Comparing and Contrasting the Switch from AFDC to TANF

Explain AFDC & TANF.  Discuss the ideological and political changes surrounding the switch from AFDC to TANF. Describe the differences & similarities between the two programs.  


Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) originally began as just Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) as part of the Social Security Act of 1935. The objective was to support children within their own homes by offering financial assistance to their mothers. Once, ADC became AFDC, the program placed an emphasis on rehabilitating parents. Later in 1988, Job Opportunities & Basic Skills (JOBS) programs were established through the Family Support Act (FSA) and mandated the requirement for women who had children under the age of three to receive job and skill training in order to remain a recipient of assistance.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility & Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). The PRWORA did away with ADFC and replaced it with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). States must submit their TANF grant plans to the Department of Health & Human Services and then states are provided with block grants from the federal government. However, with TANF in place individuals who are living in poverty are no longer entitled to receive public assistance from the government – there are a number of additional stipulations individuals must qualify to receive assistance.

Both of these programs have the same goal, to provide assistances to families living in poverty in the attempt to pull them out of poverty so that they do not need assistance any longer. Additionally, the both have the ideological belief that just by working you can pull yourself out of poverty on your own, and therefore both programs placed a great emphasis on getting recipients to work. These recipients under both programs were generally women, particularly single mothers. With ADFC any family who qualified for assistance were entitled to receive it, and that entitlement ended under TANF. The stipulation put into place became increasingly strict with TANF, including that recipients must pass drug tests, immigrants must wait 5 years before they can access this resource, and illegal immigrants cannot receive any assistance at all. TANF did increase the states’ earnestness in collecting child support, as well as combating out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

Though the ideological beliefs surrounding both programs are similar, they really strengthened with the switch from AFDC to TANF. The government fiercely refocused on the beliefs of the Protestant work ethic being the solution to poverty. This ideology led to the demonization of the recipients of public assistance and made it an even harder process of actually receiving assistance. The government not only made it more difficult to qualify for assistance, but also made it to where if you did qualify you would only receive the bare minimum and for only a certain amount of time.


Karger, H. J., & Stoesz, D. (2013). American social welfare policy: A pluralist approach (7th ed.). New York: Allyn & Bacon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *