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introduction Government action to protect children, principally those who are orphaned, abandoned, neglected, or otherwise dependent, is part of the American heritage. In recent decades, however, government has acted to meet more of the social and developmental needs of more children--not only those special needs of children whose families are unable or unwilling to provide adequate care. This expanding public role is reflected in the growing number and variety of federal initiatives for children and families. Although estimates vary, there are more than 260 programs administered by 20 agencies of the federal government that benefit children either directly or through professional service providers, parents, and other adults (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1979; Family Impact Seminar, 1978; Rose, 1976) These programs include a broad range of activities: tax benefits and income supplements for families with depend- ent children; health, education, and specialized services for needy children; regulations governing the delivery of aid and services; personnel training, technical assist- ance, and institutional support for agencies serving children; and a wide variety of research on the problems facing children and families. Because federal efforts to support children and their families are extensive and varied, it is difficult to identify any overarching goals or purposes. Programs have been enacted piecemeal over an extended period of time with little apparent attention to their collective impact or their interrelationship. As Gilbert Steiner has noted, "Public involvement in [this] field is a federal agency-by-federal agency, congressional committee-by-congressional committee, state-by-state or city-by-city assortment of unrelated decisions that are 3 .

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4 . as likely to be contradictory as complementary" (Steiner, 1976:vii). Critics frequently draw attention to significant problems of efficiency and coordination among existing programs. Yet, even if greater efficiency and coordina- tion could be achieved, advocates for children would still contend that the level of government effort is inadequate. In promoting their own interests and posi- tions they would continue to propose increased public expenditures for a wide range of activities, such as preventive health care, early childhood education, special services for the handicapped, aid for abused and neglected children, foster care, day care, income supplements for families, and more jobs for parents. Advocates for children are not alone in seeking larger allocations. In recent Years the competition for fedora 1 resources nas Become more Intense, and, by all indica- tions, the trend will continue. Human services experts predict that in the next decade the demands on the federal budget will be greatest for income maintenance, health benefits, and other services for the aging population (Lynn, 1978:26). In the face of this competition, how can programs and resources directed toward the welfare of American children and their families be improved? How will the necessary trade-offs among various proposals be made? How can the proposals that are most needed, most effective, or most politically feasible be identified and pursued? There are no easy answers to these questions. Clearly, however, better services and benefits for children or increased efficiency and coordination among existing programs are unlikely without greater systematic knowledge of the process by which public resources are allocated. Despite the best efforts of concerned individuals and groups both within and outside government, a more effec- tive public policy toward children will be difficult to produce if we lack understanding of how and why decisions concerning programs and budgets are made and how these decisions can be directed to meet the needs of children. Existing studies of policies affecting children and families provide little insight. Several descriptive accounts of federal policies and programs have been under- taken recently (U.S. Department of Health. Education. and , ~ Welfare, 1979; Snapper et al., 1975; White House Confer- ence on Children, 1970; Lash and Sigal, 1975; Wakefield and Wakefield, 1978, 1979). Such comprehensive descrip- tions of programs, agencies, congressional committees,

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5 statutes, budgets, research agendas, and court decisions attempt to uncover the significant participants and the forums, the channels of communication, and the influence involved in identifying and resolving issues related to children. Other studies have presented topologies of federal programs, distinguishing the ways in which they benefit children (Family Impact Seminar, 1978; Rose, 1976). Still others have evaluated specific substantive policy proposals (Bane, 1977; Steiner, 1976; Keniston and the Carnegie Council on Children, 1977; deLone, 1979). These studies are sometimes valuable for their accuracy and rich detail in explaining particular outcomes, yet they are limited in the understanding they provide concerning the conditions and constraints that will influence the directions of policy in the future. To obtain this type of knowledge, policy makers and advocates alike require an understanding of the process of policy ~ ~ ~ ~ _ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ % ~ A; 1 = ~1 ~ formation that goes Beyond wean 1~ ~U~=l`~^y In__ in the literature on policy for children. OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY The Panel for Study of the Policy Formation Process under- took its work in an effort to create a better understand- ing of federal decision making affecting children and their families as a basis for more effective action by key participants in that process. The study had three major objectives. First, the panel sought to gain some understanding of how federal policy for children is made. We examined what we called "concrete expressions of the formation of policy": programs, legislation, budgets, regulations, and court decisions. We identified the principal govern- mental and nongovernmental actors in the policy-making process and explored how these individuals and organiza- tions influence policy outcomes. We uncovered some of the significant forces that interact to shape program content, regulation, and budget size. Moreover, we examined how these interactions vary in different kinds of government actions: direct service programs, regula- tory promulgations, and tax provisions. Second, the panel attempted to identify some of the conditions and constraints that characterize federal policy making affecting children and their families. By tracing selected policy developments through their politi- cal and socioeconomic environments, we discovered a

