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Study finds welfare rules fail to improve kids' lives
Associated Press via Danbury News-Times [Connecticut] ^ | April 16, 2002 | LAURA MECKLER

Posted on 04/16/2002 8:10:42 AM PDT by LurkedLongEnough

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Most mothers facing new welfare rules have found jobs, but more money hasn't translated into improvements for their kids, according to a three-state study that examined details of family life.

Most of the mothers did not improve their parenting skills and continued to have trouble paying the rent and buying food. Mothers were just as likely to be depressed as they were before being pushed into jobs. They also spent less time with their children, who spent more time watching television.

The findings, being released Tuesday, add texture to the results of the massive welfare overhaul in 1996, which required recipients to work and set time limits on how long anyone could get help. The changes helped cut the rolls by more than half, but less is known about how they affected children.

``It's not really clear that simply moving women into jobs _ especially part-time, low-wage jobs _ will advance their children's preparation for school,'' said Sharon Lynn Kagan of Teachers College at Columbia University, a co-director of the study, which followed more than 700 families in California, Connecticut and Florida.

The findings are consistent with earlier studies and raise questions about what constitutes success in an area where politicians regularly declare victory.

Numerous state-run studies of people leaving welfare have found that most earned more than they got from welfare, but not enough to leave poverty, with a number of families facing day-to-day hardships.

The three-state study focused on mothers with young children. Participating moms had children around 21/2 years old when they entered welfare between 1996 and 1998 and were first interviewed. They were interviewed again in 2000.

Researchers found that after two to four years, mothers were no less likely to read with their kids, set regular meal times or be more affectionate. Kids who were cared for at home watched more TV _ though kids at child care centers watched less, which researchers called an indirect benefit of the change in welfare rules.

Family income rose, with the average mother earning about $13,000 per year _ more than welfare pays but still below the poverty line.

In California and Florida, 53 percent of women were working in 2000, compared to 22 percent in 1998. Their monthly income rose by an average of $275.

In Connecticut, researchers were able to compare women in the study to a control group of women who were not subjected to the new rules. They found that 69 percent of women in the study were working at least part-time four years after entering the program, compared to 58 percent of women of the control group.

Also in Connecticut:

_ Total annual income for all mothers was between $14,000 and $15,000. The average mother reported a total of $425 in savings and $4,700 in debt.

_ About 31 percent of women in the study had enrolled in community college, compared with 11 percent of mothers in the control group.

_ One in eight mothers in both groups were still visiting food banks and soup kitchens to feed their children.

_ One in five women reported living in housing units infested with roaches or other pests.

_ The average mother read to her young child just once or twice a week, far below the national average. The average child watched about 31/2 hours of television on a typical weekday and about six hours on weekend days.

_ The average mother scored only in the 27th percentile for basic cognitive and language proficiencies.

_ Just under half of mothers in the study group displayed significant symptoms of depression.

_ Among children in both groups, just 33 percent of the 4-year-olds could write their first name correctly, compared to 66 percent of a national sample of Head Start children. Just 29 percent of 4-year-olds could count out loud to 20, compared with 53 percent of the Head Start group.

The three-state report suggests that the lack of improvement in home life _ given the income gains _ is troubling. Still, researcher Bruce Fuller said it's also comforting that family life did not get worse.

``We haven't seen the denigrating effects that some of the advocates claimed would come to pass,'' said Fuller, of the University of California, Berkeley. ``But if this is a policy structure from which we're trying to improve families' lives, we need to rethink that.''

A top welfare official in the Bush administration agreed that the system is not doing much to improve the lives of children. That's why the administration wants to add improving child well-being to the list of goals for the welfare law, which is being renewed this year, said Wade Horn, who heads the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services.

``The current goal of welfare is not to improve the well-being of children,'' Horn said. ``It's not an explicit goal.''

He said kids would do better under President Bush's plan for welfare because most mothers would have to spend 40 hours in work and other activities, including 16 hours that could be used for parent-child activities.

Still, it isn't clear why increases in income have had no apparent effect on children.

Study authors were buoyed by findings that the one-third of toddlers who were cared for at child care centers were closer to learning to read. It was particularly true for kids at high-quality centers.

