Welfare Reform and the Administration for Children’s Services: Subjecting Children and Families to Poverty and Then Punishing Them for it


The repercussions of welfare reform’ cannot be easily determined. On the surface, welfare reform seeks to teach parents lessons about independence, hard work, and the value of marriage. Having learned such values, the children of former welfare recipients, removed from the harmful influences of welfare dependence, will be less likely to depend on welfare themselves, less likely to commit criminal offenses, and more likely to succeed in school. However, in the interim period between welfare reform’s enactment and its expectant cure-all effect, the elimination of public assistance will endanger the health and development of thousands of children by either pushing their families into poverty or worsening their already existing poverty. To better contemplate the implications of welfare reform, consider these figures: two-thirds of all welfare recipients are children; the average monthly number of children receiving Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) benefits increased nearly threefold to 9,300,000 from 1965 to 1992, while the total number of children in the United States aged zero to eighteen declined by 5.5% during the same period-3 21% of all children in the United States lived in poverty in 1997;, in 1994, 9% of children in the United States lived in families in extreme poverty (i.e., income below 50% of the poverty threshold);5 and in 1995, in no state except Alaska and Hawaii did AFDC payments combined with Food Stamp benefits raise a family of three above the poverty line.

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