PASADENA — Plagued by staff shufflings and charges of bias, the city's job-training program for long-term welfare recipients is still struggling to get off the ground after three years.
GAIN, or Greater Avenues for Independence, is California's response to a 1986 federal requirement for educational and vocational training programs for those receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Parents with children younger than 3 who have been getting AFDC for more than three years are eligible for education and job training under the GAIN program, which has a $360-million budget this year.
Pasadena's GAIN program is one of three intermediaries in Los Angeles County that contract with schools and social service agencies to provide the training. The other two are the county Department of Community and Senior Citizens Services and the city of Inglewood.
County GAIN administrators set a goal of helping about 2,800 of the county's 115,000 eligible welfare recipients, but none of the three intermediaries has met that goal.
Among the problems shared by all three intermediaries, officials cite a $7.9-million cap the state placed on the county's share of the program after objecting to the county's use of a private company to screen applicants. That limited the number of people who could be screened, said Patricia Wilson, a GAIN program administrator with the Los Angeles Community College District.
In addition, 65% of those applying need basic education before they can continue on to vocational training, Wilson said. Thus, only 551 people have completed vocational training in the county since the program began, according to state statistics through August.
Although Pasadena doesn't seem to be in worse shape than the others, it has been the subject of constant turmoil and has been headed by an acting administrator since it began in 1987. With no permanent head, the program hired just three of the five staffers it was allowed and has aided fewer than 150 people. It originally was to have 19 staffers and help 944 people.
Deweylene Henry, as head of the city Community Services and Employment Development Department, encouraged the city to seek the GAIN program, to be administered under her department. In an unrelated dispute with city administrators, she was removed last year from her job as department head.
Henry, who is black, has since sued the city, alleging racial and sexual discrimination. The city has declined to comment on Henry's suit. She is currently on medical leave.
Gordon Anderson succeeded her as head of the Community Services and Employment Development Department and thus oversaw acting GAIN Administrator Tom Haywood. Anderson was demoted and Haywood was suspended after an incident last month involving unauthorized access to questions for an interview for the job of permanent administrator. Haywood was one of eight applicants for the job.
The incident has put the search for a permanent administrator on hold, said Ramon Curiel, city human resources director. It has also prompted Haywood, who is gay, to file a grievance accusing the city of discrimination against gays. City officials said they are unaware of any discrimination or anti-gay sentiment.
The lack of a permanent administrator in Pasadena concerns county GAIN administrators but, so far, has not affected the office's performance, said Chloe Dauncey, the county contract administrator.
The other two Los Angeles intermediaries have permanent staff members. The county department of Community and Senior Citizens Services hired its four GAIN employees two years ago, GAIN Coordinator Mary Kohler said. Her department has handled more than half of the 551 in the county who completed vocational training, she said.
Since May, the city of Inglewood has had five GAIN employees, with three other city employees working part time for GAIN, said Rhetta Alexander, the city's employment services manager. She said Inglewood had handled fewer GAIN participants than the county Community and Senior Citizens Services Department.
In Pasadena, most city officials have avoided commenting on GAIN. City Director Rick Cole said most of the program's troubles were beyond city control.
"If I thought GAIN was going great guns every place else but Pasadena I'd be more concerned," he said. "But the whole program has gotten off to a slow start."
City Director William Paparian said he questioned the city's ability to manage GAIN from the beginning. The recent changes in personnel simply renew that concern, he said.
But City Manager Philip Hawkey said the GAIN program can still reach its potential. "It was anticipated to be a significant activity, much larger than what it has been," Hawkey said. "But it may well be on its way to reaching the larger scope."