The Center For Debt Management
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For Children and Families

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for federal programs which promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities. Through its federal leadership, ACF sees: families and individuals empowered to increase their own economic independence and productivity; strong, healthy, supportive communities having a positive impact on the quality of life and the development of children; partnerships with individuals, front-line service providers, communities, American Indian tribes, Native communities, states, and Congress that enable solutions which transcend traditional agency boundaries; services planned, reformed, and integrated to improve needed access; and a strong commitment to working with people with developmental disabilities, refugees, and migrants to address their needs, strengths, and abilities.

Welfare | Children and Youth | Communities | Advisory Group


Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

On August 22, 1996, President Clinton signed into law "The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996," a comprehensive bipartisan welfare reform plan that dramatically changes the nation's welfare system into one that requires work in exchange for time-limited assistance. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program replaces the former AFDC and JOBS programs. In TANF, states and territories operate programs; under the new law, Tribes have the option to run their own TANF programs. States, territories, and tribes each receive a block grant allocation; states have a maintenance of effort requirement. The total federal block grant is $16.5 billion each year through fiscal year (FY) 2002. The block grant covers benefits, administrative expenses, and services. States, territories, and tribes determine eligibility and benefit levels and services provided to needy families, and there is no longer a federal entitlement.

  • Under TANF, states are required to make an initial assessment of recipients' skills. With few exceptions, recipients must work after two years on assistance,. Twenty-five percent of all families in each state must be engaged in work activities or have left the rolls in FY 1997, rising to 50 percent in FY 2002. Single parents must participate for at least 20 hours per week the first year, increasing to at least 30 hours per week by FY 2000. Two-parent families must work 35 hours per week by July 1, 1997.

  • To count toward state work requirements, recipients will be required to participate in unsubsidized or subsidized employment, on-the-job training, work experience, community service, 12 months of vocational training, or to provide child care services to individuals who are participating in community service. Up to 6 weeks of job search (no more than 4 consecutive weeks) can count toward the work requirement. Single parents with a child under 6 who cannot find child care cannot be penalized for failure to meet the work requirements.

  • Families who have received assistance for five cumulative years (or less at state option) will be ineligible for cash aid under the new welfare law.

  • The new law requires states to maintain their own spending on welfare at 80 percent or more of FY 1994 levels. States must also maintain spending at 100 percent of FY 1994 levels to access a $2 billion contingency fund designed to assist states affected by high population growth or economic downturn.

  • Through FY 2003, $1 billion will be available for performance bonuses to reward states for moving welfare recipients into jobs.

  • Under the new law, unmarried minor parents will be required to live with a responsible adult or in an adult-supervised setting and participate in educational and training activities in order to receive assistance.

  • The new law also guarantees that women on welfare continue to receive health coverage for their families, including at least one year of transitional Medicaid when they leave welfare for work.
Welfare to Work Challenge

The balanced budget that the President signed on August 5, 1997 includes the total funding requested to create a $3 billion Welfare to Work Jobs Challenge fund. This program will help states and local communities move long-term welfare recipients into lasting, unsubsidized jobs.

A Welfare to Work Tax Credit will give employers an added incentive to hire long-term welfare recipients by providing a credit equal to 35 percent of the first $10,000 in wages in the first year of employment, and 50 percent of the first $10,000 in the second year, for new hires who have received welfare for an extended period.

Refugee Assistance

Refugee assistance programs were established by the 1980 Immigration and Nationality Act in order to assist refugees and Cuban and Haitian entrants to become employed, economically self-sufficient, and assimilated into our society as soon as possible after arrival in the US Federal funds are provided to states and non-profit organizations, such as voluntary agencies, to help offset the costs of resettlement. Increasing refugee employment and reducing welfare dependency is a major emphasis.

For FY 1998, $423.3 million is available for grants for refugee assistance and services in the form of cash and medical assistance, social services, preventive health services, the voluntary agency matching grant program, and the targeted assistance grant program. In FY 1995, about 122,000 refugees, entrants and Amerasians were admitted to the US for resettlement.


