Human Services Integration:
Results of a GAO Cosponsored Conference on Modernizing Information Systems
GAO-02-121, Jan 31, 2002
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The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 replaced the Aid to Families With Dependent Children program with a block grant to states that provide Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF strongly emphasizes work and job replacement and sets a five-year lifetime limit on federally funded TANF assistance to adults. To meet information needs for welfare reform, information systems must be able to share data across various programs, including TANF, Medicaid, job training, child care, and vocational rehabilitation. However, previous GAO studies found major gaps in states' information systems. Most of the local TANF administrators in 15 states surveyed by GAO reported that their current systems provide half or less of the information needed to manage individual cases, plan appropriate services for the caseload, and monitor overall program performance. The administrators are missing information because some of the systems used do not share data on these recipients, which constrains the ability of case managers to arrange and monitor the delivery of services. Five states--New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin--are modernizing their information systems to take advantage of recent technological advances. These initiatives have expanded their data-sharing capabilities to enhance program management and service integration. Three key challenges confront systems modernization: enhancing strategic collaboration among different levels of government, simplifying the cumbersome approval process for obtaining federal funding for information systems, and obtaining staff expertise in project management and information technology.