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LETTER: Single mothers, children deserve more

Times have changed, Minnesota. Our children and single mothers deserve more than policy drafted from views that are more than 20 years old. In 1996, Former President Bill Clinton signed an amended version of the Personality Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Opportunity Act (PRWROA) into law, “ending welfare as we know it”; leading states, who were fortunate enough to opt out of federal requirements, designed their own welfare programs and the effects are still observable today. 

What is the PRWROA you might ask? Well, in 1994 Newt Gingrich introduced the welfare-to-work concept in the Republican Contract with America. The contract proposes cutting spending on welfare programs, discrimination against unwed and/or teenage mothers, and denying federal assistance for any children considered “additional”; all while enforcing a limited 24-month supply of assistance with a work requirement to “promote individual responsibility.” I thought motherhood was already a responsibility taken on by the individual? 

Times have changed. 

It’s 2015 and Hilary just recently announced her candidacy for President, the legalization of gay marriage has been taking the country by storm, and the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana is slowly but surely taking over the U.S. Times have changed, and it’s the time for low-income, single mothers, and children to be recognized and assisted in their struggle.  

How many readers know what the Diversionary Work Program is? According to the  Minnesota Department of Human Services (MN DHS), DWP is a four-month program, requiring all caregivers in a family to participate, designed to intervene during a “crisis situation” and prevent Minnesota Family Investment Plan (MFIP), or welfare, applicants from becoming “long-term” recipients of public assistance. 

Why is DWP, and subsequently MFIP, important you might ask? Well, the MN DHS reported that in 2013, more than 72,000 children in Minnesota were eligible participants of both programs. It was also reported that the major family demographic of DWP and MFIP was comprised of one adult, average age of 31, and two children, the youngest child’s median age being only 4 years old. The department also identified, in a different document, that in 2013, 81 percent of eligible recipients were female. There is limited gender-specific information surrounding the demographics of DWP and MFIP provided by the MN DHS, but it appears that the most common family structure is comprised of a single mother and her two children. 

Times have changed; I propose that your readers educate themselves on the true composition of Minnesota’s welfare system. That your readers create conversation surrounding mothers and children, who are reliant on public assistance, have been in a crisis situation, and the benefits and services that are readily available to them. Times have changed, and I believe that Minnesota children and single mothers deserve more. I hope you do too.

Caitlin Hurley


Editor’s note: Caitlin Hurley is a master’s of social work graduate student at the University of St. Thomas.