The Repatriation Program assists US citizens and dependents who are returned to the US by the State Department. If an American citizen in a foreign country becomes ill, is without funds, or needs to be returned to the US because of a threatening situation in a foreign country, necessary services and loans are provided through this program. An Emergency Repatriation Plan is also established by HHS in coordination with federal agencies, voluntary organizations, and states to implement large scale repatriation operations in the event of a national security emergency.


Foster Care/Adoption Assistance/Independent Living

For those children who cannot remain safely in their homes, foster care provides a stable environment that assures a child's safety and well-being while their parents attempt to resolve the problems that led to the out of home placement, or when the family cannot be reunified, until the child can be placed permanently with an adoptive family. Foster Care and Adoption Assistance programs provide federal matching funds to states which directly administer the programs.

Children in foster care numbered more than 500,000 in 1996, up from 340,000 in 1988. Most of these children will return to their homes, but more than 100,000 cannot return safely. Many of these children are considered to have "special needs" because they are older, members of minority or sibling groups, or physically, mentally or emotionally disabled. They often need special assistance in finding adoptive homes. Currently, over 100,000 children receive adoption assistance, which is a subsidy to families who adopt special needs children.

Assistance is also available to current or former foster care youths age 16 and older to help in the transition to independent living. The Independent Living program provides grants to states for education and employment assistance, training in daily living skills, and individual and group counseling.

In FY 1998, approximately $3.5 billion was available for Foster Care, $701 million for Adoption Assistance, and $70 million for Independent Living. These programs are funded jointly by the federal and state governments. Monthly payments to families and institutions vary from state to state.

Family Preservation and Family Support

Family Preservation and Family Support Services grants focus on strengthening families, preventing abuse, and protecting children. These grants help state child welfare agencies and Indian tribes operate preventive family preservation services and community-based family support services for families at risk or in crisis.

Family Support Services, often provided at the local level by community-based organizations, are voluntary, preventive activities to help families nurture their children. They include respite care for parents and caregivers, early developmental screening of children to identify their needs, tutoring, health education for youth, and a range of center-based activities. Family Preservation Services typically are activities that help families alleviate crises that might lead to out-of-home placements of children because of abuse, neglect, or parental inability to care for their children.

Funding for Family Preservation and Family Support Services was $255 million in FY 1998.

Child Abuse and Neglect Programs

One million children were victims of substantiated child abuse and neglect in 1995, and 996 child fatalities from maltreatment were reported by the states. About half were cases of neglect, a quarter physical abuse, and about one in seven sexual abuse. Maltreated children were found in all income, racial, and ethnic groups, and incidence rates are similar in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

The Child Abuse and Neglect program funds states and grantees in several different programs authorized by the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). The programs provide funds and technical assistance for prevention and intervention; support research, service improvement programs, and demonstration projects; collect data about the problem, its consequences, and the effectiveness of prevention and treatment services; facilitate information dissemination and exchange; and support policy development and professional education.

The Child Abuse and Neglect program provides grants to states to improve and increase prevention and treatment activities. The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN), located within ACF, allocates child abuse and neglect funds appropriated by Congress and coordinates the federal government's activities in this field. In FY 1998, $68 million was available for child abuse and neglect activities.

Child Welfare Services

Child Welfare Services help state public welfare agencies keep families together. They are available to children and their families without regard to income. State services include: preventive intervention aimed at keeping children within the home; services to develop alternative placements, such as foster care or adoption, if children cannot remain at home; and reunification services so children can return home if possible.

In FY 1998, approximately $292 million was available for Child Welfare Services. Each state receives a base amount of $70,000; additional funds are distributed by formula.

HHS/ACF has other programs that address the welfare of children at risk. The Adoption Opportunities program eliminates barriers to adoption and helps to find permanent homes for children, particularly those with special needs, who would benefit by adoption. The Abandoned Infants Assistance program provides grants to help identify ways to prevent the abandonment of children in hospitals and to identify and address the needs of infants and young children, particularly those with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and prenatal drug or alcohol exposure. In FY 1998, funding for Adoption Opportunities was $23 million; for Abandoned Infants Assistance, it was $12 million.

Head Start

Head Start is a national program which provides comprehensive developmental services for America's low-income, pre-school children ages three to five and social services for their families. Approximately 1,400 community-based non-profit organizations and school systems develop unique and innovative programs to meet specific needs.

