Vanessa Contreras is a single mother with a young child. Over the summer of 2018, she applied for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). HHSC determined Vanessa was eligible for the Choices program, which provides one-on-one job search assistance and support services for people receiving TANF assistance.

Next, Vanessa came to Workforce Solutions Capital Area and attended a Workforce Orientation for Applicants in July 2018. This was her introduction to the many services available to Austin residents like herself.

Vanessa met with Hilaria Gonzales, a program support specialist at Workforce Solutions Capital Area. Together, they planned for Vanessa’s success in the Choices program.

Vanessa Contreras

Vanessa Contreras

Vanessa faced many barriers at the time—first was finding child care for her newborn. Because many child care centers do not accept newborn children, Vanessa was able to secure temporary care through friends. With this assistance, Vanessa completed her orientation and the four-day Career MAPS workshops offered at Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s three Career Centers and began her job search.

“Vanessa was determined to be self-sufficient,” Hilaria said. “Although she faced barriers, she was not deterred from attending workshops, meeting program guidelines, and finding employment. She utilized all the resources at the Career Center to find a job.”

For Vanessa, the information she learned at the workshops and her experiences in Choices helped to raise her awareness of how much value these services can provide to job seekers like herself: “At first, I was not interested in it so much, but after I started my job searching and my weekly meetings with Hilaria, I noticed she was into helping me so much to find a job and find child care.”

Vanessa added, “It was more than what I thought it would be. I liked it: how they treat you, how they go on to help you find a job and push you and help you reach for more.”

Within two weeks, in early August 2018, Vanessa found care for her child with assistance from Workforce Solutions Capital Area, and a job as a day porter supervisor with the janitorial crew at Clean Texas Janitorial. She now works full-time and is determined to continue employment to provide for her new family.

“I put in a lot of hours, more than I expected, but it gives me an opportunity to open doors and be more than a part-time worker like when I started. I didn’t expect to earn this responsibility in such a short time,” said Vanessa.

“Vanessa has learned the value of communication and keeps us informed of any changes,” Hilaria said. “She completed her first 60 days of employment in November. Our support has empowered a single mother to be on the path towards self-sufficiency.”

For other job seekers who may not be aware of all the valuable services available at Workforce Solutions Capital Area, as she once was, Vanessa offered some advice: “Reach for your goals: this can go a long way and you can find a good job. Workforce Solutions is here to help you succeed, and not just give you a job just to have a job,” she said.

“They want you to achieve and reach for your goals. Don’t settle for something small—they are here to help you be the best worker employers are looking for,” Vanessa said.


About Choices
For individuals receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Workforce Solutions Capital Area offers one-on-one job search assistance and support services through the Choices program. This no-cost employment program was designed to give TANF recipients the assistance and support they need to find a job. Specifically, Choices can provide assistance with job searching, child care, transportation and more.

Visit Workforce Solutions Capital Area’s TANF page to learn more.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email