Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Answer to Welfare is Marriage???

National Public Radio is running a series this week on Marriage Education. The first part of the series examines a federally-backed marriage education curriculum required of some women on welfare in Oklahoma. This twelve hour course is funded by a 1.5 billion dollar initiative to promote marriage. That 1.5 billion is carved out of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program. The rationale is that a healthy marriage stabilizes emotional and economic life. That can also be translated as marriages reduce the welfare load. The stated goals of the Oklahoma program include “reversing generations of divorce” and “creating productive relationships that end in marriage.” Topics include selecting a mate and developing communication skills.

Few people can argue that teaching communication skills or supporting marriages are bad things. But like anything, the real test is how we put the plan into action. What is interesting about this program is that the women in it are not married, there are only women in the class and the class is required as part of their welfare eligibility. These facts raise a number of questions ranging from how effective marriage education can be without both partners or indeed for single people, and whether there any men out there who have to take the course. The more interesting philosophical question is why link marriage and welfare reform at all? Are we trying to solve one set of social problems just to create another? And my favorite question – do homosexuals get to opt out?

1 comment:

peacenik said...

The reason for TANFs existance is to help people finacially. It has not been shown conclusively that marriage accomplishes this. The number one reason children fail is not due to the numer of (correctly gendered) parents availabe to that child it is due to the number of dollars availabe to that child.

Providing mental health, educational and employment services for ALL welfare recipients most certainly reduces welfare role numbers.

Women in Oklahoma are being told, think about getting married or we wont help you learn your way out of poverty. The only help for you is to find a man who is willing to financially support you. Women who allow themselves to fall into the welfare trap already believe this, that is why they fall back on the state check when a husbands is not present. The state here, is a daddy replacement.

Why is the state spending so much money teaching women to focus on their relationships with men? Does anyone really believe we need a special initiative to ecourage the idea of marriage among young women? Seems to me they are already obssesed with the idea and thats what may have gotten them into trouble in the first place.

I lived in Oklahoma, on welfare for five years. Eight months after moving to Oregon and accessing that states NON discriminatory, EASILY availabe mental health and employment services, It took eight months to get off of welfare and five years later I am still off and in college working on a degree.

The Oklahoma marriage initative is discriminatory in practice and counterproductive. Although they state that they provide services to all family members regardless of marrige status, I am not married and was turned down immediately for services by a representaive of the program, Linsay Johnson, when I revealed I was a lesbian. I wrote about getting mental health services for my kids who live in Oklahoma.