Welfare provision for families in need and single mothers in particular developed stage by stage, changing on the basis of alterations of people’s approach to different aspects such as gender, cultural values, American ideas, and many others. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) reflects the changes that the welfare provision for single mothers and the way it is perceived by the society underwent in the scope of human development.
The attitude toward the way welfare of the families and single mothers in particular should be provided has altered since the Progressive Era; however, some principal aspects remained unchanged. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program that is aimed at assisting families in need to make sure that children are raised by their close people, making needy parents independent from governmental benefits, reducing the number of single-parent families, and encouraging two-parent families formation (Schott, 2012). Despite the fact that the program shows some substantial amendments in the family welfare, its provisions prove that cultural values, beliefs, and ideas Americans have about the welfare did not change in a radical way.
Regarding gender issue, the program reflects perceptions about duties in the families and parental responsibilities. For example, TANF provides benefits for single-parent families without serious differentiation between genders (Schott, 2012, p. 4). However, since women become a single parent in the family more often than men do, TANF addresses the issue of mothers’ employment, education, and marital status with more attention than that of fathers (Schott, 2012, p. 6). In 1920s, the campaigns about mothers’ pensions were the focus of welfare organizations (Crocker, 1995). Therefore, the program shows that the perceptions concerning welfare and related gender aspect changed over the years to some extent only since mothers are still treated as primary caregivers who can sustain a family on their own.
The ideas about the role of the state and the market in providing for persons in need did not change substantially over the decades. Crocker (1995) states that present-day policies regarding single mothers are formed based on those created in the 1920s during the Progressive Era. The Americans continue to believe that state and market play a crucial role in helping families in need. In 1921, for example, the Sheppard-Towner Act made the Children’s Bureau responsible for providing grants to the states so that they could distribute the funds among maternal and child health programs (McGowan, 2005). Thus, the state should have helped needy families at that time. Even though TANF is a federal effort to “end welfare as we know it” (Schott, 2012, p. 1), the program continues the tradition of fund distribution and opportunities provision by the states. Schott (2012, p. 1) indicates that the states spend part of their money to receive federal funds for the welfare programs that function on their territories.
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Cultural values concerning the welfare of single mothers have changed a bit since the Progressive Era. Crocker (1995) claims that, at that time, mothers were considered to have a full-time occupation at home caring for their children. Therefore, the Progressive reformers wanted to make the states responsible for helping single mothers and children financially so that children could be raised at home rather than at some institutions and enacted Mothers’ Aid or Mothers’ Pensions (Crocker, 1995). On the contrary, TANF provides help for single mothers that are engaged in some core work for at least 20 hours per week (Schott, 2012, p. 4). Thus, the focus is to help those people who want to change their situation.
To conclude, TANF reflects the overall history of welfare provision for single mothers and vision Americans have for welfare in general. In terms of gender and role of state and market, the changes are not significant since the program supports the approach chosen during the Progressive Era. Cultural values have altered a little bit since motherhood is not perceived as a full-time occupation any longer. TANF is aimed at aiding single mothers if they seek for some other work in order to keep the family.
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