1971). The trend has been toward developing greater specificity in purchase-of- care procedures and tightening controls to ensure that the public welfare agency is actually getting what it contracted for.
Because the social insurance programs cover only a limited number of the contingencies that result in income loss for the family, further income maintenance programs in the form of public assistance are necessary.
The assistance program directly affecting children is Aid to Families of Dependent Children. A precursor of the program, developed by the individual states earlier in the twentieth century, was known as the mothers' aid or mothers' pension program. The development of such a program was encouraged by the passage of legislation prohibiting child labor and by legislation making school attendance compulsory. During the Great Depression, the bankruptcy of state programs resulted in the acceptance by the federal government of responsibility for support, and the Social Security Act in 1935 provided for grants to the state for a program of assistance to dependent children.
Currently, the AFDC is a program in which service is offered directly to the recipient by the county, supervised by the state, and supported by local, state, and federal funds. The federal government, in administering its grants-in-aid reimbursement, has set certain minimum requirements with which the states, requesting reimbursement, must comply. Such requirements protect the recipient and establish some broad uniform standards. However, essential details of the program are left to the discretion of the individual states, and there is considerable variation in the program from state to state.
The program is designed to provide an income for children who are "needy" because their fathers are absent from the home, disabled, or unemployed. "Need" is determined by the state and is defined as the difference between an assistance budget for the family, computed by the local agency, and family income from all sources.
In December 1977, the program, available in every county in the United States, offered assistance to 8 million children and some 3 million parents. The typical AFDC family consisted of a mother and three children and required assistance because of family disruption (divorce, desertion, separation). The family had attempted to maintain itself without recourse to assistance for a period of some five months and could expect to be on assistance for a little over two years. During its time on assistance, the family would have attempted to live on a budget below the amount determined as the "poverty index" level for a family of that size.
In addition to the problem of living on a limited income, most AFDC families have additional problems of health, housing, and child care. The largest percentage of the children face the problem of living in a family without a father.
The program has succeeded in its major aim of maintaining dependent children in their own homes under the care of their mothers. It is less successful in keeping the children in school through high school graduation. Although AFDC children are ahead of their parents educationally, they are behind their non- AFDC peers.