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Children and Youth Services Review Volume (issue): 23 (6-7) 2001

Fragile Families and Welfare Reform: Part II
Guest Editors, Irwin Garfinkel (Columbia University), Sara McLanahan and Marta Tienda (Princeton University) and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn (Columbia University)  

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Fragile families and welfare reform part II 453 -- 456
Irwin Garfinkel, Sara S. McLanahan, Marta Tienda, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 shifts more of the responsibility for poor children’s well-being from government to parents. Taken together, the new laws in PRWORA promote marriage and family formation by making it nearly impossible for single mothers to rely on welfare for long periods of time and by making it increasingly difficult for non-resident fathers to avoid supporting their children. 
How will this new legislation affect children of poor single mothers? Many believe that these children will be better off if their mothers worked and their fathers were more involved in their lives. Others argue that these children will not be better off, claiming the new legislation will reduce the quantity and quality of parenting, encourage contact with possibly dangerous or violent fathers, and increase conflict between parents. A third possibility is that the effects of TANF will depend upon other environmental factors, such as the strength of the labor market and the availability of more universal public programs for families with children.

High hopes: unwed parents' expectations about marriage 457 -- 484
Maureen R. Waller

PRWORA attempts to limit welfare use and encourage self-sufficiency in families headed by unmarried parents by promoting the goal of marriage. This paper addresses some important issues that underlie policy discussions of encouraging marriage and strengthening fragile families. In particular, the paper analyzes data from the first seven cites of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Survey to investigate how economic factors, cultural and gender beliefs, and relationship characteristics shape unmarried mothers’ and fathers’ expectations about marrying their child’s other parent. The results show that unmarried parents, and cohabiting parents in particular, have high hopes about marriage at the time of their child’s birth. The analysis also finds that reporting drug or alcohol problems, frequent conflict, physical violence, and gender distrust are associated with lower marriage expectations, while perceiving benefits to marriage and living with the other parent are associated with higher expectations. Mothers with employed partners also hold higher expectations for marriage before controlling for cohabitation. For parents who desire marriage, it might be possible to support them in this transition, particularly through policies that help families overcome economic and structural barriers to their stability. At the same time, it is important to recognize the reasons unmarried parents have low expectations about marriage, such as drug or alcohol problems, conflict, distrust, and perceiving little benefit to marriage. Encouraging marriage for parents in these circumstances might not only be inappropriate but detrimental to families.
Norms about nonresident fathers' obligations and rights 485 -- 512
I-Fen Lin, Sara S. McLanahan

The new welfare reform law includes a number of provisions designed to increase the amount of child support paid by nonresident fathers, but little is known about whether stronger child support enforcement may create parental conflict. Parental conflict may increase when fathers do not wish to pay or when fathers pay and demand more time with their child but mothers resist these demands. Using seven-city data from the study of Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing, we find that very few parents are opposed to the idea that fathers should have child support obligations and rights to see their child and make decisions about how their child is raised. We also find very few disagreements among couples. However, we do find that nearly 20 percent of mothers object to fathers’ rights to make decisions among parents whose romantic relationships have ended. We also find weak evidence that tough enforcement increases the odds that mothers will object to fathers’ rights.
Paternal involvement among unwed fathers 513 -- 536
Waldo E., Jr. Johnson

Paternal involvement among unwed fathers is examined during pregnancy and at birth. The effects of relationship status, race and ethnicity, age, education, income, family structure and father values on father involvement are also examined. The findings suggest that overall there is a high degree of involvement among all the fathers examined. Relationship status is statistically significant and most predictive in assessing paternal involvement in each analysis. Fathers who are romantically involved and cohabiting are more involved than those who are romantically involved but do not cohabit. Fathers who are no longer romantically involved are least likely to sustain involvement. In addition, fathers who are employed are also more likely to sustain involvement.
The Fragile Families study: social policies and labor markets in seven cities 537 -- 555
Kristen Harknett, Laura Hardman, Irwin Garfinkel, Sara S. McLanahan

An analysis of the welfare, child support, and labor market environments in the first seven Fragile Families cities confirms that, as intended, these cities represent the extremes in terms of their social policies and labor markets. Studying families in cities with extreme environments—generous or stingy welfare policies, strict or lenient child support enforcement, tight or slack labor markets—will allow us to better understand how policies and labor markets interact to affect the living arrangements and wellbeing of families. Based on our theoretical framework, we expect to find more marriage and cohabitation in cities with stingy welfare benefits and policies, strict child support enforcement, and strong labor markets. In contrast, we expect less marriage and cohabitation in cities with generous and accessible welfare benefits, weak child support enforcement, and weak labor markets. In future papers, Fragile Families data in twenty cities will be brought to bear on these predictions.
Child support enforcement and in-hospital paternity establishment in seven cities 557 -- 575
Mark D. Turner

This study assesses the strength of child support enforcement in the seven cities included in the Fragile Families study, with a special emphasis on in-hospital paternity establishment. First, using four indicators of the effectiveness of child support enforcement and paternity establishment, I show that Texas has a weak CSE regime compared to the other surveyed states. Second, Texas has a weak in-hospital paternity establishment program compared to a relatively strong regime in California . And third, using a multivariate approach, I show that the critical first step in obtaining increasing paternity establishment--paternity in-take interviews--are positively correlated with increasing the number of staff facilitating acknowledgment. After accounting for hospital practices as well as parents’ characteristics, some places just do worse than others. For instance, the analysis suggests that hospitals in Austin , Texas and Newark , New Jersey are significantly worse than hospitals in Oakland , California at approaching unwed parents about voluntary paternity establishment.
Welfare, child support and family formation 577 -- 601
Ronald B. Mincy, Allen T. Dupree

This article provides preliminary tests of the hypothesis that welfare and child support policies designed to accommodate the needs of women (and children) impoverished by fathers who discontinue financial support of children following marital dissolution, have adverse effects on family formation among young unwed parents who were poor even before their children were born. The tests are preliminary because there is too little variation among our policy variables to control for selection. We derive a generalized logit model of the mother’ planned and actual family formation outcomes, allowing for her to choose no father involvement, father involvement, co-habitation, and marriage. We estimate this model using baseline data (seven cities) of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. The results indicate that more generous welfare benefits and aggressive child support enforcement, increase the odds that disadvantaged unwed mothers’ will move from to more stable planned and actual family formation (father involvement, co-habitation, marriage) with the fathers of their children. Besides the effects of these direct policy variables, the fathers employment status, which could also be influenced by policy, also has a large, positive effect on mothers’ planned and actual family formation.
see also

Fragile Families and Welfare Reform: Part I

Child Welfare Research for the 21st Century Volume 22:9-10
Guest Editor,
Jane Waldfogel (Columbia University)

Challenges Implementing and Evaluating Child Welfare Demonstration Projects, (Numbers 6 and 7) forthcoming
Guest Editor, Devon Brooks (University of Southern California)

Assessing and Managing Risk in Child Protective Services Volume 23:1
Guest Editors, Aron Shlonsky and Eileen Gambrill

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