by Anne Kunkin
The Mother's Convention on Welfare took place Saturday August 12th in the auditorium of Patriotic Hall. Speaker after passionate speakers addressed an audience of 250 welfare mothers, and concerned community members on issues dealing with the plight of women struggling with the job of attempting to raise the next generation to be good members of society while at the same time being given the message that they are less than human by that same society.
The purpose of this event was to begin the process that could rectify some of the problems that exist within the system. What is commonly refered to as "Welfare Reform," is actually called the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF). When Congress enacted TANF, it authorized the program through September 30, 2002. This means that the Welfare Reform program could be re-authorized to continue in it's current state, which some consider to be broken, or it could be revamped to a plan which would better serve the poorest of the poor. The administration elected this year will be responsible for making this decision.
Four of the key issues being proposed at the convention to fix the system include:
1. Stop the clock! Stop the federal five year time limit a person can receive aid;
2. Change the current "work-first: approach, so that the debate shifts to work that pays a living wage, job retention, job advancement and employment with benefits;
3. Improve access to supportive services, such as childcare, transportation, and other services like domestic violence and substance abuse counseling;
4. Give parents the choice to be their family's primary care giver.
“The Mother’s Convention on Welfare will give mothers on welfare the opportunity to tell the nation what other moms on welfare already know: for hundreds of thousands of women, welfare reform has not worked,” states Nancy Berlin, chair of the convention. Although 2002 seems far off, there is a chance to create a proactive campaign that over the next 18 months can make a real difference in the lives of women and children.”