HHS Synthesis Report Confirms That Increases in Parental Employment are not Harmful...

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HHS News Release

The Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families today announced a report synthesizing studies in five states that found that adult employment gains under welfare reform have had mostly neutral or positive effects on the lives of young school-age children in the families in the sample. The studies were carried out in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota during a period from 1993 to 2000. Final reports from these studies were released from 2000 to 2003.

"This report highlights that welfare reform programs can contribute to better outcomes for children," HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "Increasing a family's self-sufficiency benefits everyone in the family."

At the beginning of the project, all five states already had evaluations underway to study the effects of welfare reform on adults, such as changes in earnings and employment. They added a focus on children and family processes, looking primarily at children between the ages of five and 12. Follow up studies were conducted from two-and-a half years to six-and-a half years into the project. Outcomes for children were measured by educational performance; social and emotional adjustment and health and safety.

While the studies focused on young school-aged children, a more limited number of measures on outcomes for adolescents were collected. All four of the programs that collected data on adolescents' school performance found negative impacts, although the magnitude of these effects was generally small. Other measures, such as delinquency, showed no overall impacts.

The synthesis finds that overall; welfare reform had a relatively small impact on the young school-age children in the sample. However, in Connecticut and Minnesota, where family income increased the most, there were concomitant benefits for children. In Connecticut, the study found a decrease in behavior problems, an increase in positive behaviors, and an increase in the percentage reported to be in very good or excellent health. In Minnesota, children did better in school and on measures of behavior.

In two of the states, Florida and Minnesota, welfare reform had the most favorable effects on the school performance of those children who came from more disadvantaged families, such as those with a longer history of welfare receipt or less work experience. In the three other states, the level of family disadvantage had little impact on how well the children did.

"Critics of welfare reform predicted that the program would harm children," said Wade F. Horn, Ph.D., assistant secretary for children and families. "This report proves those critics wrong and shows that welfare reform can help to promote the well-being of children."

The full report may be found at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/welfare_reform_children/welfare_reform_title.html

Previously released studies on each of the five participating states may be found at:

Connecticut: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/connecticut_jobsfirst/ct_title.html

Florida: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/florida_final_trans/fl_title.html

Indiana: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/indiana_welfare/indiana_title.html

Iowa: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/welfare_reform_iowa/.pdf

Minnesota: http://www.mdrc.org/Reports2000/MFIP/MFIP-Ramsey-2000.pdf

Contact: Chris Downing
ACF Press Office (202) 401-9215
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