1991 Finalist
Davis County, Utah
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

In 1978, the Office of Community Services reported an alarming poverty statistic to then-Utah Governor Scott Matheson. In one year, the poverty rate for female-headed households in Utah had grown by 43 percent. In response, the governor convened a Commission on Integrating Women Into the Workforce. Unique to this commission was the inclusion of representatives from the private sector in addition to representatives from across county human services agencies. The commission developed a series of recommendations, with an emphasis on holistic case management. These discussions spawned further work, which eventually resulted in the Single Parent Economic Independence Demonstration (SPEID).

The SPEID program assists economically disadvantaged single parents, the majority of whom are on welfare, in making that difficult and complex transition into the paid workplace and onto long-term, economic self-sufficiency. SPEID starts with a mentor-based internship in the private sector to provide the participant with an entrée into the world of work in a supportive, non-threatening environment designed to improve self-confidence, interpersonal skills and develop a network of potential job contacts. It then couples this effort with a holistic set of human services so that all barriers (for example, high costs of child care, transportation, and work-appropriate clothing) to success are addressed, on a case management basis.

SPEID services begin with an initial meeting between staff and single parents in which internship options are discussed. A SPEID staffer than selects an internship site and makes requisite arrangements to ensure the assignment of a management-level workplace mentor as well as the development of a work plan which includes job training. SPEID staff also advocates for the intern with human service provides to locate appropriate day care, transportation, clothing, and other needed resources. In the meantime, representatives from the private sector, public education, rehabilitation, community services, job training, and job services sectors coordinate the pooling of resources to maximize the capacity of intern-hosting organizations to engender self-sufficiency.

The greatest achievement of the SPEID program has been the success in leveraging the resources of the business community to provide job training and support services to economically disadvantaged single parents. SPEID empowered the business community with a practical, manageable way to become partners in addressing a serious poverty problem and fostered business participation, growing their cohort of participants from one business in July 1988 to over 200 businesses today. By accessing the considerable resources of the business community, hundreds of single parents have been assisted and entire families lifted out of poverty.