Grants to conduct Head Start programs are awarded to local public or private, non-profit agencies. At least 10 percent of the enrollment opportunities in each program must be made available to children with disabilities.

In FY 1998, the enrollment of approximately 830,000 pre-school children from low-income families was made possible by grants amounting to $4.355 billion. Since its inception in 1965, more than 15.3 million children and families have received services.

President Clinton's signing of the Head Start Act Amendments of 1994 also established the new Early Head Start program, which expands the benefits of early childhood development to low income families with children under three and to pregnant women. Services include quality early education in and out of the home; home visits; parent education, including parent-child activities; comprehensive health services, including services to women before, during, and after pregnancy; nutrition; and case management and peer support groups for parents. Projects must coordinate with local Head Start programs to ensure continuity of services for children and families.

In FY 1997, Early Head Start funds are 4 percent of the total Head Start appropriation, or $159.2 million.

Child Care and Development Fund

The newly established Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) has made available $3.1 billion to states. This new program, authorized by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, will assist low-income families and those transitioning off welfare to obtain child care so they can work or attend training/education. The award represents an increase in child care funding of $151 million for States over FY 1997.

The major change for child care services under CCDF is the requirement for states to serve families through a single, integrated child care system. Four federal child care programs are now combined. Three programs, AFDC/JOBS Child Care, Transitional Child Care, and At-Risk of Welfare Dependency Child Care (formerly called Title IV-A child care), have been repealed, and all child care funding is now combined under the former Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program. Subsidized child care services will be available to eligible parents through certificates or contracted programs. Parents may select any legally operating child care provider.

A minimum of four percent of CCDF funds must be used to improve the quality of child care and offer additional services to parents, such as resource and referral counseling regarding the selection of appropriate child care providers to meet their child's needs. To improve the health and safety of available child care, many states have provided training grants and loans to providers, improved monitoring, compensation projects, and other innovative programs. All states and tribes were required to submit comprehensive plans by July 1, 1997.

Child Support Enforcement Program

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program is a federal/state partnership which promotes family self-sufficiency by securing regular and timely child support payments. State CSE programs locate parents, establish paternity, establish and enforce support orders, and collect payments.

Welfare reform legislation that President Clinton signed in 1996 provides strong measures for ensuring that children receive the support due them; tough new penalties, such as license revocation and seizure of assets, will be available when child support obligations are not met. The 1996 legislation also recognizes the importance to children of access to their noncustodial parent.

Child Support Enforcement services are available automatically for families receiving assistance under the new Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs and they are also available to families not receiving TANF who apply.

During FY 1996, an estimated $12 billion in child support payments was collected. Paternity was established for nearly one million children that year through the CSE program and voluntary in-hospital acknowledgments, providing vital links between the children and their noncustodial parents. Almost 1.1 million new child support orders were established through the program in FY 1995. The federal government collected a record $1.1 billion in delinquent child support by intercepting income tax refunds of non-paying parents for tax year 1995.

Youth Programs

Enacted in 1974 under the Runaway Youth Act, and subsequently expanded to include homeless youth, this program was created in response to widespread concern about the alarming number of runaways who cross state lines and are exposed to exploitation. Today an estimated 500,000 to 1.5 million young people run away from or are forced out of their homes, and an estimated 200,000 are homeless.

Grants to public and private agencies provide short-term shelter, crisis intervention, and family reunification services to runaway and homeless youth and their families. Each year, a network of 400 Basic Centers nationwide provides shelter, food, clothing, counseling, and other support services to approximately 80,000 young people age 11 to 18. In FY 1995, over half of the youth receiving these services were reunited with their families or guardians while approximately one-third were placed in other appropriate living arrangements.

The national Runaway and Homeless Youth Program also encompasses the Transitional Living Program for Homeless Youth, which assists homeless youth aged 16 to 21 in making the transition to independent living. For FY 1998, a total of $58.6 million was available to support Basic Center and Transitional Living programs.


Social Services Block Grant (SSBG)

In FY 1998, $2.3 billion in federal funds was provided to the states for social services under the annual Social Services Block Grant. States have responsibility for determining the services they will provide, the distribution method, and eligibility requirements. Each state's allocation from the total appropriation is based on its population.

