The status of reform

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Author: Ron Smith
Date: June 2015
From: Policy & Practice(Vol. 73, Issue 3)
Publisher: American Public Human Services Association
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,122 words
Lexile Measure: 1650L

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It is almost impossible to find articles on the status of most federally funded human service programs without some reference for the need to "reform the system." That is certainly true at APHSA where a great deal of attention is being paid to our members' Pathways efforts focused on a future state where the system is person-centered, outcomes-focused, and wisely uses public dollars. This future state envisioned in Pathways calls for accountability that encompasses 21st century technology to embed data analytics into practice models and then uses the power of those analytics to continuously improve service delivery to achieve better outcomes. Pathways also calls for alignment of federal and state financing that allows services to be tailored to the needs of communities and promotes preventive services that reduce reliance on government supports. Virtually every "think tank" located in Washington, D.C. that focuses on domestic issues has a position or policy statement on the delivery system for human services and the need for reform. Consider the following statements:

* To put welfare spending on a more prudent course, aggregate means-tested welfare spending for the approximately 80 federal programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and lower-income Americans, should be scaled back to pre-recession (FY 2007) levels plus 10 percent, and capped at the rate of inflation going forward (The Heritage Foundation). (1)

* America's low-income working families are struggling to get by, too often forced to make impossible choices among food, housing, and health care. Government safety nets were reformed in the mid-1990s with the promise that work would pay. But that promise remains unfulfilled for many families (Urban Institute). (2)

* Child poverty in the United States could be substantially reduced. By making work pay more, supporting employment for those who can work, and expanding safety net supports to ensure children's basic needs are met, the nation could reduce child poverty by 60 percent--lifting 6.6 million children out of poverty immediately (Children's Defense Fund). (3)

* Welfare reform passed a decade and a half ago is in desperate need of its own reform (Daily Kos). (4)

These are just a few of hundreds of position papers, research studies, and advocacy policy positions that argue for reforming the current welfare system in the United States. As these policy statements indicate, many of the studies conducted in recent years try to evaluate the effectiveness of the last major welfare reform bill enacted into law, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) passed in 1996 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

That law incorporated numerous changes in existing federal welfare programs. It ended the entitlement program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and created Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). It also repealed the Food Stamp program and replaced it with the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). In addition, it made far-reaching changes to child care, the Child Support Enforcement Program, benefits for legal immigrants, Supplemental Security Income for children, and modified the child nutrition program, as...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A430892945