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Journal Issue: Children and Welfare Reform Volume 12 Number 1 Winter/Spring 2002

Statement of Purpose
Richard E. Behrman

Statement of Purpose

The primary purpose of The Future of Children is to promote effective policies and programs for children. The journal is intended to provide policymakers, service providers, and the media with timely, objective information based on the best available research regarding major issues related to child well-being. It is designed to complement, not duplicate, the kind of technical analyses found in academic journals and the general coverage of children's issues by the popular press and special interest groups.

The 1996 federal welfare reform law, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, sought to reduce the number of children growing up in poor, single-parent families by requiring mothers to move from welfare to work and by promoting marriage. This journal issue examines how well programs implemented under the 1996 law are accomplishing these goals, and how they are affecting children's development and well-being. Whether or not the law is having positive effects on children is important not only for the children involved, but for all of our citizens. Untoward effects on child development translate into educational failure, increased crime and violence, and reduced productivity among adults, which are costs that impact all of society.

The articles presented here summarize the knowledge and research about how low-income children have been faring since passage of the welfare reform law in 1996. Overall, as of the fall of 2001, low-income children had been faring fairly well. Child poverty rates were down, and fewer children were living in families headed by single mothers. At the same time, many families who had left welfare were still struggling economically, and many remaining on the rolls faced serious barriers to employment. Even among families moving successfully from welfare to work, the effects on children were not always positive. As our nation enters a period of economic downturn, the future of low-income children becomes even less certain. Reauthorization of the federal welfare reform law in 2002 offers a critical opportunity to reexamine the purpose and goals of the law, and ensure that programs are structured to have positive effects on children.

We welcome your comments and suggestions regarding this issue of The Future of Children. Our intention is to encourage informed debate about the well-being of children under welfare reform. To this end, we invite correspondence to the Editor-in-Chief. We would also appreciate your comments about the approach we have taken in presenting the focus topic and welcome your suggestions for future topics.