Promote the economic and social well-being of individuals, families, and communities.
Welfare reform stands as a flagship achievement in social policy reform in the mid-1990s. Through welfare reform, many Americans were helped in breaking the cycle of dependency and encouraged to pursue self-sufficiency. Since the reforms were passed in 1996, the employment rates of current and former welfare recipients have risen and caseloads have declined dramatically. Earnings for current welfare recipients have increased, as have earnings for female-headed households in general. In addition, child poverty rates have declined substantially since the start of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. States are using their flexibility to focus a growing portion of welfare dollars on helping individuals retain jobs and advance in their employment.
Despite these achievements, self-sufficiency remains elusive for many. Only a third of adults in the TANF caseload are fully meeting work requirements. The Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005 (Public Law 109-171), which includes language reauthorizing TANF through 2011, challenges and encourages States to engage the remaining adult TANF recipients in work-related activities to move them up the economic ladder.
Addressing the needs of vulnerable children continues to be a priority of HHS. The most recent annual HHS Child Maltreatment Report (covering 2005) indicated that each year an estimated 899,000 children in the United States are victims of abuse or neglect. At the end of FY 2005, there were 513,000 children in foster care; 114,000 of these children were waiting to be adopted. Nearly
2 million children have a parent in a Federal or State correctional facility, a number that more than doubled over the 1990s.
Since 1996, the percentage of children born out of wedlock to teens has dropped but still remains unacceptably high. In addition, more adults are choosing to have children outside the protective bonds of marriage. Research suggests that, all other things being equal, children who grow up in healthy married, two-parent families do better on a host of outcomes; for instance, they are less likely to engage in criminal activity or abuse drugs and alcohol than those who do not. HHS’s multicomponent Healthy Marriage Initiative works to help couples who have chosen marriage to gain access to services where they can acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to form and sustain healthy marriages. Making marriage education accessible and appropriate for families is a major component.
Children are not alone in their need for support. As the American population ages, enhanced efforts are needed to help the growing number of older persons remain active and healthy. An aging society means that the number of persons requiring long-term care services will increase. The availability of these services in the home and other community-based settings will be increasingly important if people are to maintain their independence and quality of life.
People with disabilities, refugees and other migrants, and other vulnerable populations also need assistance and protection to achieve and sustain economic independence and self-sufficiency, as well as social well-being.
Strategic Goal 3, Human Services, seeks to protect life, family, and human dignity by promoting the economic and social well-being of individuals, families, and communities; enhancing the safety and well-being of children, youth, and other vulnerable populations; and strengthening communities. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Administration on Aging (AoA), Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (CFBCI), Office on Disability (OD), and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) are among the operating and staff divisions primarily responsible for achieving this strategic goal. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and Office for Civil Rights (OCR) play important roles.
There are four broad objectives under Human Services:
- Promote the economic independence and social well-being of individuals and families across the lifespan;
- Protect the safety and foster the well-being of children and youth;
- Encourage the development of strong, healthy, and supportive communities; and
- Address the needs, strengths, and abilities of vulnerable populations.
Below is a description of each strategic objective, followed by a description of the key programs, services, and initiatives the Department is undertaking to accomplish those objectives. Key partners and collaborative efforts are included under each relevant objective. The performance indicators selected for this strategic goal are also presented with baselines and targets. These measures are organized by objective. Finally, this chapter discusses the major external factors that will influence HHS’s ability to achieve these objectives, and how the Department is working to address those factors.
Strategic Objective 3.1: Promote the economic independence and social well-being of individuals and families across the lifespan.
HHS is committed to helping individuals and families achieve economic independence and social well-being, through individual efforts of ACF, AoA, OCR, OD, and SAMHSA, and in concert with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor, States, territories, tribes, and other interested stakeholders.
