How Aid to Dependent Child Works

ADC is a low-income family assistance program that pays small amounts to households with children under eighteen. The program, which initially functioned to give federal grants to states for maintaining their Mother's Aid laws, was later named AFDC or Aid to Families with Dependent Children under the Social Security Act of 1935, Title IV.

At the time, the federal government provided one-third of the costs to help mothers caring for children in the absence of a husband. Starting in the 60s, however, the government reconstituted the program in a bid to push these women into the workforce, with further amendments providing tax incentives for taking employment and cutting off aid if the recipient refused offers of work.

At both federal and state levels, adult ADC recipients went through workfare programs. The government later phased these provisions out as the wages earned couldn't meet the costs of raising children in health and safety, which led to the AFDC program's repeal in 1996.

Example of Aid to Dependent Child

Within the states, work-eligible ADC recipients must participate in employment programs to receive cash stipends for basic living expenses like food, utilities, clothing, rent, and medical necessities. This assistance is limited to no more than five years. For eligibility, they must complete at least 30 hours each week of work programs that involve education, job training, and related activities.

Families that receive ADC get to qualify for food assistance or Medicaid, while families whose income doesn't exceed 125% of the federal poverty level can receive child care subsidies. While a portion of child care costs is catered for by these families, it doesn't exceed 20% of their income based on a sliding fee scale.

Under the Passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), the ADC, now AFDC, gets grants from the federal government through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Although the new measures have been hailed for the decline in the precipitous caseloads, the absence of child dependency welfare ushered in poverty and harsh economic times for vulnerable families.

Significance of Aid to Dependent Child

The ADC strategy was written by directors of the US Department of Labor's Children's Bureau, who lobbied tenaciously to have the program included in the Social Security Bill. Their goal was to provide aid to children with mothers that laced breadwinner support, regardless of how they ended up in that position.

The design was for ADC to offer cash stipends and personal casework within the highest social standards to lone mothers to prevent public assistance stigma. According to the Children's Bureau directors, casework also worked better, as it helped ease the problems within mother-headed families while offering guidance and support.

However, critics attacked this program for incentivizing women to give birth out of wedlock and for providing a loophole to those who didn't want to join the workforce. TANF replaced ADC in 1997. This new program is considered more restrictive and incorporates works programs for eligibility to a five-year assistance term.

History of Aid to Dependent Child

ADC was the least controversial of the social security act of 1935 provisions and acted to pave the way for the single-parent families' welfare entitlement system. The state Mothers' Aid programs, where states assisted women in homes without or with an incapacitated breadwinner, were passed after World War One due to the progressive era reforms.

Mothers' Aid programs were attributed to helping keep children out of institutional care and low-income families intact. In reality, the only caseloads were a few middle-class recipients deemed as deserving. Nearly every state implemented these welfare plans in the twenty years that followed the great depression, primarily being administered apart from the public and private programs that assisted single individuals and impoverished families.

The Committee on Economic Security, or CES, had written the Social Security Act in 1934 by the time ADC was legislated. With the promulgation of the New Deal programs, the federal government returned general assistance to the states. Before Congress transferred it to the Federal Emergency Relief Association and later to the Bureau of Public Assistance, this agency administered the ADC under the social security board.