Children & Families
New Welfare Programs: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has approved four welfare programs aimed at providing better protection and services for children and finding permanent foster homes more quickly.
Programs in Connecticut, Maine, Mississippi, and New Jersey were approved last month under the Adoption and Safe Families Act, which gives states more flexibility in trying innovative child-welfare projects.
They are the first such programs to be approved under the measure, which was signed into law last November and allows the department to approve 10 programs per year for the next five years.
States are encouraged to initiate projects in one of several areas: increasing adoptions of special-needs children, promoting community-based services to prevent child abuse and neglect, improving children's access to medical and mental-health services, and meeting the needs of American Indian children.
Connecticut's program will use federal foster-care funds to provide services to foster children ages 7 to 15 who have behavioral problems and have been referred to residential or group homes. The program in New Jersey is designed to increase the number adoptions of foster children; Maine's program seeks to increase adoptions of children with special needs or disabilities. Mississippi has plans to improve its child-protective system.
Welfare-to-Work: Early success signs from Los Angeles County's revamped welfare-to-work program could make it a model for other large urban areas, a recent study says.
The report by the New York City-based Manpower Demonstration Research Corp. found that the program, "CalWORKs," has increased recipients' earnings and employment while cutting welfare and food stamp costs.
The MDRC, which designs and evaluates social-policy initiatives, has helped Los Angeles County change its welfare-reform focus. The nonprofit organization evaluated an earlier version of the county's welfare-to-work program, "Jobs-First GAIN," which focused mainly on offering remedial education to long-term welfare recipients.
But the study found disappointing results, and the county changed the program's emphasis to stress rapid job placement.
The MDRC monitored Los Angeles' new program, observing 21,000 welfare recipients. After the first year, the average single-parent family was earning 8 percent more, and two-parent families were earning 10 percent more.
--KAREN L. ABERCROMBIE
Vol. 18, Issue 6, Page 13