When Bill Clinton vowed to end welfare as we know, child care was always an issue. Does it make sense to force the single mom to work for minimum wage at McDonald's and then pay someone else to watch her child? Many argued yes. The mom would gain skills at her job, which would enable her to find more well paying jobs. The state would subsidize the child care for a short time. This would end the cycle of poverty.
Welfare time limits and subsidized child care did keep people off the welfare rolls. While there was never great data on what happened to people once they were kicked off of welfare, there was evidence that this program did get people working again.
Until the economy sucked. Between huge unemployment numbers and declined state budgets, which have decimated subsidized child care programs, single moms are in trouble. The New York Times reports on how the reduced numbers of subsidized child care programs are pushing women back on welfare.
The cuts to subsidized child care challenge the central tenet of the
welfare overhaul adopted in 1996, which imposed a five-year lifetime
limit on cash assistance. Under the change, low-income parents were
forced to give up welfare checks and instead seek paychecks, while
being promised support — not least, subsidized child care — that would
enable them to work.
Now, in this moment of painful budget cuts, with Arizona and more than
a dozen other states placing children eligible for subsidized child
care on waiting lists, only two kinds of families are reliably securing
aid: those under the supervision of child protective services — which
looks after abuse and neglect cases — and those receiving cash
Without subsidized child care and without viable job opportunities, we're about to return to welfare as we've always known it.