Job Coaching and Incentives : Family Mentoring Program, Family Pathfinders of Tarrant County

Program/Practice Name: Family Mentoring Program, Family Pathfinders of Tarrant County

Agency Name: Tarrant County Workforce Development Board, d.b.a. Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County under the auspices of The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC)

Contact Information:

Kathryn Arnold, Executive Director
Peggy Badlato, Family Mentoring Program
P.O. Box 470869, Fort Worth, TX 76147
Family Pathfinders of Tarrant County, Inc.
Phone: (817) 731-1173
info@familypathfinders.org
familypathfinders.org/

Type of Program/Practice: The Family Pathfinders Mentoring Program assists families transitioning off Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) by providing a network of volunteers from faith-based, civic, or community organizations who assist the family in overcoming obstacles that could derail their progress toward self-sufficiency.

Program/Practice Description: The Family Pathfinders Mentoring Program supplements services provided by Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County. As TANF recipients work within the workforce system to find employment and achieve self–sufficiency, the Family Pathfinders program matches recipients and their families to a network of community support. The network is a volunteer mentoring team consisting of three to five people from faith–based, civic, or other organizations. Support provided to TANF families can include tutoring for children, car maintenance, helping the family navigate State or private systems (such as banking and medical), locating community resources, finding housing, monthly budgeting, and other support as needed. Mentor teams help families gain self–sufficiency by showing them how to achieve independence rather than by providing monetary support. Families that are ready for Family Pathfinders are those that already have addressed major barriers such as drug or alcohol problems and show a commitment and desire to becoming self–sufficient. Since Mentoring is a post–employment program, participants must be employed when referred to Family Pathfinders.

Background/Program History: Family Pathfinders began in Austin in June 1996 as part of the Texas response to welfare reform legislation. By 1997, the program was operating in Tarrant County. In 2004, Tarrant County Family Pathfinders established 501(c)3 status and became Family Pathfinders of Tarrant County, Inc.

Innovations and Results: Finding a job is only the beginning of self–sufficiency and many TANF families need additional support to remain employed and self–sufficient. In the Family Pathfinders program, each selected family works with a team devoted to helping them solve problems, plan, and navigate the world as a self–sufficient family. Ninety percent of selected families complete the 1–year program. Of those, 85 percent stop receiving TANF benefits and have not returned to TANF after one year.

Operations: TWC/Workforce Solutions Choices case managers refer TANF recipients to Family Pathfinders upon employment. Family Pathfinders recruits volunteer mentors through churches, civic organizations, or corporations. TANF recipients are screened for program readiness and matched with a team of volunteer mentors. Matching is completed based on volunteer mentor team preference for family type and geographic location. All volunteer teams receive six hours of training, volunteer handbooks, and community resource guides. Family Pathfinders provides ongoing support to the mentors throughout the year.

Tips to Implementation: When considering implementing a mentorship program like that of Family Pathfinders, organizations or cities should consider their funding streams and who the program will be able to serve. They also should consider the channels by which TANF clients will be referred and connections to community organizations from which volunteer mentors will be recruited. Building connections with community organizations and recruiting from these organizations is a time consuming but necessary investment.

Keys to Success:

  • Family Pathfinders has attained 501(c)3 status.
  • The program has a participant referral source through Workforce Solutions.
  • Family Pathfinders has established relationships with community and faith–based organizations.
  • The program supports a three-way relationships among mentors, mentees, and staff.

Challenges: The program is funded through TANF Choices Plus as a post–employment service. Due to restrictions on TANF funds, Family Pathfinders cannot continue to serve a client who terminates with TANF because of time limits (they may still serve clients terminating TANF due to employment). Currently, these issues are addressed at the screening stage, with the program looking for participants as they become employed.

Since the Mentoring Program is a post–employment opportunity for TANF recipients, participants must be referred within the window between attaining employment and closing the TANF case. For this reason, the Mentoring Coordinator must work closely with TANF case managers to get referrals at the appropriate time. In addition, any organization that undertakes a mentoring program should consider seeking funding for families that do not fall within the guidelines of a TANF post–employment benefit.

Recruiting volunteer mentors is the most time consuming task in the Mentoring Program, so there must be a clear plan for volunteer recruitment. It requires considerable communication and often takes several months from initial contact to mentor readiness. This span of time must be built into the program so that mentors are trained and available when participants are ready to be matched. The team approach provides the greatest likelihood of a successful mentorship, but recruitment, training, and communication can require a greater investment than individual mentoring.

The following tools are associated with Family Mentoring Program, Family Pathfinders of Tarrant County.  Please send us an email at upitoolkit@icfi.com for more information about these tools.

Reports

Monthly Program Summary, Client Summary, and Monthly Narrative; shows the data Family Pathfinders tracks and reports monthly to the workforce center and Board staff/TWC

Family Application to Participate in Family Pathfinders

Application for TANF families