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Why We Created Padua

There are 100+ federal anti-poverty programs in the United States – siloed by need (housing, food, etc.) and consisting of complicated/confusing requirements and paperwork. For a family trying to get out of poverty, this can be overwhelming. They must navigate this maze in order to align their individual needs with the assistance that is available, while still facing challenges and barriers that public assistance may/may not recognize.

At Catholic Charities Fort Worth, we decided to find a better way.

Five years ago, we launched our Padua Pilot – a bold research initiative to pioneer a more effective solution to poverty. We set out to do more than treat the individual symptoms of poverty. We set out to address the multi-faceted and unique barriers faced by each family we serve. We set out to disrupt poverty for good.

Padua is a new and improved model for long-term case management: Holistic, relationship-based, client-led, and research-backed. In action, this means our case managers hold smaller caseloads, create actionable service plans based on clients’ goals and strengths, and coordinate with community organizations to streamline access to a variety of resources for their clients. Our Padua team provides the necessary structure and support, but the key driver of every plan is always the client.

From the outset, we didn’t want to assume. We wanted to know Padua worked. We wanted to ensure we were investing in the right solutions for our clients. To determine this, we partnered with the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities at the University of Notre Dame to conduct a randomized control trial (RCT), the gold standard for program evaluation. Padua is designed to work with clients for up to three to five years, so evaluating real outcomes is a long-term process. The results below reflect outcomes for participants who enrolled in Padua between February 2015 and October 2016, with an average time of 17 months in the program. However, some clients received services over a longer period of time, and some continue today.

LEO’s Findings

LEO conducted interviews 12 months and 24 months into the RCT. After 24 months, their findings revealed real improvements in self-sufficiency and labor market outcomes for Padua participants:

  • Padua participants were 25% more likely to have full-time employment than the control group.
  • Monthly earnings for Padua participants were 18% higher after 2 years, compared with the control group.
  • As for self-reported health, 43% of Padua participants reported improved health after two years.

Overall, the results indicate that those who entered the program without employment and those who entered with stable housing have the best workforce outcomes due to Padua’s intervention.

  • Participants who were not employed at the beginning of the program were 67% more likely than the control group to be employed full-time after 24 months.
  • This subgroup also experienced a 46% increase in earnings, earning $420 more per month than individuals in the control group.
  • Participants who had stable housing upon enrollment were 15% more likely to be employed and 37% more likely to be employed full-time, compared to the control group, after 24 months.
  • This subgroup experienced a 34% increase in earnings, earning $387 more per month than the control group.
  • Participants in this group were more likely to reduce their use of government programs.

This information provides important insight for our work, not only by highlighting that Padua truly works but also by providing valuable context for how we approach poverty solutions. Understanding how a client’s starting point influences their outcomes is key to framing our services. For example, stable housing is vital to a family’s overall stability and their capacity to pursue other goals and plan for the long-term. Certain labor market outcomes require more time to achieve for a client entering the program with a higher level of need. However, they can still make meaningful progress in two years, particularly in stabilizing their situation.

  • For families who did not have stable housing upon enrollment, they were 60% more likely to have stable housing because of Padua, compared to the control group.

As emphasized by LEO co-founder, Jim Sullivan, the “heterogeneity” of program impacts is very important. Analyzing the effects seen in certain subgroups of a program sample allows us to see more useful evidence that might be missed in the data of the full sample. This further highlights the value of Padua: The program has different impacts on different families because everyone’s story is unique and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What is clear from the above findings is that Padua can successfully identify and address a family’s primary need, whether housing, employment, or otherwise.

Our Padua case managers work with clients to identify their unique goals, strengths, and needs, developing an individualized service plan that holistically empowers a family out of poverty.

Jim Sullivan, LEO Director and Co-founder, discusses the value of health outcomes observed in Padua participants.

Sullivan explains why clients’ paths will vary in the Padua program.

Insights from Our Team

While LEO’s evidence provides specific comparisons with a control group, our own CCFW Research and Evaluation team has also reported meaningful progress based on an evaluation of participants’ financial situations before and after services.

*Out of 226 Padua participants who provided household financial information after completion of services, our team found:

  • 120 families improved their net income. 
  • 120 families increased their annual wages. The typical family increased their annual wages by $15,405.36. 
  • 79 families increased their savings. The typical Padua family increased their savings by $1,900.
  • 26 families improved their debt-to-income ratio. The typical Padua family reduced their negative debt balance by $979. 

*Last updated July 23, 2021. 


Our research and evaluation efforts are ongoing, as we work with LEO to determine Padua’s impact over the long-term, but we now know Padua works. These insights influence how we view poverty and approach poverty-ending initiatives. Our goal in conducting in-depth research and evaluation is to understand the potential for long-term impact when we pursue holistic, individualized interventions. We want to help families out of poverty permanently rather than trap them one welfare program at a time. Padua embodies the innovation and empathy required to meet families where they’re at, break down the root causes of poverty, and change lives across generations.

“What Padua does is help people learn. Help people learn how to face those challenges without having to go back into case management in the future. The ability to plan, to organize, hold yourselves accountable.”

– Cindy Casey, Director of Padua


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