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The ABC evaluation: Turning the corner: Delaware’s a better chance welfare reform program at four years (Fein et al., 2001)

  • Findings

    See findings section of this profile.

    Evidence Rating

    Not Rated

Absence of conflict of interest. This study was conducted by staff from Abt Associates, which co-administers CLEAR. The review of this study was conducted by ICF Incorporated, which administers CLEAR, and therefore there is no conflict of interest. 


Fein, D. J., Long, D. A., Behrens, J. M., & Lee, W. S. (2001). The ABC evaluation: Turning the corner: Delaware’s a better chance welfare reform program at four years. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates.


  • The study’s objective was to examine the implementation of A Better Chance (ABC) welfare reform program which aimed to promote economic self-sufficiency and responsible parenting amongst low-income single adult families.
  • The study authors conducted an implementation evaluation using data collected through interviews with program managers and staff, focus groups with clients, and a detailed follow-up client survey.
  • The study found that the state successfully implemented policies and services as outlined by the ABC welfare reform program.  Implementation included successful expansion of access to childcare, expansion of Medicaid, and enforcement of responsible parenting requirements.
  • The authors provided sufficient explanations of methods used to collect qualitative and quantitative data, however, the authors did not provide sufficient information on the qualitative analysis methods used following data collection.
  • The embedded impact study was reviewed by CLEAR in July 2022.

Intervention Examined

A Better Chance (ABC) Welfare Reform Program

Features of the Intervention

  • Type of organization: State Department of Social Services
  • Location/setting:  Multi-site in Delaware
  • Population served and scale: Low-income adults; 2,138 families
  • Industry focus: Not included.
  • Intervention activities: time limit on cash welfare receipt; provision of employment assistance
  • Organizational partnerships: Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, Delaware Economic Development Authority
  • Cost: Not included
  • Fidelity: Not included

The state of Delaware and Delaware Social Services (DSS) sought to reform statewide welfare policy through the implementation of A Better Chance Program (ABC). To do this, the ABC welfare program implemented new requirements for single parent families receiving welfare, such as a time limit on cash welfare receipt and provision of additional employment assistance services beyond 24 months of welfare receipt. Additionally, the reformed program added strict financial penalties when clients did not comply with work requirements.  Historically, the welfare program in Delaware was primarily focused on education and training pathways to employment, however the state placed a new emphasis on rapid employment as seen through the reformed welfare requirements. 

Features of the Study

The authors conducted an implementation evaluation to examine client experiences and implementation successes and challenges during the first three years of the ABC welfare reform program.   To do this, authors collected data through interviews with program managers and staff at participating agencies, focus groups with clients receiving the ABC program, and analysis of a detailed client follow-up survey.  Participating study sites included 5 unidentified pilot offices throughout the state of Delaware and the expansion of the ABC program to all welfare offices throughout the state of Delaware following the two-year pilot period.  Of the study participant families, the follow-up client survey collected data from 70% of clients to supplement information on client experiences and program outcomes.  While the authors provided information on data collection techniques, methods of analysis used were not discussed in the study.


Intervention activities/services

  • The study found that many clients received sanctions as a result of non-cooperation with reformed work requirements and strict program staff enforcement of these requirements.
  • The study found that the workfare component introduced after 24 months of assistance was implemented as intended.
  • The study found that a substantially lower number of clients than expected participated following the first 24 months of assistance and did not engage in the workfare requirements.
  • The study found that transportation challenges was a substantial barrier to client participation.
  • The study found that clients participating in the ABC treatment significantly reduced welfare receipt following the program.

Implementation challenges and solutions

  • The study found that the implementation of the ABC program significantly altered the jobs of front-line welfare staff, specifically limiting the previous flexibility of social workers to alter required plans/documentation to individual cases. 
  • The study found that welfare staff felt that they were faced with more paperwork responsibilities than providing individualized case management services. 
  • The study identified a major challenge facing employment and training providers was providing services to client families with a variety of needs.
  • The study found signs of difficulty during initial implementation with coordination across partner agencies to consistently refer clients correctly, communicate program requirements to clients, and required reporting systems.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

While the authors provided information on the study sample and methods of data collection, the authors did not discuss analytical methods of qualitative data provided through interviews and focus groups. 

Reviewed by CLEAR

April 2023

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