Professor Emerita Rosemary Sarri's editorial "'End of welfare as we know it' deserves another examination" was printed in The Ann Arbor News.
Editorial: 'End of welfare as we know it' deserves another examination
by Rosemary C. Sarri
The Ann Arbor News
September 12, 2006
August marked the 10-year anniversary of the Welfare Reform Act, passed in l996 to eliminate entitlement to public assistance for families with children that was initiated in l935. Politicians have hailed the legislation as a success, boasting that fewer families are receiving public assistance than before the act's passage. It must be noted, however, that "ending welfare as we know it" has had grave consequences for America's poor. Most of the families who were booted off the welfare rolls in the aftermath of the act's passage remain poor even when the parents are working full time.
Children are the group that suffers the most from "welfare reform." Since 2001, the child poverty rate has increased; for children of color of single mothers it approaches 50 percent. The majority of working poor families with children lack health benefits. Today, there are more children in out-of-home placement than there were 10 years ago. The primary reason for this increase is poverty-related neglect, rather than abuse.
Many children end up in foster care because working parents cannot provide the childcare and supervision that is needed. Parents often work irregular schedules to maintain their jobs, thereby jeopardizing child care. If a child becomes ill and the mother has to stay home to care for the child, she risks losing her job. The family may become homeless and if the parent cannot secure adequate housing, the children may be placed in foster care. Housing costs are a major obstacle for many working families with children, according to studies by the Urban Institute.
For older children of poor mothers, a lack of after-school and before-school programs means they are more likely to get into trouble (i.e. substance abuse, delinquency and sexual acting out). Most juvenile delinquency reportedly occurs between the hours of 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., when youngsters have little appropriate supervision. Poor working parents cannot supervise their children after school, and often cannot afford to enroll them sports, music or art classes. Every year thousands of these children end up in foster care, the juvenile justice system and eventually in adult prisons where the cost of their care is far greater than any public assistance the family would have received.
Here in Michigan, there are 19,000 children in foster care - 70 percent because of poverty-related neglect, not abuse. Sixty-one percent of the children in foster care are children of color, a disproportionate number given that only 30 percent of all children in Michigan are of color.
At present there is a class-action suit against the Department of Human Services because of inadequacies in our child welfare system. A major problem is a lack of appropriate foster homes; this is due to inadequate payments to foster parents along with lack of training and supervision. The average payment of $433 per month to a foster parent is about half the average cost of raising a child in the Midwest.
In Michigan, increasing numbers of children are placed with relatives. While it has been shown that children often fare better in these settings than in other foster homes, kin foster parents receive even lower state subsidies than unrelated foster parents. Michigan has no subsidized guardianship program. Nor do state agencies pay sufficient attention to permanency planning for adoption or family reunification, although federal law requires that permanent arrangements be undertaken for foster care children within 15 months of their entry into the system. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges adopted a guiding principle in l999: "All children have the right to a healthy and safe childhood in a nurturing, permanent family or in the closest substitute to a family setting."
Another problem is that state caseloads for
Professor Kathleen Coulborn Faller has been appointed Marion Elizabeth Blue Professor of Social Work. The Marion Elizabeth Blue Endowment Fund was established in 1997 through the generosity of the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Family Foundation in memory of Ann's mother, Marion Elizabeth Blue. The purpose of the Blue Endowed Chair is to provide leadership in scholarship, teaching, and service related to children and families at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. Professor Faller will be installed in a ceremony at the School on October 19.
Dean Paula Allen-Meares' op-ed, entitled "What it will take to make affirmative action unnecessary," was published in The Michigan Prospect.
Dean Paula Allen-Meares' article "One hundred years: A historical analysis of social work services in schools" has been published in School Social Work Journal (2006), special issue, 25-43. In an introduction to this issue, the editor wrote, "Paula Allen-Meares, who replicated the landmark Costin study and who now serves as Dean of the University of Michigan School of Social Work, has become an icon in the field of school social work and takes her place as one of the school social work greats."
Assistant Professor Sean Joe's research on the similarities between perceptions of blacks and whites regarding the stigma of suicide has been published in the August issue of the Journal of Black Psychology.
The Columbia University Press website has an interview with Assistant Professor Karen Staller on her newly released book, Runaways.
Congratulations to Professor Robert J. Taylor, who is receiving the first Distinguished Faculty Award at the School of Social Work! Professor Taylor is Associate Dean for Research and Sheila Feld Collegiate Professor of Social Work.
The Distinguished Faculty Award recognizes a faculty member in the School of Social Work who meets the following criteria:
1) National recognition in the field in scholarship and/or service
2) Excellence in teaching and mentoring both students and faculty
3) Outstanding service to the School and University over many years
4) Contribution to the professional community
The award committee, appointed by the dean in consultation with the executive committee, is composed of Larry Root (Chair), Leslie Hollingsworth, John Tropman, and Cristina Bares (doctoral student). The committee wrote the following endorsement of Professor Taylor:
Professor Robert Taylor is a nationally recognized leader in survey research, both on the elderly and on the lives of African Americans. His path-breaking work on the role of religion in the lives of the elderly is broadly recognized as the authoritative voice on this subject. Professor Taylor has mentored many doctoral students and junior faculty over the years. His work with African American, Latino, and Asian American individuals has been particularly noteworthy. In addition to his service to the School and the University, he has contributed to the professional and scholarly community with his service on numerous editorial boards and as a reviewer of proposals for the National Science Foundation and the National Institute on Aging. Professor Taylor's many research contributions and his commitment to advancing the field and mentoring young scholars makes him richly deserving of recognition with the School's Distinguished Faculty Award.
University of Michigan
School of Social Work
1080 South University Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1106