Results from the Los Angeles Reach for Success Program

The Employment Retention and Advancement Project

By Jacquelyn Anderson, Stephen Freedman, Gayle Hamilton

This report presents implementation and two-year effectiveness results for the Reach for Success (RFS) program, operated by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS). RFS offered individualized and flexible case management services to recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance benefits — primarily, single mothers who were working at least 32 hours per week but earned too little to leave assistance. DPSS administrators designed RFS with the goal of helping individuals retain their employment and secure better jobs, and it sought to meet this goal by increasing the availability and improving the quality of case management services, relative to services offered as part of the agency’s existing postemployment services (PES) program. Participation in services in either program was voluntary. RFS operated from March 2002 to June 2005 in three regions in the county.

RFS is one of 16 innovative models across the country being evaluated as part of the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project under contract to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor. The evaluation of RFS uses a random assignment research design, whereby eligible individuals were assigned, through a lottery-like process, to one of two groups. Those assigned to the RFS group were actively recruited to participate in services and were offered personalized case management. Those assigned to the control group were eligible to request, on their own initiative, services from the county’s existing postemployment program. The report’s findings thus indicate whether Los Angeles’s new RFS program was more effective than its existing approach to providing postemployment services.

Key Findings

  • Concerted outreach, customer service, flexibility, and individualized attention were what primarily distinguished RFS services from regular PES services; fewer clients than expected, however, received RFS’s work-based services. RFS case managers vigorously marketed RFS services to prospective clients — including work-based services such as assistance with career assessment, addressing life crises that might interfere with work, and negotiating on-the-job issues, as well as assistance in accessing work supports. Although case managers initially were able to engage clients, they had difficulty keeping them engaged. Moreover, relatively few clients received RFS work-based employment retention and advancement services, which had been intended as central to the RFS program. Instead, clients were more likely to receive help with work supports, such as child care, and to participate in job search activities after the loss of a job, as many quickly lost their jobs and had to find new ones. In contrast with the self-directed take-up of services among those who were eligible for PES, the RFS program did not result in a much higher proportion of individuals receiving services.

  • Over two years, RFS did not lead to greater employment or higher earnings than PES did. RFS led to a 2.4 percentage point increase relative to PES in the likelihood of working four consecutive quarters during follow-up Year 1 but not during Year 2. Otherwise, over the two-year follow-up period, RFS and PES group members were employed for similar numbers of quarters (five, on average) and earned about the same amount during each year.

MDRC will continue to track the employment paths of both the RFS and the PES group and will present longer-term results in the future.

Document Details

Publication Type
November 2009
Anderson, Jacquelyn, Stephen Freedman, and Gayle Hamilton. 2009. Results from the Los Angeles Reach for Success Program. New York: MDRC.