States use the funds for social services to achieve economic self-sufficiency; to prevent or remedy neglect, abuse, or exploitation of children or adults; to avoid or reduce inappropriate institutionalization; and to provide appropriate referral for institutional care.

States have great variation in their definition, design, programs, and range of services. The most frequently provided services are: child day care; home-based services which help individuals or families with household and personal care; protective services which prevent or remedy abuse, neglect, or exploitation of children or adults; special services for the physically, mentally, or emotionally disabled; and social support.

In FY 1993, Congress appropriated $1 billion to be targeted to 104 distressed areas designated as Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities by the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture. There are nine empowerment zones, six urban and three rural. Each urban zone receives $100 million in flexible social service block grants and tax breaks for zone businesses. Each rural zone receives $40 million in assistance and tax breaks. In addition, 95 enterprise communities are designated to receive $2.95 million each in social service block grants and tax exempt bond financing for businesses; 65 are in urban areas and 30 in rural locations.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

With LIHEAP funds, the federal government provides grants to states, territories, Native American tribes, and tribal organizations that wish to assist low-income households in meeting the costs of home heating and cooling needs. Payments may be made directly to eligible households or to home energy suppliers who comply with legislative provisions. LIHEAP funds can also be used by grantees to help low-income households deal with energy-related crises or pay for repairs to make their homes more energy efficient.

In FY 1998, $11 billion in grants was awarded to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, six territories, and 124 Indian tribes and tribal organizations. For FY 1999, $1.1 billion has been reqiested. The amount of each grant to a state is determined by a formula established by Congress.

Community Services Programs

Through Community Services programs, the federal government provides annual funding to states, territories, Indian tribes and tribal organizations, universities, and other non-profit groups to assist low-income people in local communities. Community Services funds, including the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), are primarily used to meet employment, education, housing, income management, energy, health, and emergency needs of the poor.

In FY 1998, $490.6 million is available to 57 states, Indian tribes, territories and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico for CSBG. Most funds are allocated to approximately 950 community action agencies.

Developmental Disabilities

Developmental disabilities programs serve nearly four million Americans. Developmental disabilities are severe, chronic disabilities attributable to mental or physical impairment, or combination of both, which are manifested before age 22; are likely to continue indefinitely; and result in substantial limitations in major life activity.

Developmental disabilities grants support programs that protect the rights and promote the self-sufficiency of Americans with developmental disabilities and their families. Funds help state governments, local communities, and the private sector to integrate these people socially and economically into mainstream society. In FY 1998, grants amounting to $114.2 million are supporting: the development of coordinated systems of services through statewide plans; the establishment of protection and advocacy systems to assist individuals in exercising their human and legal rights; interdisciplinary training, technical assistance, and information/dissemination activities provided by agencies affiliated with a university; and projects which focus on the most pressing national issues affecting people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Native Americans

The Administration for Native Americans (ANA) promotes the goal of social and economic self-sufficiency and the enhancement of the institutions of self-governance for Indian tribes and organizations and other Native American communities. Under the Native American Programs Act of 1974, ANA is the only organization with a mandate to serve all tribes and Native American organizations representing over 2.2 million individuals. Tribes and organizations of American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and other Native American Pacific Islanders, including American Samoans, annually receive competitive grants to encourage self-sufficiency. In 1998, $34.9 million supported community-based development programs which strengthen tribal and community economic and social bases.

Program goals include: enhancing local decisionmaking among community and tribal governments; developing economic activities that provide jobs leading to increased self-sufficiency; and promoting local access to and control and coordination of services that safeguard the health and well-being of Native Americans and that lead to self-supporting communities.


President's Committee on Mental Retardation (PCMR)

More than seven and a half million Americans of all ages experience mental retardation. The PCMR was established in 1966 to act in an advisory capacity to the President and Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on critical matters regarding programs and services for people with mental retardation. In addition, the PCMR coordinates federal agency activities in mental retardation, conducts studies of existing programs, highlights the need for appropriate changes, and promotes research.

The Committee consists of 21 citizen members selected by the President and representing the medical, education, legal, and business community, and six Cabinet-level appointees.

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