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6 variety of factors that are likely to influence trends and future directions. Third, we tried to understand how the participants in the formation of federal policy for children influence the decision-making process. Through an examination of the dynamics of policy formation in selected areas, we made several conjectures concerning how and when various participants can influence federal policy. Our purpose was not to map strategies for achieving miter" tar ~ armor policies and programs. ~&~4 ~^ ~ ~ MEL These objectives reflect the needs of our intended audience. First and foremost, we hope to inform the research community and to stimulate a new direction for future study. In addition, we hope to provide useful guidance to policy makers both inside and outside government who participate in federal decision making affecting children. APPROACH OF THE STUDY At the outset of the study we reviewed much of the litera- ture on policy determination in order to examine existing theories of policy formation and assess their potential as analytic frameworks. We then developed three case studies of federal policy developments as the body of evidence for our analysis. Finally, we analyzed the data from the case studies and drew conclusions concerning the nature of federal policy making affecting children and families and effective participation in that process. The Policy Determination Literature There is disagreement among experts over the precise definition of policy. Greenberg points to the great variety of boundaries (or lack thereof) suggested for the concept of policy, including all government action, a program of goals, general rules to cover future behavior, the consequences of action and inaction, important govern- ment decisions, a selected line of action, and a declara- tion of intent (Greenberg et al., 1977). Because of its inherent complexity, public policy is more difficult to study systematically than most other phenomena investi- gated empirically by social scientists. The policy process takes place over time and therefore cannot be explained as a simple unit or event. It generally

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7 involves a large number of decision points--for example, a Senate vote, a presidential veto, and an appellate court decision. Although each of these "outputs" contri- butes to policy formation and might be predicted by existing theories, they are partial measures. In our review of existing literature, we have not encountered any model that integrates such events and distinguishes their relative significance. A second characteristic of policy making, which renders it less susceptible to systematic analysis by traditional quantitative techniques, is that it inevitably involves the presence of a large, heterogeneous group of participants. The power to influence public policies affecting the well-being of children, or any other group, is shared by individuals and organizations at each level of government as well as in the private sector. The interests, perceptions, and values of those participants differ, as do the formal and informal roles they play in the decision-making process. The concerns and constitu- encies of the member of Congress, the departmental secretary, the agency director, the program administrator, the research manager, the project officer, the practi- tioner, and the parent often conflict in important respects. Policy making is a process of resolving conflicts of interest; the policy analyst must assign weights to the involvement of various participants. Such judgments are partially subjective, depending to some extent on the preconceptions of the policy analyst and to some extent on the perceptions of the sources consulted. m e major difficulty involved is to assign significance to those perceptions. A third relevant characteristic of policy making is the complexity of each of the events that contribute to policy formation. Just as the larger policy process is complex, occurring over time, involving a number of decision points and many different actors, each individual policy event--for example, a legislative vote, a court decision, or the appointment of a subcommittee chair-- shares these characteristics on a smaller scale. Even an apparently simple government policy is likely to be the result of a complex chain of causes and relationships and to have many interrelated consequences. Such complexity is difficult to deal with systemically in the context of existing theories of policy formation. Finally, policy formation is not susceptible to description by simple additive models. Policies are shaped by a variety of conditions, events, and actors

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8 . over a period of time. It is a dynamic process. Forces interact in complex ways that are hard to disentangle. The effect of a single government action on society cannot be understood in isolation from others. The panel believes that the dearth of cumulative understanding in _ this area has not resulted from a lack of interest on the part of policy makers or researchers; it reflects instead the fact that there is no consensus on what is scientifi- cally knowable about policy making or on how to acquire useful knowledge. The crucial epistemological issues are reliability and generalizability: On what scientific basis can observations, information, and other data on policy formation be integrated into a body of knowledge on which social scientists agree? If such agreement were reached, would it center on historically specific know- ledge or that obtained from analysis according to a set of general laws of policy formation? These two issues are far from resolved. The Case Study Approach To collect, integrate, and interpret information, the panel conducted case studies of federal policy making affecting children and families. This method was selected after a systematic review of its advantages, disadvantages, traditions, achievements, and limitations in public policy study. With the experience of other investigators in mind, we adopted the case study method because it seemed to provide the best opportunity to explore both inductively and deductively the dynamics of policy formation. We were nevertheless mindful of the problems associated with this methodological approach. Properly conducted, a case study can integrate a vast quantity of information from a variety of sources. It can draw material from official documents, formal analytic studies, interviews, journalistic accounts, and related sources. In addition, it can explore a variety of inter- actions among relevant actors and institutions that make policy. As a detailed, systematic presentation of how particular policies evolved, a case study can provide a context for testing and modifying existing models and developing new hypotheses concerning the policy process. Moreover, as Alex George suggests, the case study is a valuable means of "discerning new general problems, identifying possible theoretical solutions, and formulat ing potentially generalizable relations that were not -

