Poor Children and Welfare Reform

By Olivia Golden | Go to book overview
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6
Recommendations for Action

The Introduction to this volume asked whether this country's large public welfare agencies can play a richer role for young children in poverty, a role better attuned to what we know about children's needs, family functioning, and child development. Based on the evidence from the seven study sites, the answer is yes: The welfare department can, in fact, serve as a catalyst for action on behalf of young children and families. Welfare department staff can help families identify child-related needs, refer or link families to other services, and counsel families directly; welfare agencies can fund other, more expert or more community-based providers to offer early education, health care, or case management services to welfare families; and welfare administrators can lobby, organize, and influence other service providers on behalf of welfare families.

But in order to do any of these things well, in a way that helps, rather than harms, the children and their families, the welfare agency needs to attend to a delicate balance: the balance between its own mission and capacity and the needs of the children and families it hopes to serve. The previous chapters have explored the many and subtle techniques used by skillful and committed administrators to improve the apparently odd match between child development and the large and impersonal welfare system in order to move their agencies gently toward two-generational programs that identify and take seriously the needs of both children and adults.

This chapter provides recommendations for attaining that delicate balance for the use of advocates, policymakers, administrators, and others committed to the needs of poor children and families. The recommendations are presented in three sections. The first section explores the guiding

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