Impact on Young Children and Their Families 2-Years After Enrollment: Why Look at Two-Year Impacts of JOBS Welfare-to-Work Programs on Children?. Overview


Welfare reform policies are sometimes referred to as "two generational" because not only are the lives of the parents changed by government welfare-to-work programs, but the lives of the children are changed as well. At the most basic level, children's time use patterns and child care patterns are likely to change. Changes in parental education and/or family income -- the target of welfare reform efforts -- also have potential implications for children. Moreover, other changes in parent-child relationships and family interaction patterns may come about as a result of mandated participation in welfare-to-work activities. The question increasingly asked by policy makers is whether the varied changes set in motion by welfare reform policies affect the development of the children in the families of welfare recipients.

This report is one of a series focusing on a set of welfare-to-work strategies implemented under the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) Program(1) as a part of the 1988 Family Support Act. The National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies (NEWWS) (formerly known as the JOBS Evaluation) is a longitudinal evaluation of JOBS Program approaches, being carried out in seven sites across the country: Atlanta, Georgia; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Riverside, California; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Oklahoma City and surrounding counties in Oklahoma; and Portland, Oregon. The Family Support Act established basic requirements for JOBS programs nationwide -- including the mandatory nature of welfare clients' participation -- but it allowed states considerable flexibility on matters such as the exact sequence and content of services (Hamilton, et al., 1997).

In the present report, we focus on a special study carried out with a subset of families participating in the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies: the Child Outcomes Study. This special study provides an in-depth examination of the development and well-being of children who were preschool-age when their mothers enrolled in the evaluation. It also examines in some detail the family context of these young children. We focus both on describing the well-being of the children and families in the absence of a JOBS program (that is, presenting outcomes for children and families in the control groups in the study sites), and on the impacts of the JOBS programs (that is, statistically significant differences on measures of child, adult, and family outcomes for program and control group families in the study sites).(2)

A companion report presents findings regarding economic impacts on families and impacts on a limited number of brief measures of children's well-being for all the children in the families in all seven research sites, two years after enrollment in the evaluation (Freedman, S., Friedlander, D., Hamilton, G., Rock, J., Mitchell, M., Nudelman, J., Schweder, A., and Storto, L., 2000). A third report (Hamilton, with Freedman and McGroder, 2000) synthesizes results from this latter report and the present report, integrating the brief findings relating to children in the full evaluation sample (consisting of families with children of any age) and the in-depth examination of findings relating to children for the Child Outcomes Study sample (consisting only of families with preschool-age children at baseline).