Welfare reform and human services research paper examples

Welfare reform is the process of making changes to legislations that govern how a country takes care of the poor. In the period between 1930 and 1995, The USA witnessed a rapid increase in female-headed, single parented households. The Social Security Act only provides limited relief to poor families. The law provided incentives for local governments to limit accessibility to social welfare. The great migration from the predominantly agricultural south to the more industrialized north increased the number of desperate families in the northern states. To counter this, many implemented more permissive laws which broadened the qualification criteria to include able bodied individuals and double parented families (Pedersen, and Rendtorff 294). During the period between 1940 and 1970, the courts, through the civil rights movement broke further other restrictions and regulations creating more groups of people who qualify for social welfare.
During the 1980, the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was criticized for propagating a vicious cycle and a trap of poverty for its beneficiaries. The program was blamed for creating a welfare trap that did not help the beneficiaries but made them dependant on the state for their survival. Milwaukee, a republican state at the time, instituted some reforms in the late 1980 (Hsing 1006). The governor lobbied the federal government to allow hi some latitude in changing the existing welfare laws. He wanted all beneficiaries of social welfare who could work, to seek employment and work to qualify for assistance. This was a turning point in the ideals behind social assistance. Needy individuals who qualified for some form of work would be required to get employment as a prerequisite to getting additional state support. This was intended to guarantee that they would be independent within a short time.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWORA) was the culmination of years of back and forth debates and lobbying . PRWORA sought to correct the demerits of AFDC by introducing a work requirement to the qualification criteria for federal assistance to the socially disadvantaged. The bill came into effect in 1997; AFDC was promptly replaced with Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training program (JOBS). This law was largely heralded a reaffirmation of the American work ethic.
The welfare reform of 1996 changed the manner in which federal policies were designed. The reforms also changed the relationship between federal agents and the states. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) revolutionized the relationship between the federal government and the state (Hsing 1006). The federal government relinquished the administration powers of social welfare programs to state authorities. The federal government ceased to have any power to regulate state organs and determine how the discharged their social welfare programs.
TANF reaffirmed the need to ensure self sufficiency of dependants by setting a time limit in which an individual could be under social support in their lifetime. This was set at 5 years for majority of states, other had shorter time limits. Additionally, TANF provided flexibility for welfare officers to manage the resources available to them according to the specific needs of their state. These regulations together with the economic success recorded by USA in the 1990s lead to significantly fewer case loads and dependency costs. This was interpreted as an indication of the success of the PRWORA policy (Hsing 1007).
The American welfare system is composed of income, in-kind transfers and social services. States have different requirements for qualification and length of eligibility for each of the types of assistance. Welfare services can be given in the form of cash assistance, child care, food stamps, housing subsidies medical care, medical aid, services to the addicted, disabled and the retarded. All these services are provided by different federal and state agencies that are responsible for ensure compliance with the existing welfare laws. On the other hand, human service programs are a system of programs created at for different social needs. These human need can be housing, medical care, addiction therapy, education and financial assistance (Mimi 177). The American human service system uses food stamps, child support, income support, Medicaid, TANF among other tools to meet the all the social welfare needs.
For any system to work, no matter how good it is, there must be sufficient interaction and cohesion between the implementer and the beneficiaries. In the case of welfare services, the clients and the case workers, must work together to ensure that there is access to the all the benefits and services provided in the human services programs. PRWORA may have worked in 1996 to the period before the global downturn because the economy provided jobs for beneficiaries leaving the welfare system. The ravages of recession have cut jobs, increased healthcare costs and generally made life difficult even for those who were doing well in the last decade. Despite these stark realities, social welfare caseloads have increased marginally. This means that many people are suffering in silence because they know that the existing welfare system will not assist them.
Under current welfare reform, states are required to show that at least 50% of families that receive welfare and 905 of families with two parents are involves inacceptable work activities. This is a key requirement for all states before they can receive their grants for TANF money. The work requirements are very strict, prerequisite activities such as job searching, job training, volunteering and vocational training are not considered. Just because an individual reports that they are in some form of employment doesn’t mean that they qualify under the work requirements. The formula employed to determine whether an applicant’s current job qualifies under the work requirement is complex. It requires the applicant to engage in acceptable work activities for specified hours per week or weeks per year.
The result is that more people are completing the maximum allowable period of social assistance, before they are able to support themselves. The waivers proposed by the president’s government would allow more people to be placed in employment thereby allowing them to become independent faster. The state of Nevada further proposed that families should be considered according to the salient obstacles such as disability, poor education, health issues and employable skills, instead of using the single or two-parented approach. The state also proposed that applicants considered hard-to-employ should be granted an additional 6 months to allow case handlers to deal with their employability challenges.
Immigrant communities have also been greatly affected by post 1996 welfare reforms that targeted specific emigrant groups. Congress passed reforms which blocked immigrants from getting any Medicaid until after 5 years of residence. This directive was aimed at barring new immigrants from directly benefitting from Medicaid yet they had not yet lived and worked in the USA. However, the reality on the ground is that immigrants who had arrived in the USA before 1996 were also barred from qualifying for Medicaid. Policy makers should ensure that legal immigrants do not face any obstacles in trying to secure their health needs.


Welfare reform is necessary for both state and federal service provided to ensure social welfare systems meet the present needs of society. Pre 1996 reforms broadened the categories of individuals who could qualify for support. The 1996 reforms marked a new age in welfare reform and the provision of healthcare services. All welfare applicants who could qualify for employment were required to seek employment and get off support within a specified period. This policy worked efficiently to reduce case loads but failed to cater for the needs of those who did not qualify for work within the short period. To correct this, new reforms should be instituted to cater for this group and to correct the definition of families and their level of need its member’s employability characteristics.

Work Cited

Hsing, Yu. Socioeconomic analysis of the determinants of TANF recipients in the USA and policy implications. International Journal of Social Economics, 31. 11/12(2004): 1005 – 1013
Mimi, Abramovitz. The largely untold story of Welfare reform and the human services. Social Work 50. 2(2005): 175-186
Pedersen, John Storm, and Rendtorff, Jacob. Balancing values and economic efficiency in the public sector: What can public welfare service institutions learn from private service firms? Society and Business Review, 5. 3(2010): 293 – 302
Savage, Joanne, Bennett, Richard, and Danner, Mona. Economic assistance and crime. European Journal of criminology, 5 (2008): 217-238