Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) - Work First

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.

What is the purpose of this program?

Work First is designed to help TANF clients who live in Cook County and who have multiple barriers, gain the training and skills they need to become employed and to retain employment.

Who can receive these services?

Adults in Cook County who receive TANF, who have been unsuccessful in other employment and training programs, and who have multiple barriers that prevent them from gaining and/or retaining employment.

What services are offered?

Work First contractors provide clinical assessments, case management and follow up, treatment and treatment linkages, and an intensive array of services designed to address the individual's self-sufficiency barriers. In Work First, participants are assigned to specific work or training activities to earn their TANF assistance check, while they gain valuable employment skills. In addition, clients are assisted with supportive services, such as child care, transportation, and clothing expenses. Activities may include:

  • assignment to a Work First worksite (where the participant works for an employer to gain employment skills while earning their TANF assistance);
  • community service;
  • education (GED/high school equivalency diploma, Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language);
  • job skills training (for example computer courses);
  • treatment, which included employment activities along with group therapy and counseling.
  • job readiness (includes making child care plans, assessing transportation options, changing relationships and lifestyles, punctuality and attendance, job-seeking skills, financial budgeting, and career development);
  • job retention services (job coaching and counseling, conflict-resolution, financial budgeting).

How are the services provided?

Through contractual agreements with community-based organizations, TANF clients are assigned to specific work or employment and training activities for a specified number of hours in order to earn their assistance checks. Providers are responsible for placing clients in unsubsidized employment. Participants are referred to Work First by the DHS Family Community Resource Center.

More Info & Resources

Use the DHS Office Locator to find your local Family Community Resource Center.

DHS Office Locator

DHS Help Line

  • 1-800-843-6154
  • 1-800-447-6404 TTY