Final Synthesis Report of Findings from ASPE "Leavers" Grants. Chapter I: Introduction


The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), passed in 1996, replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants to states. Since that time, the federal cash assistance caseloads have dropped by over 50 percent, from 4.4 million in August, 1996 to 2.1 million in March, 2001. There is interest at the federal, state, and local levels about the well-being of the unprecedented number of families that have left welfare:

  • Are leavers working?
  • Are they receiving support through other public assistance programs?
  • Do they have the financial wherewithal to provide for themselves and their children?
  • Are they and their children suffering hardships from hunger to homelessness?

To help address these questions, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) of the United States the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provided funding to select states and large counties to conduct studies of families that have left the welfare rolls. This report reviews and synthesizes key findings from fifteen ASPE-funded leaver studies. The studies we reviewed here are based in the following locations: Arizona, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, South Carolina, Washington, Wisconsin, Cuyahoga County (Ohio), Los Angeles county (California), and the Bay Area, a consortium of San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties (California).