Authors said the findings should encourage Congress to spend more on child care, though Horn said more money doesn't mean that moms will choose to put their kids into child care centers. Funding for child care will be a major point of debate in Congress this year.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: California; US: Connecticut; US: Florida
KEYWORDS: children; moms; parenthood; welfare
Money can't create or replace love in children's lives...
Also, only moms were studied. Where are the dads-are they totally useless?
1 posted on 04/16/2002 8:10:42 AM PDT by LurkedLongEnough
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To: LurkedLongEnough
increases in income have had no apparent effect on children......Authors said the findings should encourage Congress to spend more on child care,

Say What?

2 posted on 04/16/2002 8:26:20 AM PDT by flying Elvis
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To: LurkedLongEnough
"Its not clear that forcing them into low-paying jobs will improve their parenting skills..."

On the other hand, its totally clear that paying them to lay around the house and have more state supported kids won't improve them either.

3 posted on 04/16/2002 8:31:56 AM PDT by Pearls Before Swine
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To: LurkedLongEnough
Where are the dads-are they totally useless?

I would say so - if the families qualify for welfare, yes...

I have worked with these folks... in a case management role to help them find work. My views are somewhat complicated by individual stories, but there is more that got these people onto welfare than lack of a good income. There is a whole lifestyle, decision-making process, and personal ethic that got them there. A job, any job, does not make you a better person. Money will buy stuff, but not happiness without fixing the rest.

These folk aren't parents because they wanted to be... and money isn't going to improve their motives.

4 posted on 04/16/2002 8:42:57 AM PDT by HairOfTheDog
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To: LurkedLongEnough
continued to have trouble paying rent and buying food

The key word here is "continued". Sure they are still having financial troubles! They are gaining the work skills most of us learned in high school! They cannot command much more than minimum wage because they are, in most cases worth less than that level of compensation! This is not to say they are hopless; just retarded in their skill level due to way too many years receiving hand-outs from those who have worked all their adult lives!

This is not the fault of welfare reform, but rather the end result of the welfare state! This is what destroyed the black family, which was even more stable before the welfare state then the white family was (see Thomas Sowell's archives).

Although they are struggling now (they were before too!), they are gaining work skills which will earn them better paying jobs in the future. They are setting an example for their children; showing them that they will have to work for what they want when they grow up. Showing their children that life is not just one big hand-out. This is something that was sorely lacking under the welfare state.

Perhaps now, poor women will find it to their advantage to hold off on having babies with bums, and look for a guy who will help support the family. For decades, young poor women found it easier to have a kid, tell the dad to get lost, and make me support her kids. She got more money that way; short term. However, that father; if he had to stay with the family and had to support it would probably have gotten a job, learned job skills and then gotten a better job. But you can't jump into a CEO position as a first job; you have to work your way up!

The welfare state does exactly the opposite of what it's supporters claim to want. I think the inner circle know this quite well. Let's not forget that it was the Libs who insisted the welfare state be established and grow. The same Libs who fought tooth & nail against civil rights in '68 - like Algore's daddy!


5 posted on 04/16/2002 8:49:47 AM PDT by
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To: LurkedLongEnough
I am shocked, SHOCKED, at this incredible new discovery!


6 posted on 04/16/2002 9:00:09 AM PDT by Teacher317
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To: LurkedLongEnough
First of all, I would dispute the qualifications of anyone who came from a "Teachers College" since a degree in education would basically assure that they are without the qualifications to do , well pretty much anything particularly assess the progress of children.

Secondly, I think the real benefit to these children will come when they have to begin to make their own way in the world, and have come from a home where their parent (or to be fair parents) took personal responsibility for their well being. Maybe they will be more likely to do the same.

7 posted on 04/16/2002 9:03:22 AM PDT by tcostell
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To: HairOfTheDog
These folk aren't parents because they wanted to be

No, your're right. They're parents because they didn't have anyone to give them birth control pills or condoms. Not that they wouldn't have sold those for alcohol to liven up the party. It's a long story isn't it?

8 posted on 04/16/2002 10:07:10 AM PDT by B4Ranch
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To: B4Ranch
It is a very long story full of bad choices... that was my point.
9 posted on 04/16/2002 10:12:05 AM PDT by HairOfTheDog
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To: LurkedLongEnough
Also, only moms were studied. Where are the dads-are they totally useless?

Good question. How many hours a week did the dads read to their chilren?

Its funny (sad funny that is) when a whole article about the welfare of kids never once mentions the father and his obligations towards his kids.
10 posted on 04/23/2002 8:21:16 PM PDT by Lorianne
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