Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance

Advancing Economic Mobility for MA DTA Participants

Practice Area: Economic Mobility Scope: State Location: MA Status: Closed

Project Overview

Beginning in 2018, Third Sector worked with the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) to make large-scale systems changes toward becoming a public agency that invests in family-centered approaches to catalyze economic mobility for TANF recipients in the Commonwealth. Third Sector provided ongoing technical assistance that enabled MA DTA to strengthen its capacity to prioritize and achieve outcomes.


Most of us believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to build the life of their dreams and take care of their families — no matter what we look like, where we are from, or what our circumstances. But for too many of us, our dreams seem out of reach because our nation has created a racial wealth gap and inequitable opportunities to succeed.

Our government agencies have created many programs and services to help address these problems and dismantle inequities and unjust systems. But too often, those systems are complex and confusing, and they often fail to consistently deliver long-term outcomes for individuals and families that will transform their lives for the better. In particular, we often create systems that serve children and other systems that serve adults and working people, rather than creating one system that can serve whole families. 

In Massachusetts in 2018, the cycle of intergenerational poverty was clear. Forty-five (45) % of adults who received economic assistance under the Massachusetts Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) program in January 2018 had grown up in families that also participated in TAFDC. Recognizing the harm a disjointed system caused families, the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (MA DTA) partnered with Third Sector in a series of engagements to reorient its work toward equitable outcomes and client-centered services that could facilitate economic mobility for the families and individuals MA DTA serves.


Following those engagements, MA DTA partnered with Third Sector to make large-scale systems change to become a public agency that invests in family-centered approaches - a strategy often called 2-Gen -  to catalyze economic mobility that addresses the unique barriers and needs of the families and people they serve. MA DTA had to shift from a compliance-driven agency to one that focuses on working with providers, communities, and families to achieve better outcomes. 

Third Sector reworked the agency's contracting processes for workforce training programs that serve more than 2,000 participants annually by shifting the pay structure to incentivize outcomes and providing opportunities for innovative local providers to get state contracts to serve communities often left behind. Recognizing that these changes had to be part of a new culture of outcomes-oriented service throughout the agency, Third Sector and MA DTA worked with implementation staff such as contract managers, providers, and local office staff to facilitate workshops, provide training, and develop tools that clarify processes, strengthen communication pathways and data-sharing, and ensure staff and providers can advance economic mobility outcomes in a family-centered way.


By July 2020, MA DTA was able to shift more than $12M in annual funding to pay for long-term economic mobility outcomes indicating that participants are better off such as job retention, certificate attainment, or increase in educational functioning level through the Young Parents Program (YPP) and the Competitive Integrated Employment Services (CIES). This restructuring of how MA DTA disperses its funding benefited more than 2,000 families per year. In addition, Third Sector built in greater flexibility for providers to meet the unique needs of participants, enabling smaller, non-traditional providers to leverage their expertise working with underserved communities and customize services as they see fit. Lastly, Third Sector strengthened systems that facilitate greater communication between MA DTA staff and service providers to review outcome trends together and identify strategies to support participants more effectively.

Practice area:

Economic Mobility

Third Sector works with communities and our government agencies to reimagine basic needs, education, and training supports and that help people find the careers and lives of their dreams.
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