Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Books I'm Reading: flat broke with children

Hays, Sharon. flat broke with children: women in the age of welfare reform. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Hays is an assistant professor in Sociology and Women's Studies who visited welfare offices and the homes of welfare clients for three years, doing research on the effects of welfare reform. She is very sympathetic to the women who are being affected by the new welfare laws. The reformed welfare regulations limit how many years during her lifetime a woman can collect welfare for her family.

As part of the welfare reform, programs were put in place to encourage welfare mothers get married.

I think that teaching people that marriage is the place for sex and children is the right thing to do.
Most of the case workers interviewed agreed with what the government's trying to do. But the attitudes of many people have hardened against the idea.

I can hear the attitudes of my close relative who had three daughters fathered by three different men and whose youngest daughter has given her three grandchildren who were also fathered by three different men, two of whom are in jail and the other one dead by shooting. I said to her last year that children deserve to have a father, and she retorted, "They have a father." Biological fatherhood fills the requirement as far as she's concerned, I see.

I meant a married commited father who supports his family and lives in the home, and so I was rendered speechless with the hopelessness of standing up against her convinctions. To her and many others single parenting is just as good as any other kind of parenting. Don't you dare imply, as the Pope recently stated, that having same sex couples or single sex as parents cripples children, takes away from them a part of their human birthright!

A welfare caseworker is quoted as saying similar anti-marriage attitudes: "I think that a tremendous number of men are not worth it, even though they're fathering these children. I don't believe it would be good to even have these men in their homes, let alone marry them." She says these things enmeshed in the middle of a lot of moral rule-breaking, and it's hard to think your way out of a mess like the one we have now in society. We can't fix these problems "in media res," in the middle of things.

The first rule that should apply: Don't have sex outside of marriage. Get married only with God's blessing. For God's sake and your own sake and the sake of your children, don't sleep with someone you wouldn't marry. If there are no suitable men around, accept that. Be chaste. Respect yourself. Don't throw yourself into the arms of someone who doesn't care for you. Don't use someone you don't respect.

The author writes disapprovingly about how one woman, Sheila, "allowed herself to get pregnant." But she doesn't write disapprovingly about how Sheila allowed herself to have sex outside of marriage. The author describes part of the problem that "a substantial number of sexually active young men and women do not use birth control faithfully enough." p. 145. She does not see the root cause, that these problems would not exist if unmarried people simply were not sexually active.

I know, I know, anyone who reads this would pooh pooh what is currently believed to be a simplistic approach and most would say I'm preaching an ideal. I have a lot I can say in reply, but not now, not today.

To the author, another part of the problem is that the poor and working-class are much less likely to get an abortion "than financially privileged young women who find themselves pregnant before they are ready . . .."

No time is spent writing about how these women should not be having sex without being ready to have children--in the security of a loving marriage. She implies the values of a woman who won't have an abortion are "bad values" (p. 146).

The author seems to believe that the thing that would have prevented many of these women from having to seek welfare is conscientious use of birth control, and having what she seems to imply would be the self-interest or smarts to abort a child they aren't ready for.

THe summary at the end of the book offers some alternative solutions, including returning to the old way in which women were paid a check to stay home with their kids. Even Margaret Sanger supported allowing women to stay home and raise their families.

I remember Barbara Bush's statement to the press when welfare mothers were demonstrating for higher benefits on the capitol steps of the Texas governor's mansion where she and George on were living. Why don't they just go get a job? I was on welfare then, after my divorce, and I resented Barbara's complacency. She was being supported by her husband so she could care for her children.
Post a Comment