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Soc Work. 2002 Jul;47(3):279-90.

TANF: what went wrong and what to do next.

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Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University.


The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, widely heralded as the "end to welfare as we know it," is in its sixth year of implementation. According to many, the welfare debate has been settled, and both legislators and the public have proclaimed the program a success. This article examines the accumulated data on the effect of welfare reform, which shows, contrary to popular opinion, the goal of self-sufficiency remains elusive for many, and poor women and their families are being hurt, not helped, by TANF. It is argued that the booming economy and consequent expanding labor market have led to the perceived success of TANF and that the optimism expressed about dwindling welfare rolls is misplaced. The failure of TANF to adequately address obstacles to self-sufficiency in the workplace threatens to create an even worse welfare problem in the future. During the TANF evaluation period, social workers are urged to take a more active role in urging TANF modifications.

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