August 7, 2000
Patricia Harris-Morehead at
(615) 313-4707 or
Bettie Teasley (615) 313-5650

DHS Celebrates Families First Best Practices

Training Conference Scheduled for August 15-17 in Nashville

Nashville--The Tennessee Department of Human Services will celebrate Families First Best Practices later this month at the Loews Vanderbilt Plaza in downtown Nashville.

A training conference has been scheduled that will highlight some of the state's most innovative approaches to helping Families First participants gain the skills and training they need to go to work and become self-sufficient.

The 2˝-day event, Families First Phase 2-- Building on a Foundation of Success is divided into five "tracks." The workshop topics are Enhancing Customer Employment, Job Retention, and Career Advancement; Assessment and Training; Support Services for Families First Customers; Communication: One Message, Many Listeners; and The Art of Motivation: Helping Our Customers and Ourselves.

Workshop presenters include individuals from many arenas of the state's welfare reform program. Approximately 700 people-- Families First participants, case managers, community volunteers, contractors, welfare reform policy staff, and others, are expected to attend the conference.

"We have successfully launched Phase 2 of our Families First program and are addressing the more challenging barriers that some recipients face. This conference provides our staff and partner agencies an opportunity to share unique and innovative approaches with colleagues in other parts of the state," state Human Services Commissioner Natasha Metcalf said.

Some of the more specialized services recently launched during Phase 2 of Families First include:

  • Family Services Counseling for recipients with significant barriers to work such as mental health; substance abuse and domestic violence problems; and learning disabilities. (More than 3,000 referrals have been made.)
  • The establishment of a statewide "First Wheels" revolving loan program that provides zero interest auto loans for vehicles (up to $4,600) to help eligible recipients obtain adequate transportation to go to work. (More than 40 participants have obtained vehicles with the aid of this program.)
  • More advanced parenting and financial management classes.
  • Completion bonuses for recipients who meet certain work and work-related milestones such as obtaining a job, GED, Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree; or leaving the program due to earnings, retaining a job for 6 and 12 months. (More than 5,800 completion bonuses have been issued.)

"We are committed to continuous improvement in this program, and we saw that there was a real need for these more specialized services. Families First is a long-term investment in people—people, who want to obtain the necessary skills and training to compete with others successfully in the work place," Metcalf said.

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