Formal or institutional social services began in the United States in the late 19th century as a response to problems that were rapidly increasing as a result of modernization. These services were almost entirely private until the Great Depression in the 1930s when the government became involved via provisions of the Social Security Act. Services expanded greatly, beginning in the 1960s when the federal government developed a system wherein services were supported by public funds but provided through contracts with private agencies. This trend has continued and expanded, resulting in a uniquely American system wherein private agencies serve as vehicles for government social service policy.
Philip R. Popple
Catherine K. Lawrence
In 1996, The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act repealed the 60-year-old national welfare program of Aid to Families with Dependent Children and replaced it with a new cash assistance program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This law introduced a new generation of rules and regulations for delivering cash and other assistance to families who are poor, and it fundamentally changed the way the United States assists such families and their children. Opinions regarding the success of TANF and its impact on families vary; welfare caseloads have declined since TANF implementation, but economic self-sufficiency eludes many families.