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9 previously apparent" (George, 1979:17). The panel believed that this method offered the most promising means of learning more about the complexity of federal policy making affecting children, assessing existing theories, and, above all, developing an analytic framework for understanding the policy formation process in a way that will provide lessons concerning future participation "in a systematic and differentiated way" (George, 1979:2). We recognize, however, that this method, like all others, has limitations and is vulnerable to criticism. Time and resources precluded more than a few intensive cases. Necessarily, our investigators had to be selective in gathering information and weaving it into a coherent narrative. In so doing they may have excluded important data or have been unconsciously attracted to information supporting a priori views. Significant factors may have escaped documentaton, eluded interviews, or have had their effects in ways that are not directly observable. The investigators may have tended to identify with participants to whom they had access or, for that matter, with those having strong, articulate, or well-informed views. In addition, since we adopted no existing model of policy making, it was difficult to anticipate all of the behavioral relationships of potential relevance to policy determination. Finally, there is the issue of generalizability, of how indicative the cases are of the past or, a fortiori, of the future. Despite these limita- tions, we believed that the case study method offered the most useful, methodologically sound vehicle for conducting a study of federal policy making affecting children and families. Once the case study method was chosen, we turned to the questions of content and subject. Because we wanted an inclusive account of the policy formation process, time and resources limited us to three cases. In light of the difficulties of defining policy in a conceptually coherent way, we chose instead to concentrate on the concrete mani- festations of federal policy: programs, regulations, budgets, and legislative revisions. Thus, our case studies of policy formation became case studies of the initiation and development of legal provisions, programs and regulations. questions: Why has federal policy toward children in these areas evolved historically as it has? What are the conditions and constraints that shape the context of future policy in these areas? How was federal policy making influenced by concerned actors in the process? The inquiry was guided by three

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10 We selected three case studies from an array of federal activities affecting children and families by applying several criteria. We agreed that the cases should represent activities carried out in different bureaucratic locations. We considered other cabinet-level departments in addition to the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. We also agreed that the cases should include types of federal activities in addition to grant-in-aid programs, such as regulatory initiatives and uses of the income tax code. Furthermore, we did not want the case studies to be limited to programs or other legislative initiatives that were "successful n as measured by (1) the lack of opposition they encountered in the legislative process or (2) a rapid or steady rate of growth in program participation and budgetary appropriation. Hence we looked for initiatives that encountered opposition or even failed to be enacted. The final choices rested on the judgment of panel members that each case should examine a different type of federal action: a categorical grant program, a regula- tion, and a tax measure. We selected three activities that appeared to offer interesting and varied examples of the federal policy formation process: the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children in the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the Federal Interagency Day Care Requirements in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services); and the Child Care Tax Deduction/Credit of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Each case involves a different set of congressional and executive branch policy makers and nongovernmental interests and advocates. Presented in Part 2 of this volume, these case studies are a major product of our efforts. Because they represent different types of federal actions on behalf of children, different goals, and different sets of actors and institutions inside and outside government, the three case studies offer a basis for comparison. Taken together they suggest many of the circumstances and events that have shaped the current context of policy for children. Since the initiation and implementation of the three policies cover roughly the same period of time, they were all subject to the same general social, economic, and political conditions. Moreover, the period of time over which each policy was examined was sufficient to allow extensive observation of the roles and influences of various actors, the resolution

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11 of conflicts in debate surrounding the policy initiatives, and the patterns of success or failure following the implementation of the program or regulations. The primary goal of the case studies was to discover what occurred in the formation of each policy and why it occurred in the particular way it did. The cases focused on certain observable actions of the federal government: the enactment of statutes, the adoption of agency budgets, the promulgation of regulations and guidelines, the establishment of administrative units, the interpretation of the law by the courts, and the results of evaluation research. These actions constitute federal policy toward children in the sense that they are the observable and identifiable phenomena providing form to policy initia- tives and influencing the behavior of the policy makers who support or oppose them. To impose coherence and rigor in the preparation of the cases, we established three major criteria. First, each case is explicated historically, both to explore the context of policy development and to test the widespread hypothesis that policy making is incremental. Second, each case focused on the policy making process. Rather than ask what should have been done, we asked what was done, why it was done in that way, and how it affected what was done subsequently. Our emphasis was on under- standing the policy formation process and not on judging it. Although we were concerned with all assessments of policies and programs related to the three case studies, we ourselves did not attempt to evaluate their effects on children and their families. Rather we examined the effects of existing program evaluations on the policy formation process. Third, we assumed that the relative power of actors influenced the achievement of their goals and that such power was exercised within social, economic, political, and ideological structures. Each case study identified relevant actors and institu- tions, emphasized them according to their observed prominence, and explained their perceptions insofar as they were relevant to the policy process. If the history of an event was in dispute, the interpretation carrying the greatest weight of factual evidence was incorporated into the case. The emphasis accorded a decision affecting a policy varied with the controversy and the significance of the particular act to the policy process as a whole. A fundamental issue was the thoroughness, validity, reliability, and bias in estimation of the body of evidence itself. Each case study is a report based on

