Olivia Golden's thorough analysis of the potential of welfare reform to improve the lives of children comes at just the right time. The country is in a great ferment, trying to rethink and reshape an outmoded welfare system. We are in the midst of a crisis of confidence about whether American institutions can be made to work to assure our survival as a decent, competitive, and prosperous nation. Policymakers, administrators, and the public desperately need exactly the kind of information this excellent book provides.
The part of the "welfare system" that is provoking so much concern today originally became law as the "Aid to Dependent Children" provisions of the 1935 Social Security Act, designed primarily to provide support to the children of mothers who had been widowed. By the time the Family Support Act of 1988 was passed, the beneficiary population consisted predominantly of families headed by women who were separated or divorced or had never been married. Reflecting the rapid social and economic changes of the previous two decades, including the rapidly rising proportion of mothers in the work force, its primary purpose was no longer to provide mothers with income to enable them to stay home to care for their children. Rather it was to help the recipients of welfare move toward economic self-sufficiency, by providing them with education, training, and other services which would result in their employability and employment.
The language of the Family Support Act reflects some, but not much, concern with the impact of the new provisions on the children of welfare recipients. Like much of America's social policy, it responded primarily to short-term agendas (reduce the costs of welfare, and get "those