African-American Mothers and Poverty the Term Paper

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Whereas in 1963, 70% of all African-American families were headed by married couples, that rate had dipped to 46.1% by 1996. In 2001, the rate had increased to 47.9%, the first uptrend in 40 years (Kinnon, 2003). The rate of African-American crime and incarceration, which is closely linked to males from single-parent households, has also dipped since 1996.

Concerns about TANF and current welfare programs

While the statistics are compelling, there are a series of questions which have not been addressed by these welfare reforms. There are still about 50% of the former welfare population which has not been able to graduate from the welfare-poverty cycle, nor have they been able to find work. In states where the TANF provisions were enacted, including the 5-year limitation on welfare benefits, there has been a back-sliding on the part of state legislatures to extend welfare assistance for the "hard core" unemployed.

The effects on children of working mothers has long been a concern (Garfinkle, 1986). Even when adequate child care resources are available, there can be a decline in children's well-being during the first year of the family's adjustment to the mother working outside the home (Cherry, 1977). Although children of non-welfare families tend to be less likely to be on welfare themselves, the fact of the hard-core welfare recipients is a holdover from previous welfare policies; children in those families in which there has been no work history are less likely to have the mentoring, experience and encouragement to complete education and join the workforce.

As we saw with the failures of the Great Society programs of the 1960's, it is important to provide adequate social workers to administer the programs for single African-American mothers. Of those left in the TANF and other related programs, many face psychological, medical and other issues that defy simple solutions. Some members in this situation may never be able to lift themselves out of poverty due to age,
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drug dependence or disability. Even those in two-parent households may suffer from pathologies which prevent self-help.

Conclusion

The implications for social work to assist single African-American women are clear. The problems of poverty amongst this group are not simply eliminated by offering "work your way out of welfare." For those left behind, the problems are deeper than child care and income level. The Wisconsin program, on which the 1996 Welfare Reform Act were based, included intensive one-on-one work with single mothers and tailored assistance which provided a support infrastructure for women in the poverty cycle. Even with this intensive management, only half the women were able to move off welfare rolls.

Social work is therefore crucial to any program that attempts to bring single mothers into the mainstream. It alone does not provide all the answers: there will still be a substantial number of families which will need on-going social support networks.

Bibliography

Bush, L. (2000). African-American Mothers/African-American Sons: A Critical Examination of the Social Science Literature. Western Journal of African-American Studies, 145-167.

Cherry, F. & . (1977). Physical and cognitive development in children of low-income mothers working in the child's early years. Child Development, 158-166.

Garfinkle, I. a. (1986). Single Mothers and their children: A new American dilemma. Washington: Urban Institute.

Haskins, R. (1989). Beyond metaphor: The efficacy of early childhood education. American Psychologist, 274-282.

Johnson, L.B. (1964, May 22). Great Society Speech, LBJ, 1964. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, pp. 704-707.

Kennedy, D. (1997). http://www.leaderu.com/issues/fabric/chap03.html. Retrieved October 17, 2007, from Breakdown of the Family: http://www.leaderu.com/issues/fabric/chap03.html

Kinnon, J. (2003, November). The shocking state of African-American marriage: experts say many will never get married. Ebony, p. n.p.

Lampman, R. (1974). What does it do for the poor? -- a new test for national policy. In E. a. Ginzberg, the Great Society: Lessons for the Future (pp. 66-87). New York: Basic Books.

Steiner, G. (1974). Reform Follows Reality: the Growth of Welfare. In E. a. Ginsberg,…

Sources Used in Documents:

Bibliography

Bush, L. (2000). African-American Mothers/African-American Sons: A Critical Examination of the Social Science Literature. Western Journal of African-American Studies, 145-167.

Cherry, F. & . (1977). Physical and cognitive development in children of low-income mothers working in the child's early years. Child Development, 158-166.

Garfinkle, I. a. (1986). Single Mothers and their children: A new American dilemma. Washington: Urban Institute.

Haskins, R. (1989). Beyond metaphor: The efficacy of early childhood education. American Psychologist, 274-282.

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