Statewide CalWORKS Evaluation

RAND is currently conducting, under contract from the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), a statewide evaluation of the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Program.

The Changing Nature of Welfare

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 fundamentally changed the American welfare system. This federal legislation replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (AFDC) with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. As its name implies, TANF stresses that welfare should be a transitional experience--not a source of long- term support.

PRWORA grants states wide latitude in designing their TANF programs. In California, the Thompson-Maddy-Ducheny-Ashburn Welfare-to-Work Act of 1997 replaced AFDC with the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program, or CalWORKs. CalWORKs is a "work first" program that provides support services to move recipients from welfare to work and self-sufficiency. It also gives the counties increased flexibility in designing their welfare programs.

Evaluating CalWORKs

The legislation required an independent, comprehensive statewide evaluation of the CalWORKs program. The evaluation has two parts. The first part will track the process of CalWORKs implementation, and the second will explore the impact of CalWORKs on current welfare recipients and their transition to self-sufficiency, and on possible future recipients.

For both the process and impact analyses, the scope of the evaluation will vary depending on the research questions and data availability. Certain research activities will examine statewide trends, and others will concentrate on 6 focus counties (Alameda, Butte, Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego counties) or 18 follow-up counties.