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Mentoring program for economic assistance clients expands in northeast N.D.

June 16, 2004

BISMARCK, N.D. – A pilot project that uses mentors to help Grand Forks County residents move from public assistance toward self-sufficiency is expanding into Walsh, Pembina, and Nelson counties this summer.

North Dakota Department of Human Services Executive Director Carol K. Olson said, “We are pleased that this multi-agency effort is expanding into the entire four-county northeast region. Research from similar efforts in Cass County and Williams County indicates that TANF clients benefit from mentors and closer coordination between agencies and programs. Our long-range goal is to develop a coordinated effort in all regions of the state.”

In Grand Forks County, the Department of Human Services, Grand Forks County Social Services, Job Service North Dakota, Northeast Human Service Center, and the Prairie Harvest Human Services Foundation developed the mentor support program. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) clients are required to participate in an assessment and to comply with assessment recommendations, and agency staff members work as a team to address client needs. The Grand Forks mentoring program has served 400 people since July 2000, and results indicate that short-term, intensive interventions help people become employed and remain employed.

The department’s Public Assistance Director John Hougen said the expanded program includes a new full-time mental health specialist who will be employed by Prairie Harvest Foundation. This professional will assess individual employment barriers and will link TANF clients to appropriate services. He said this service would benefit clients dealing with mental health or substance abuse issues.

The TANF program provides temporary financial assistance of up to 60-months to low-income families with dependent children. Its primary goal is to help people become employed in order to increase their self-sufficiency. North Dakota has been testing whether different support services produce better results.

North Dakota’s welfare caseload peaked in 1994 at 6,500 cases. In July 1997 when the state implemented welfare reform, 3,859 families were receiving TANF assistance. In May 2004, a total of 2,944 families including 5,370 children received TANF cash assistance in North Dakota. The average TANF payment per family totaled $332.70.


John Hougen, Director of Public Assistance, (701) 328-1715, or Heather Steffl, (701) 328-4933


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