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12 the verbal accounts (comprised of written documentation and interviews) relating to the policy but not to behavioral observation, ratings, or psychophysiological measures. A great deal of effort was devoted to checking for potential reporting errors or omissions and disting- uishing between matters of fact and matters of inter- pretation. In several instances, members of the panel were actual participants in the decision-making processes described, and their direct observations contributed to our sense of the validity of the cases. In addition, cross-checking of methods (documents versus statements, formal versus informal documents and statements) and perspectives (using experts and policy participants out- side the panel) went on continuously throughout the study. The Analysis of the Case Studies We were impressed by the complexity of the interactions within each case study. We attempted to disaggregate these interactions into their components and to understand the role of each in federal policy formation. These components can be grouped into six general categories: contextual factors, principles and ideas, actors and institutions, constituency pressure, media presentations, and research studies. _ . . . This disaggregation, although useful In explaining retrospectively the roles of these components, offered little insight into their interactions in the formation of federal policies or their potential in future policy making. The panel sought an analytic construct to relate these components and to provide general lessons concerning their interactions. Accordingly, we adopted an analytic metaphor with two qualities absent in other theoretical models we reviewed: (1) an enticing resonance in both the case studies and the panel's own experiences and (2) the potential for yielding some useful advice about federal policy making for children. According to the metaphor, policy making can be visual high, middle, and low. At each level, differences in decision making can be noted along three key dimensions: the nature of the policy issues in question, the actors involved, and the ized as occurring at three levels: type of government actions that result. Policy making at the high level can be said to involve the definition of major social problems, the formulation of solutions, and the resolution of conflicting social values--for example,

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13 the legality of abortion or the federal regulation of energy consumption. The main participants are policy makers at the highest level of government: the President, the congressional leadership, and the Supreme Court. Policy making at the middle level involves decision making affecting the allocation of authority and resources--for example, the establishment of a new compensatory education program or the authorization of funds for a new program of research. Decisions made at this level represent the means to achieve the ends established at the high level. The key participants are presidential appointees, members of Congress, or desig- nates of either. At the low level, policy making involves the technical design of means chosen at the middle level-- for example, the writing of regulations or congressional legislation. The primary participants are the staffs of the high- and middle-level actors. The high, middle, and low classification scheme is not meant to be pejorative. The stakes at any level can be substantial. A high-level decision maker can become involved in the low arenas and, conversely, under certain circumstances, a low-level actor can participate in high-level policy making. The classification refers principally to the level of decision making necessary to resolve the contested issues. Although the character- istics of decision making at each level are distinguish- able, a complex policy issue could be contested in several arenas simultaneously; the high level would not necessar- ily be the critical one for resolution. Similarly, as events progress in the policy-making process, the level of decision making can change, thus altering the nature of the policy issues in question, introducing new partici- pants, and creating new possibilities for government action. In Chapter 4 we detail the many nuances and caveats concerning this analytic framework. For now the reader should regard the metaphor as a tool we found useful in studying the policy-making process. We stress that it has numerous intellectual antecedents elsewhere in the literature and that it still requires further examination and verification by others in different contexts. Once the framework was developed by the panel, its usefulness was tested by staff efforts to apply it to the cases. The original classification was found only partially applicable and was modified. The method was consensual, subjective, and interactive. No doubt this review process will continue and will include individuals outside the panel.

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14 By applying the framework to the case studies and our experience, we discerned that the different character- istics of each level of policy making suggest particular strategic opportunities or levers that appear as keys to effective action. We attempted to ascertain the levers applicable at each level and to develop from them some advice to participants in the policy-making process who represent the interests of children and their families. In this way, we developed the substance of our conclusions and recommendations. PLAN OF THE REPORT The remaining chapters of this report present the findings and conclusions of our study. Chapter 2 is a summary account of the three case studies. Chapter 3 is an analysis of the components of the policy formation process revealed in the cases. Chapter 4 integrates our findings concerning the characteristics of policy formation at each level of the process and presents our general con- clusions concerning the available levers to participants both inside and outside the federal government. Chapter 5 relates the framework and conclusions of Chapter 4 to federal policy making toward children and their families. It states our conclusions on how various actors in the policy-making process might alter their behavior to be more effective advocates for children and their families.