The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

3243.0: Monday, November 17, 2003 - 12:30 PM

Abstract #54848

Women and welfare bureaucracy: Threats, sanctions, abuse

Janice H. Laakso, PhD, MSSW, Social Work Program, University of Washington, Tacoma, 1900 Commerce St., Box 358425, Tacoma, WA 98402-3100, 253-692-5824, and Denise J. Drevdahl, RN, PhD, Nursing Program, University of Washington, Tacoma, 1900 Commerce St., Box 358421, Tacoma, WA 98402-3100.

Frontline workers who serve as the gatekeepers to state welfare programs play critical roles in maintaining social safety nets. This qualitative study examines how the welfare bureaucracy affects the experiences of Washington state women’s in exiting welfare. Critical and feminist theories provide the background to understand how power and oppression impact these women’s lives. The sample was collected from a non-profit agency contracted with the state welfare agency to provide case management and included all mothers who were their clients for at least two months and agreed to participate. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect data on 38 mothers. Data were analyzed with open coding and constant comparison. Findings include: (1) Sanctions were used as threats (2) Lack of knowledge about resources, negative attitudes, and constant turnover of welfare workers created barriers for receipt of resources (3) welfare workers were seen as controlling, often rude and used stereotypes of welfare recipients in their discretionary decisions. These problems resulted in failure to deal with clients’ critical situations. For example, although 53% of the respondents were domestic violence victims, none of them had used the family violence option in applying the rules of welfare reform. Study participants who had responsive caseworkers received resources that made a difference in their coping with poverty. Thus, frontline workers’ responses to a family receiving welfare are key factors in determining the effects of welfare policies.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Welfare Reform, Women

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Impact of Welfare Reform on Families and Children

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA