National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

Two Sides of the Same Coin or a Toss of the Coin?: Family Planning Services and Family Cap Implementation

Authors: 
Center for Law and Social Policy
Year Published: Not Dated
Type: 
Paper/Research Report
Organization: 
Center for Law and Social Policy
Series: 
Source: 
Center for Law and Social Policy
Abstract: 

Under the typical family cap, welfare families are denied the traditional incremental increase provided when a child is born. To avoid giving birth to a child who might be "capped," a welfare recipient must either abstain from intercourse, practice effective contraception, or abort a fetus. The latest research on family cap legislation suggests that in New Jersey, the policy succeeded in reducing birth rates, but at the same time, it increased abortions. The authors suggest that family planning services take on particular significance in states with a family cap policy. The authors argue that family cap and family planning services are "two sides of the same coin" because both are inextricably linked to the issue of pregnancy. However, implementation could resemble the "toss of a coin" because a family cap policy may be pursued without any connection to the provision of family planning services. The "coin toss" approach may represent the inability, or unwillingness, of the welfare agency and the family planning agency to coordinate planning and services with each other. This article explores in detail how the state of Georgia addressed the potential interaction of the family cap, enacted in 1993, with family planning services. The article provides a legislative history that addresses the enactment of the family cap policy, as well funding of additional family planning services. Georgia's legislative language requires that welfare workers discuss with all applicants the family cap provision, and subsequently refer each applicant to a local health department. However, the state views the referral as a service which the client may or may not choose to utilize. Despite the referral system, and the establishment of a Personal Responsibility Plan (PRP) for each welfare recipient, there continue to be few direct links between the family cap policy and family planning in the state of Georgia, according to the authors. The challenge for Georgia, as well as for other states, is providing a linkage that isnot perceived to be coercive.

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