The focus is twofold. First, HHS will collaborate with States in moving disadvantaged families to work and economic self-sufficiency, using indicators to measure the movement of individuals from welfare to work, as well as increases in child support collection. Second, HHS supports interventions that help individuals and families who are disadvantaged improve their economic and social well-being across the lifespan; an indicator at the end of the chapter measures the success of services to individuals with developmental disabilities. The narrative below describes the efforts, initiatives, programs, and collaborations that the Department will implement in the next 5 years to address this strategic objective. Many of these are continuations and expansions of existing programs.
Strategic Objective 3.2: Protect the safety and foster the well-being of children and youth.
HHS is committed to protecting the safety and fostering the well-being of children and youth, through the combined efforts of ACF, SAMHSA, HRSA, and OD, and in partnership with other Federal departments, such as the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), and other interested stakeholders.
Several of the Department’s efforts relate to child maltreatment and safe and permanent living situations for children and youth, as represented by the performance measure at the end of this chapter, which focuses on the adoption rate for children involved with the child welfare system. Other programs and collaborations focus on child care and fostering school readiness, as measured by the percentage of Head Start programs that have a positive impact on verbal and mathematical abilities. Additional initiatives, including mentoring, abstinence education, youth development, and suicide prevention, foster positive behavior, as represented in the indicator focusing on the lack of interaction with law enforcement. Although many of these programs are not new, they will continue and will be strengthened during the period covered by this Strategic Plan.
Strategic Objective 3.3: Encourage the development of strong, healthy, and supportive communities.
HHS is committed to encouraging the development of strong, healthy, and supportive communities. ACF, CDC, OD, OPHS, and SAMHSA fund comprehensive community initiatives to help distressed communities address the most intractable problems. The Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (CFBCI) works to develop the capacity of faith-based and community-based organizations to respond to community needs. In the performance indicator section at the end of this chapter, the Strategic Plan uses family cohesiveness as a proxy for the strength of communities.
Below is a sampling of the Department’s efforts related to faith-based and community initiatives, capacity building, and comprehensive community initiatives.
Strategic Objective 3.4: Address the needs, strengths, and abilities of vulnerable populations.
HHS is committed to addressing the needs, strengths, and abilities of vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities, American Indians and Alaska Natives, refugees and other entrants, victims of human trafficking, persons experiencing homelessness, and people affected by natural or manmade disasters. ACF, AoA, CDC, OCR, OD, and SAMHSA have developed programs and initiatives tailored for these particularly vulnerable populations. The two selected performance indicators at the end of this chapter that focus on this issue look at services provided to homebound older people and newly arrived refugees. Below are a few of the Department’s efforts.
Meeting External Challenges
Within the human service goal, changes in economic conditions, specifically downturns, have been shown to be the most influential external factor influencing how successful HHS’s strategies are in accomplishing its stated objectives.
Historically, when negative economic conditions occur, welfare recipients, low-income people, and persons with disabilities are more vulnerable to unemployment; and fewer local resources and safety nets exist for these populations. Decreases in State and local revenue could result in a reduction in funding for home and community-based placements for individuals with disabilities. Family stress is greater as economic situations deteriorate, leading to increased potential for violence and family breakup. Noncustodial parents may lose jobs or income resulting in fluctuations in income support ability.
To mitigate these effects, HHS works at the State level to enhance States’ capacity to coordinate a broad range of services, conducts research, provides technical assistance, and identifies best practices that focus on elimination of barriers for the hard-to-employ and cost-effective service delivery. Additionally, HHS can assist community action agencies, community development corporations, and other community groups in leveraging Federal, State, local, and philanthropic resources to strengthen neighborhoods; build social capital by developing community leadership and strengthening community-based organizations; and support asset development projects for residents of distressed communities. On the individual level, HHS provides information and support for consumers and their caregivers and ensures individuals and families are connected to safety net programs for which they are eligible through outreach and referral. HHS also provides support for child care services, working to connect families with the most appropriate child care setting (also called parental choice) and helping families moving into work to remain connected to other safety net programs for which they are eligible. Child support enforcement activities can also be coordinated with opportunities for job training and supported work activities.