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25 for 25: The Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) Program

 

We are commemorating our 25th Anniversary with 25 posts about our history and accomplishments between now and the Spotlight Gala on September 15.  Join us for a celebration of Voices for Children and all of the organizations, lawmakers, and individuals who have supported our work on behalf of children.  For details, visit voicesforchildren.com/spotlight-gala.

The Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) Program provides temporary cash assistance to low-income families with minor children.  The program requires that able adults participate in an employment program aimed at preparing them to transition off the ADC program.

Over the years, Voices for Children has supported program improvements like including more education and training options in the ADC program and opposed changes like drug testing participants or taking away Medicaid for adults who are sanctioned in the ADC program.

The ADC program is intended to be one of the main programs for addressing family poverty.  The state program underwent significant changes in the 1990s when the federal government converted the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

TANF required states to use these dollars in ways designed to meet any of the four purposes set out in federal law, which are: (1) providing assistance to families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives; (2) ending the dependence of parents on government programs by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage; (3) preventing and reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancies ; and (4) encouraging the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

As the new program was rolled out, there was a decline in the number participants coupled with an initial increase in employment.  However, as employment rates declined, the number of TANF participants did not increase and the number of children living in poverty skyrocketed.

The federal government recently announced a new policy that gives states flexibility to redesign TANF programs in ways consistent with the four main goals that better serve low-income families.

This is an opportunity for states to reexamine the safety net program for the lowest income families and find ways to make it work better.  When we compare poverty numbers to the number of people participating in ADC, it becomes clear that there’s a gap between the need and the intended solution.

We hope that Nebraska and other states will take this opportunity to examine the TANF program — what’s working and what isn’t — and consider ways that these funds can better be used to reduce child poverty.

What changes would you propose Nebraska make to improve our ADC program?

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