Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program
One Person's Story
In recent years, the issue of problems faced by persons with learning disabilities as they struggle to become gainfully employed has garnered national attention. The struggle for such persons is compounded by the fact that they often do not realize themselves that they have learning disabilities. This was typified by one person involved in the complaint leading up to an OCR resolution agreement. From first grade on, this gentle and sincere lady had been tragically labeled as stupid, and was unable to learn. By 10th grade she had dropped out of school, with only third grade skills. Now a mother of two and on welfare, this lady was exactly the type of person TANF was designed to help. She was desperately anxious to acquire her GED, learn a skill, to become self-supporting and give her children a better life. She faced a dead end. None of the educational or skills training programs offered through the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) Employment Services Program (ESP) could or would serve her; her educational levels were too low. Because, at the time, DTA did not have a screening and assessment program in place, there was no way for the DTA staff to determine that she had a learning disability which was causing her to repeatedly fail despite their efforts. Once she was screened and then assessed with a learning disability, her life changed. She discovered that, after years of considering herself "stupid," she actually had a disability which could be accommodated. The OCR resolution agreement calls for a clinical assessment of persons screened positive for learning disabilities, with a finding describing what types of accommodations the person will need to be able to access ESP programs. For persons such as this lady, it means the opening up of opportunities she never believed she could access, and permanent change to a better, independent and self-supported life.