Professor's Comments: This student has done an outstanding job of fulfilling the requirements of the assignment in his analysis of the Welfare to Work Program.
Abstract: This study defines poverty, explains its causes and consequences on various systems, and traces our governmental response to this problem from the New Deal efforts to the present system of welfare. Drawing from recent literature to examine specifically the efficacy of TANF’s welfare to work (WtW) initiative, this writer focuses on the following: (1) on the target population, single mothers and children, and (2) on how this initiative is affecting both this group and the overall problem of poverty. Also included are a discussion of the historical and contemporary issues regarding this initiative as well as implications for social work policy and practice.
Welfare to Work under TANF: A New Generation of Responses to Poverty
Existing in all cultures and affecting people from many walks of life, especially single mothers and children, poverty does not discriminate. What is poverty, then? Is it simply a condition, or does it create conditions that reach far beyond a simple social issue?
In order to understand these questions, one must begin with basic definitions. Poverty is technically broken into two categories – absolute poverty and relative poverty. Absolute poverty exists when a family cannot provide for its basic needs – which include nutrition, clothing, and shelter. A measurement for this category is the poverty line, a calculation that is based on three times the amount of a family’s normal food budget. On the other hand, relative poverty measures economic status and compares it between families within the same geographical locus (Karger & Stoesz, 1998).
More complicated than poverty’s definitions, however, are its causal explanations, ranging from the micro to the macro level. The micro-level explanation places blame on the American family’s deterioration, a theme characterized by an increase in single mothers, teenage pregnancy, and a loss of the traditional male role (Egendorf, 1999). Next, the mid-level view focuses on inequality in the education system that perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Finally, the macro-level view looks at institutions such as the economy and government, and specifically examines these entities’ effects on families and individuals, including inconsistency and discrimination in the job market (Coleman & Cressey, 1999).
With causes, then, come consequences, and poverty is no exception. According to Maurice Badon of Southeastern Louisiana University, “poverty is an insidious evil that robs families of the necessities we take for granted” (M. Badon, personal communication, November 19, 2001). For example, the poor are generally deprived of educational opportunities and, as a result of social stresses and a lack of adequate health care, are also highly susceptible to mental and physical illness. In addition,...