Thursday, April 13, 2017

Student would be more lenient with TANF

In this reaction paper, the student describes the basics about Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and points out that sanctions against families where parents have failed to make progress toward independence and self-reliance may harm blameless children.
Temporary Assistance for needy families (TANF) is a program that provides temporary assistance for families with one or more children, and pregnant women. It provides families with financial assistance to help pay for everyday living such as, food, housing, and any other expenses other than medical expenses. For poor families with children, TANF would be one of three or four basic welfare provisions to help the family: Medicaid would help cover medical costs and medical insurance, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program funding, as well as free school lunches, would help with food expenses, and the family could get cash through TANF and the Earned Income Tax Credit (if they were earning some money). There are only certain people who qualify for TANF: In Illinois, in order to qualify you must live in Illinois, you can still qualify even if you are homeless. You must be a US citizen or meet certain immigration requirements, so undocumented residents from other countries don’t qualify.  TANF is for families with children, so you must be pregnant or have children under 19 years of age that still live at home. Some women who are pregnant and have no prior children can still sometimes receive TANF, along with their husbands that live with them. In order for families to keep TANF they must create goals to become self-relient and follow steps working toward those goals. In the TANF programs there are additional transitional services offered to help the families stay on task to reach their goals. A few examples of this would be: 1) GED preparation if the TANF recipient is not a high school graduate, 2) vocational training, and 3) help with childcare. There are more transition services that are offered to help. A person that qualifies for TANF for their family may qualify for medical services through Medicaid, and SNAP benefits, and if they are pregnant or have young children, WIC might also offer help with food and nutritional counseling.  

               I personally believe that TANF is a wonderful way to help out families in need . There are a few things that TANF needs to work on though. There are certain requirements that parents have to meet in order to keep TANF and its benefits, but if these certain requirements are not met—and they must be continuously met—the family is in some way “punished.” I do believe that the parents should keep up on all their goals and requirements all the time to keep TANF, but it’s not fair to the kids if their parents get “punished” and they lose out on meals, and since TANF may help with rent, cutting TANF because of a parent’s failure could mean that children would become homeless. TANF is a great way to get families off of welfare and to get them back on the right track, but there are some unrealistic requirements for families. The parents should be allowed to keep their benefits for the sake of their children so long as they are making a good and honest effort, and have met most of their goals, if not all of them.
You point out an essential issue in all programs of welfare for children.  Children are generally not held accountable for their own behavior, let alone the behavior of their parents.  Children have a right to housing, medical care, and food, and society would like to ensure that all children have these things.  And yet, welfare benefits for children must go through their parents. And, parents can be held responsible for their behaviors. So, what are we to do as a society when a family with children is in a desperate financial situation because of parental behaviors that do not conform to society's expectations?  If we punish or sanction the parents for their failures or transgressions, we are punishing also their innocent children.  If we give the children enough welfare to keep them secure in their housing, well-fed, and maintain their access to medical care, then by extension we must be providing at least housing and adequate food for their parents as well.

In the past we gave an assurance that we as a society would give poor families with children something, and we had a program called Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) that provided cash benefits to poor families.  In most states those cash benefits were very meager, and insufficient to provide decent housing and a good diet, let along recreational opportunities enjoyed by other children.  Some people claimed that AFDC was creating an incentive for poor young women to have children so they could get the AFDC benefits.  There was some evidence that there was a very, very slight increase in births to young unwed mothers in states where AFDC benefits were the most generous compared to those in states where AFDC benefits were stingy, and of course there was anecdotal evidence of persons who had children without fear of economic consequences because they expected their lives to improve with the ADFC cash benefits and perhaps housing benefits and food assistance they would get by having children. The vast majority of women were not interested in having children and then struggling along with welfare benefits, but for a very few of the very poorest young women, the welfare system was helpful, and this made some people angry.  
So, there was talk of changing AFDC. Some very radical "family values" politicians suggested that we could take poor children away from their poor parents if those parents were reliant on welfare, and in this way we could give benefits to the children (and their foster parents or adoptive parents) while cutting off benefits to their unworthy poor parents.  There was even talk of using orphanages as an alternative to the welfare system, based on the idea that we needed to remove the welfare incentive that encouraged a few poor women to have children (good research showed that this number of women encouraged to have children because of welfare benefits was miniscule, but that didn't matter, the moral problems with providing welfare that encouraged dependence rather than independence were judged to be of primary importance.
In the end, people pointed out that there was a greater moral problem with taking away children as punishment for poverty, so talk of removing poor children from their parents diminished. However, with TANF we did get rid of the idea that the public would always support poor children with some cash assistance.  Now, with TANF, we still assure children that they will have food (through SNAP) and medical care (through Medicaid), but we do not ensure that their families will have cash.  If their parents are chronically ill or in some way incapable of finding and holding a job, and if the parents then use up their TANF benefits or fail to keep on pace toward independence, then we will cut the family off from cash assistance, and the family won't get TANF any more. Thus, poor American children today face a real risk that their parents will not qualify for TANF, and during job loss, poor health, or sudden loss of income when parents break-up, their families will have little or no cash income.  We are now a society that is willing to allow children to live in desperate poverty if their parents are sufficiently poor.  This may only be a problem for the very poorest American children, but for perhaps a million of such children, homelessness is a real risk, and living in a household where cash incomes are below $2 per day per person is what they face.

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