused and unexcused absences?

Sanction is a tool of last resort which will be used as a consequence for parents who refuse to participate in the WorkFirst program. It is very important to determine and document whether a person is refusing, or simply unable to comply. Comprehensive Evaluation: Step-by-Step Guide

Refer to the Application and Screening section for a step by step guide of the process leading to the determination of eligibility and the CE. Application information will be used as appropriate in terms of the CE and developing the parent's IRP.


  1. Conducts Positive Prevention strategies as part of the WorkFirst Cash Assistance application process. Child care, transportation and/or other needed support services are provided by DSHS staff at the time of positive prevention so the parent can complete the CE and prepare for employment pathway participation.
  2. Documents whether the person will need Equal Access accommodations to complete the application process and actively participate. (See Up-front referrals.)
  3. Uses the questions in the CE section in eJAS to complete the CE. (To view a list of all areas covered in the CE, refer to What topics does the CE cover? Section Determine who are returners and conduct the returner portion of the CE.
  4. Determines the appropriate employment pathway(s) using the information documented and the parent's input . ( To view the employment pathways refer to What are the pathways of the Comprehensive Evaluation? Section )
    • If the CE results do not identify an appropriate pathway(s) based on the following criteria, a CAP may be conducted immediately.
  5. Develops the IRP by:
    1. Using the criteria for developing an IRP and making referrals to employment pathway(s) activities as outlined in "Criteria for Decision Making".
    2. Documenting results from the CE in eJAS.
    3. Updating the IRP outlining the required activities and level of participation the parent must achieve.
    4. Opening the appropriate referral code(s) in eJAS.