1. How does the CalWORKs Strategic Initiative relate to TANF WPR expectations?
Over time, the CalWORKs Strategic Initiative and Cal-OARs are expected to support county efforts to improve WPR. They will do so by shifting program messaging; deploying strategies for improved engagement of participants; developing a package of new tools, resources, and best practices for moving families forward; and relying on data and reporting that can be used to support county improvement efforts. That said, WPR remains a federally mandated performance measure that, if unmet, carries the risk of fiscal penalty. Therefore, counties should expect to continue reporting WPR and will need to balance this performance outcome strategically against others that may feel more aligned with family success.
2. What is Cal-OARs?
Cal-OARs is the CalWORKs Outcomes and Accountability Review. It was established by SB 89, the human services trailer bill recently adopted to implement the FY 2017–2018 state budget. Upon its completion in 2019, Cal-OARs will release and rely on supplemental performance indicators that reflect important program goals other than meeting the WPR. These indicators might include process measures that determine customer engagement as reflected in the efficiency of service delivery, successful contacts, or rate of service utilization. They might also include measures of intermediate steps on a family’s path to work participation—such as progress toward meeting work-hour requirements, even if not yet fully meeting them—and outcomes related to employment and/or education success. Cal-OARs also includes structures to facilitate continuous program improvement at the county level with technical assistance from CDSS. Even though Cal-OARs and the Strategic Initiative are independent efforts, the team of individuals contributing to both efforts will consider important parallels between them and work to streamline processes at the county level related to customer engagement, tracking, and progress.
3. Are there plans at the state level to require counties to use the new tools?
No. CWDA (County Welfare Directors Association), not the state, is sponsoring the CalWORKs Strategic Initiative. The tools to be created through the initiative will be available to counties to use as they see fit. Counties may use all, some, or none of the tools and may use them as developed or adapt them to fit the local service environment.
4. Do the new Strategic Initiative tools and processes replace or duplicate OCAT appraisals?
No. The expectation is that the tools will provide a more compelling framework for engaging clients. They should help county staff use the information learned through OCAT and other client interactions to create a more realistically sequenced and integrated service plan. In addition, the tools should foster a sense of collaboration between staff and clients, encouraging clients to take ownership of their plans and thereby increase their likely achievement of the goals set forth in those plans. Minimizing county administrative burden is an important objective of the Strategic Initiative, and the project team is committed to creating tools and resources that easily lend themselves to integration into county