LESSONS FROM THE STATES

Researchers and state welfare administrators at the research briefing discussed efforts to assess child outcomes in the context of evaluation and monitoring. Participants raised a number of issues that merit attention in efforts to document effects of welfare reform on children and families, including:

  • research that is context-based and longitudinal (e.g., that contains detailed case histories and follows individual families over time), so that issues such as age at which certain welfare effects show up can be determined;

  • linking evaluations of welfare to evaluations of child care, child welfare, and related issues;

  • gearing research to welfare administrators and caseworkers, not solely to other researchers;

  • the use of state administrative and program management information systems as sources of data;

  • research instruments that are adapted, through processes that involve program (AFDC) participants, to the populations planned for study;

  • assessing those outcomes that are most likely to be affected by the reforms under consideration (e.g., school-age children's attitudes toward work in relation to their IQs) in order to obtain useful and accurate assessments of effects;

  • documenting clear links between the goals of ''producing successful 22-year-olds'' and earlier outcomes proposed for measurement in evaluation protocols (as an element of convincing state legislators and others about the value of conducting child assessments);

  • studying how families change when they get off welfare and enter the workforce;

  • helping interviewers ask the right questions and sensitizing interviewers and parents to issues surrounding confidentiality in questioning; and

  • coordinating research and evaluations of welfare programs across states, as well as sharing information among researchers, caseworkers, policy makers, and others involved with welfare and children's development.

Furthermore, as states enact welfare reforms, participants suggested it is essential to be aware of the following issues:

  • Successful welfare-to-work programs may well move parents who are able to become partially or wholly self-sufficient off the welfare roles, leaving behind a much more disadvantaged group that needs considerably more intense services.

  • Among populations that may be on welfare for a long time, it is important to identify the barriers to job readiness (e.g., domestic violence, substance abuse) and consider how they can be overcome.

  • State and national databases have been developed in the context of a voluntary environment of welfare receipt, not mandated programs; thus, one must question their pertinence to efforts to under-



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 21
New Findings on Welfare and Children's Development: Summary of a Research Briefing LESSONS FROM THE STATES Researchers and state welfare administrators at the research briefing discussed efforts to assess child outcomes in the context of evaluation and monitoring. Participants raised a number of issues that merit attention in efforts to document effects of welfare reform on children and families, including: research that is context-based and longitudinal (e.g., that contains detailed case histories and follows individual families over time), so that issues such as age at which certain welfare effects show up can be determined; linking evaluations of welfare to evaluations of child care, child welfare, and related issues; gearing research to welfare administrators and caseworkers, not solely to other researchers; the use of state administrative and program management information systems as sources of data; research instruments that are adapted, through processes that involve program (AFDC) participants, to the populations planned for study; assessing those outcomes that are most likely to be affected by the reforms under consideration (e.g., school-age children's attitudes toward work in relation to their IQs) in order to obtain useful and accurate assessments of effects; documenting clear links between the goals of ''producing successful 22-year-olds'' and earlier outcomes proposed for measurement in evaluation protocols (as an element of convincing state legislators and others about the value of conducting child assessments); studying how families change when they get off welfare and enter the workforce; helping interviewers ask the right questions and sensitizing interviewers and parents to issues surrounding confidentiality in questioning; and coordinating research and evaluations of welfare programs across states, as well as sharing information among researchers, caseworkers, policy makers, and others involved with welfare and children's development. Furthermore, as states enact welfare reforms, participants suggested it is essential to be aware of the following issues: Successful welfare-to-work programs may well move parents who are able to become partially or wholly self-sufficient off the welfare roles, leaving behind a much more disadvantaged group that needs considerably more intense services. Among populations that may be on welfare for a long time, it is important to identify the barriers to job readiness (e.g., domestic violence, substance abuse) and consider how they can be overcome. State and national databases have been developed in the context of a voluntary environment of welfare receipt, not mandated programs; thus, one must question their pertinence to efforts to under-

OCR for page 21
New Findings on Welfare and Children's Development: Summary of a Research Briefing stand or anticipate the effects of contemporary welfare policies. Changes in welfare programs pose challenges to research design and methodology; for example, it may be more practical to administer assessment measures in field settings without sophisticated testers and to develop data systems from the bottom up, using trained social workers as data gatherers. Evaluations of welfare reform should not narrow the lens so much that issues such as health care, nutrition, and child welfare are left unconsidered, and the same measures that are used for welfare reform should be used for policies and programs for systems integration and family preservation initiatives (which currently lack child outcome measures).