About the Welfare Reform Academy

Program Description

The School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland has created an academy to help state and local officials, private social service providers, and other interested parties take full advantage of the 1996 welfare reform law.  While the law puts pressure on public officials and service providers to make their programs more efficient and better targeted, it also presents an unprecedented opportunity for states to reshape their programs.

Since early 1997, the Welfare Reform Academy has provided training in program design, implementation, and evaluation for the new Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Food Stamp, Medicaid, job training, child care, child welfare, and child support programs. Instruction has covered the following topics:

  • Understanding the new welfare reform/block grant environment,
  • Estimating the costs and behavioral consequences of policy decisions,
  • Implementing programs,
  • Monitoring programs and evaluating program effects, and
  • Performance contracting for services.

The academy maintains a small staff of professionals skilled in program management and program development.  Directing the academy is Douglas J. Besharov, a member of the faculty who teaches courses on family policy, welfare reform, and the implementation of social policy.

The New World of Welfare Reform

Before welfare reform, states received federal welfare funding mainly through an open-ended, but narrowly constrained, categorical program. The 1996 law combines a number of federal income support (TANF), child care, and job training programs into two interrelated block grants.  Under the new system, states get more flexibility in returned for fixed amounts of federal funding each year.

The block grants put pressure on officials and service providers to make their programs more efficient and better targeted.  But they also present an unprecedented opportunity to reshape their welfare programs.  State and local officials now have much greater freedom to design and implement welfare, job training, child care, and other social welfare programs.

A Teaching Academy

The primary goal of the Welfare Reform Academy is to create a cadre of managers and planners who can take full advantage of the challenges and opportunities presented by the new welfare system of block grants.  Through hands-on training in program design, implementation, and evaluation, the academy will equip participants with the skills necessary to reshape social welfare programs according to state and local needs and priorities.

For example, many states and localities may wish to use their welfare block grant to convert traditional welfare programs into workfare or supported work programs.  Under workfare, welfare recipients must accept either private or community service jobs in exchange for cash benefits.  Under supported work, welfare mothers take private sector jobs and receive benefits in the form of a wage supplement.  If designed and implemented properly, these programs might reduce welfare rolls and help recipients become self-sufficient.

About the Maryland School of Public Policy

The academy is one of the newest executive training programs run by the Maryland School of Public Policy, a professional graduate school that educates students in public policy analysis and management. The school trains future public policy managers and provides mid-career training for federal, state, and local officials. A diverse and nationally known faculty offers a rigorous, interdisciplinary approach to public management.

To help fulfill its mission, the school established the Office of Executive Programs in 1987. The office designs and conducts specialized programs for agencies engaged in public policy. Since its establishment, the school has served over 850 people through eight different programs in housing, financing, environmental protection, community development, and social services.


Douglas J. Besharov (Director)
Douglas J. Besharov, a professor at the School of Public Policy and the Immediate Past President of the Association for Pubic Policy Analysis and Management, is the project director. Professor Besharov teaches courses on family policy, welfare reform, evaluation, and the implementation of social policy. He was the Joseph J. and Violet Jacobs Scholar in Social Welfare Studies at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) in Washington, D.C. from 1983 to 2009. From 1991 to 1992, he served as the administrator of the AEI/White House Working Seminar on Integrated Services for Children and Families, a project designed to improve the delivery of services to disadvantaged children and their families.  From 1975 to 1979, he was the first director of the U.S. National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.  Prior to this, he served as executive director of the New York State Assembly's Select Committee on Child Abuse.  His most recent book is
Rethinking WIC: An Evaluation of the Women, Infants and Children Program, co-authored with Peter Germanis. He is also the author of Recognizing Child Abuse: A Guide for the Concerned, published by the Free Press.  In addition, Mr. Besharov has written over 150 articles, and contributes to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The American Enterprise Magazine.

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