An Orphan Program
LITTLE NOTICED during the framing of the Social Security Act, more or less slipped in to round things out, then funded on a less comprehensive basis than Old Age Assistance or Aid to the Blind, the program for Aid to Dependent Children continued in relative obscurity during the shakedown years when support for the elderly emerged as the dominant issue. The Social Security Board agreed with the BPA that excessive attention to the needs of the aged led to disregard of the needs of children. The observation was true as far as it went. If most of the available money went to the aged, funds to care for the many needy children would be insufficient. But the root of the matter lay elsewhere. Unlike the aged, children did not vote, held no property, and made but trifling purchases. Children could not, on their own, form a powerful competing constituency.
In the overwhelming number of cases, a child had one or two adults responsible for his or her support, adults who, if unemployed, were eligible for unemployment compensation or public works jobs. ADC was designed to cover the unusual cases--according to the act, children "deprived of parental support or care by reason of the death, continued absence from the home, or physical or mental incapacity of a parent." To be sure, this special group of children had some adult backing--women's organizations, child welfare agencies, and on the federal level, the Children's Bureau. But compared with the old folks lobby, this was minuscule.1