Although States and localities experienced real caseload decline, caseloads were increasingly concentrated in urban areas where low-income families faced specific challenges on their journey to self-sufficiency. Realizing these challenges, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developed the Urban Partnerships Initiative to improve outcomes for low-income families by facilitating peer exchange among TANF stakeholders in urban centers. The Urban Partnerships Initiative aims to improve outcomes for low-income children and families by providing opportunities for urban peers to share promising practices and innovative approaches that foster self-sufficiency and family wellness. The Urban Partnerships Initiative is committed to supporting the work of TANF stakeholders in urban environments by promoting shared learning, enhancing cities’ performance management, and developing strategies to improve services to families so they may achieve and maintain self-sufficiency. The Urban Partnerships Initiative follows three primary strategies to achieve project objectives:
- Facilitated Conference Calls: The Urban Partnerships Initiative invites team leaders from each partner city to participate in a series of facilitated conference calls to identify and explore critical issues facing TANF stakeholders in urban areas. The conference calls also provide an opportunity for peer exchange and relationship building among the urban partners.
- Online Community of Practice: The online community of practice offers a common electronic space where urban partners can share and review documents, exchange ideas, present questions and answers, and plan events. This password-protected environment fosters continued collaboration and problem solving before and after face-to-face meetings.
- Academy Sessions: The signature strategy of the Urban Partnerships Initiative is a series of innovative face-to-face academy experiences designed to build on the information shared in the conference calls and through the community of practice. The academy curriculum features dedicated time to work within and among city teams, presentations on promising practices and lessons learned, and a focus on identifying, tracking, and achieving desired outcomes.
The principal cities of the Urban Partnerships Initiative have experienced caseload decline related to the peer-to-peer learning associated with the academy model, which emphasizes city team strategic planning, cross-team dialogue, and targeted Federal/State/local networking. For example, after learning about promising practices for supporting families as they move toward self-sufficiency, Fulton County (Atlanta), Georgia, developed and implemented a variety of successful programs. From December 2003 to January 2006, Atlanta’s work participation rate increased from 9 percent to over 60 percent, and TANF adult cases were reduced from 5,975 to 1,800.