A Maryland program designed to move welfare recipients off the state rolls and into working careers has helped more than 1,100 people get jobs since it began a year ago, state officials report.

The program, designed to meet new federal guidelines to help break the welfare cycle by providing subsidized child care and medical benefits so welfare recipients can get job training and education, is called Project Independence and is mandatory for some people.

It replaces a program that was designed to get welfare recipients with job skills back to work, said Osceola Edmondson, director of the Office of Project Independence Management for the Maryland Department of Human Resources. "Now, they target three other groups," she said, "teenagers who are parents; long-term recipients, {those} on welfare for over 36 months; and those who are in danger of becoming ineligible for assistance, for example a mother whose youngest child is approaching age 18."

For Maryland residents who fit into one of these categories and whose children are over 3 years old, participation is mandatory to continue receiving welfare benefits.

The program, which began last July, follows several successful local programs, including the Montgomery County Family Independence Program, which was chronicled in a recent series of stories in The Washington Post. It is also the state's answer to the federal Family Support Act of 1988, which introduced comprehensive changes to the welfare system by mandating that states provide job training for recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children.

A central provision of the federal law, which went into effect in April, requires that states provide one year of subsidized child-care and medical benefits to welfare recipients who get jobs outside the home. During school or training, additional benefits, such as grants and subsidized housing, remain stable and are adjusted after the welfare recipient takes a job.

"It means that welfare clients have additional support as they make the transition," Edmondson said. "Before, they wouldn't have had the resources to do that."

Additional costs are shared by the state and federal governments.

According to federal statistics, 60,000 adults in Maryland receive benefits under AFDC. Of those, 20,000 have never worked, almost 35,000 do not have high school diplomas, and more than 40,000 may be functionally illiterate.

Project Independence officials said that during this first year of the program, 72 percent of welfare recipients enrolled entered a job and received an average wage of $4.80 an hour. The officials did not have figures on how many remained employed. They estimated that 11,800 people will participate during the program's second year.

Under the Maryland program, case managers initially conduct an evaluation of clients. After determining the person's education, skills, and interests, a counselor will either refer the client directly to a job or skills training, or enroll the client in courses to obtain a General Education Diploma.

For Carie Barnes, of Baltimore Highlands, just south of Baltimore, participation began with a mailer inviting her to a luncheon. At first, she was skeptical. The topic of discussion would be finding a way off welfare. After receiving a monthly check for two years, Barnes wasn't sure there was a way to get back on her feet.

Yet she was frustrated with the status quo. She chafed at always having to report to someone about her family, at the money that wasn't enough for her and her four children and at the boredom of sitting around waiting for her monthly check to arrive. She made a choice and began classes under the state program.

"I think it's an excellent program," Barnes said. "If I didn't get into it, I would still be on welfare."

Because Barnes had her high school diploma and some bookkeeping experience, she only needed to brush up her skills. After completing her courses in six months, half the expected time, Barnes was hired as a bookkeeper at Monarch Manufacturing last December.

"I'm better off financially right off the bat," said Barnes, when asked how her life has changed. "I don't feel stuck anymore, I've started planning things, I have more freedom, and I don't have to report always."

She acknowledged that some of the changes can be hard. "Mainly time with the kids, getting up, getting them and myself ready. Then coming home at five o'clock. They're starving and I'm tired . . . . I was home for two years," she added.

Assessment of the program is difficult. Rick Ferreira, a policy associate with the American Public Welfare Association, said that it's too early to tell how the program is working on a national level. "Only 30 states have begun implementation, and about half of those since October. Even if there was an extensive evaluation, you wouldn't be able to tell for seven to eight years."

Linda McCart, a senior policy analyst with the National Governor's Association, said that Maryland seems to be doing well with its program. "They are doing a little better than some of the states because of earlier programs, and because they have a little bit more money," McCart said.

According to Clarence Brown, a public affairs officer for the program, Project Independence will receive $7.8 million in state money and $13 million in federal job funds for the fiscal year that began July 1.