In response to federal welfare reform—the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA)—California enacted the Thompson-Maddy-Ducheny-Ashburn Welfare-to-Work Act of 1997 on August 11, 1997. That legislation replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN), the state's associated welfare-to-work (WTW) program, with the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program.
CalWORKs is a modified “work-first” program that provides support services to help recipients move from welfare to work and toward self-sufficiency. Beyond encouraging these transitions, CalWORKs also imposes lifetime limits on the receipt of cash assistance by adults. Finally, CalWORKs devolves to California's 58 counties increased flexibility and financial accountability in designing their welfare programs. With the enactment of the legislation, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS)—the state agency responsible for welfare—and the county welfare departments (CWDs) moved promptly to design and implement the new programs, a process that lasted well into calendar year 1999.1
The CalWORKs legislation required an independent, comprehensive statewide evaluation of the CalWORKs program. CDSS contracted with RAND for an independent evaluation that would assess both the process of implementing CalWORKs by CDSS, the counties, and allied agencies and the impact (or outcomes) of that implementation on recipients, at both the state and county levels.2 Two of three process analysis reports have already appeared3; this is the first of two impact analysis reports.4____________________