Lifetime Welfare Ban For Drug Addicts Dooms Their Children; Alliance for Children and Families Responds to Report
From: Karl Robe of the Alliance for Children and Families, 800-221-3726 or 414-359-1040; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, March 5 -- According to a recent Sentencing Project report, more than 40 states enforce some degree of lifetime welfare ban on impoverished mothers convicted of drug offenses. This ban produces more than 100,000 children who are denied basic human services because their mothers have been caught using drugs.
"Regardless of one's position on whether drug abusing parents should be treated or thrown in jail," says Peter Goldberg, Alliance for Children and Families president and CEO, "children are innocent of any charge and must not be punished.
"The children are penalized with a drug-addicted parent and a 1996 welfare law severing the lifeline," he adds. "Welfare benefits often are their only hope for survival."
Over the last two years the Alliance, a national association composed of nonprofit, community-based human service organizations that serve millions of people annually in thousands of communities, conducted revealing research on the experiences of individuals affected by welfare reform. Faces of Change: Personal Experiences of Welfare Reform in America, a compilation of more than 100 first-hand accounts of current and former welfare recipients, provides an in-depth look into the lives of low-income individuals, their families and their quest for self-sufficiency.
For example, an Atlanta mother with two children who went through the welfare to work program tells of her background of arrests and drug abuse in the Faces of Change. "I've been clean a year and a half, but because of my background, I can't get some jobs and I get fired from others."
"In this instance, without a formal criminal conviction, the welfare system at least afforded this mom the chance to get treatment, keep her kids and get job training," says Carmen Delgado Votaw, Alliance public policy senior vice president. "Other moms who were not quite so lucky may never get treatment, help for their kids or a job to keep their families alive."
"Many Alliance member agency programs work with children and families affected by drug abuse and convictions resulting in physical, emotional and economic impediments keeping families impoverished and dependent on public support," Goldberg says. "Mothers convicted of drug abuse need counseling, child care and health care services as well as education, job training and referral services, so that their pasts fade as they succeed in working and providing for their children. Under the current system, these families stand little chance."
The President has proposed spending more money in his budget for the Safe and Stable Families initiative, and both parties of Congress support spending to strengthen families. The Alliance asks them to revisit the lifetime ban on welfare for convicted drug abusers in the name of the innocent children and the support they need.
Faces of Change supplies the basis for the following recommendations the Alliance finds crucial to building a road out of poverty during the welfare reauthorization debate.
1. TANF should specifically address the needs of poor children and refocus from caseload reduction to poverty reduction. 2. TANF block grant must be increased and expanded so that support services can address the multiple barriers that prevent recipients from achieving self-sufficiency. 3. Education and training opportunities must be strengthened and must promote sustained employment. 4. States must be encouraged to promote and provide access to anti-poverty benefits for families making the transition from welfare to work. 5. Funding for child care, both in TANF and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, must be increased if not doubled. 6. Transportation is crucial for impoverished and low-income families nationwide. Subsidized public transportation and car ownership keep families off welfare by getting them to school, jobs, day care facilities and medical facilities.
We all have a role to play in helping low-income and welfare families succeed. The first step is to listen to them and their stories. To access the Faces of Change and read statements by those affected by welfare reform, visit www.alliance1.org or call 1-800-221-3726 and ask for Karl Robe, director of public relations, at extension 3689. Visit http://www.sentencingproject.org/ for the Sentencing Project report.