This paper presents an analysis of child welfare reform legislation as it has evolved from August, 1996 to August, 1997. It discusses why the legislation was passed in 1996, the purpose of the legislation, and the subsequent amendments to several sections that were enacted in 1997. Specific issues that are addressed in this paper relate to which salient reforms are most important to social work, which parts of the current legislation are too harsh/lenient to the affected population, and what moral issues can be extracted.
A brief review of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (H.R. 3734), Public Law 104-193, follows. The new welfare law makes fundamental structural changes in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, as well as funding cuts in basic programs for low-income children, families, the elderly, people with disabilities and immigrants. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this law cuts funding for low-income programs by approximately $55 billion over the next six years. Nearly all of the savings will come from reductions in the Food Stamp program, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for the elderly and disabled poor, and assistance to legal immigrants.
Based on conservative assumptions, the welfare bill will push 1.1 million children--and 2.6 million people overall--into poverty. Large numbers of families who are already poor would still become poorer. Specifically, the overall depth and severity of child poverty is expected to increase by 20 percent.
The major provisions regarding the 1996 bill with respect to child welfare programs relate to Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Block Grant/Entitlement replaces AFDC, emergency assistance, and the JOBS (Job Opportunities and Basic Skills) program with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant Funding. The block grant provides essentially fixed fe...