Life After PRWORA
The Involvement of African American Fathers With Welfare-Reliant Children and the Child Support Enforcement System
Since the 1960s, fathers for children on welfare have been described in various ways. They have been described as “absent” and more recently as “deadbeat dads” for not contributing to the family financially; this newest term recognizes that some of these fathers do not have the financial ability to take care of their children. With welfare reform in 1996, the pursuit of such “deadbeat” dads was made part of the law, with enhanced child support laws and incentives under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). This chapter examines the effect of these changes in welfare on the role of low-income fathers and their welfare-reliant children. This is accomplished using qualitative data collected from research conducted on low-income fathers of children on welfare in the Wisconsin Child Support Demonstration Evaluation, a rigorous assessment of a state child support program. The chapter examines how the low-income fathers affected by PRWORA met the basic needs of their children during the early years of welfare reform, which created work requirements for mothers and eliminated the entitlement to cash assistance. In particular, it presents testimonies from three fathers who discuss their roles as breadwinners, caregivers, and co-parents.
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