There is a concept used in urban planning community called the “Broken Windows Theory,” which holds that ignoring the little problems such as graffiti, litter, shattered glass creates bigger problems, such as violent crime, drugs and waywardness. While this concept is limited to planning, one has to wonder about the effects that separating children from not only the father but now it seems the mother too, in the most crucial point in their developmental growth has to do with the overall brokenness of families as well as the community at large?
This may all sound like conspiracy but when you consider that, in the state of Pennsylvania alone, there are 36,137 childcare providers receiving government subsidies. And according to the Brookings Institution: “Child care assistance is a key element of welfare reform because many low-income working parents, including most single mothers leaving welfare for work, need help paying for child care. Consequently, childcare was an integral part of the 1996 welfare reform debate. Since then, states have received additional federal funding for childcare through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). States are also using significant amounts of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding for childcare. Despite these increases, there is still inadequate funding to provide childcare to all eligible families. As a result, states formally and informally ration childcare subsidies. Low-income workers that have not recently received welfare are less likely to receive assistance than those leaving welfare.” In other words, those not working but already on welfare are favored over those mothers, who are working yet need a little something extra to get by.
Likewise, those leaving welfare also include those people going through programs like welfare-to-work, another initiative, which came out of the 1996 Personal Responsibility & Work Opportunity Act, also known as welfare reform. More subsidies were created so that those on public assistance, particularly mothers, were now enabled to leave their children with outside providers while they looked for work through a designated program. Welfare to work was championed by both liberals and conservatives as the moral response to poverty, one that touted personal responsibility over handouts and welfare dependency.
But while welfare reform has garnered praise for reducing the number of people receiving public assistance and reducing poverty, the reality is that the program didn’t really do much in the way of preparing workers, who could compete with skills for a new emerging market. In other words, people were just out of work because they were lazy. Many had complications including no education and no employable skills; all barriers in obtaining long-term sustainable employment. Likewise, in a down economy, such as the one we are experiencing, there simply are not enough jobs to go around. As such many participants found themselves right back on public assistance or going through another welfare to work program again. Even former President Bill Clinton, engineer of the 1996 Reform Act, admitted to the limitations of finding enough jobs within welfare-to-work program.
Of course there is always work as a daycare provider. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the childcare industry is expected to grow by as much as 20 percent by 2020. Yet as the industry blossoms, the median income of a daycare provider is around $19,300 per year $9.28 per hour, which probably means that working mothers within these facilities must rely themselves on some outside childcare and public assistance to tend to their children.
Yet in our haste to get parents, particularly mothers on welfare, into the workforce the welfare to work and child care subsidy systems, which solely focuses on supporting work among low-income parents, it seems like there is less emphasis on ensuring that parents are able to access good quality care including early learning and literacy, basic safety, and emotional growth that supports children in their most crucial developmental years.
Recognizing the failure of the program thus far, the Obama Administration is exploring again new ways to reform welfare reform including allowing states to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families. Yet with the emphasis on working and less on actual child-rearing, thus the need for more daycare facilities, it is hard to see how these new reforms will produce better outcomes than the reforms before it. But it may also explain why the daycare industry continues to boom in low-income communities.
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