Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Wisconsin Works to Make Welfare Work

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Wisconsin Works to Make Welfare Work

Article excerpt

YOUNG kids having kids is not good. Teenage pregnancy is a problem of an ever increasing dimension.

That's why the Parental and Family Responsibility Initiative put forth by Gov. Tommy G. Thompson's administration in Wisconsin is receiving a lot of scrutiny.

Government has talked about welfare reform for decades; but an effort actually to move toward remedies catches attention.

How should government tilt appropriately in its policy development in family-related issues without crossing the line into "social engineering"? That's the challenge.

The percentage of single teenage mothers has more than doubled in our state in the last 20 years. In Milwaukee County, 90 percent of all teen births are to unmarried women.

Kids should be encouraged to postpone parenting until they complete their educations, obtain training, and are in jobs where they can support themselves and their children.

Teenage pregnancies often result in low-birth-weight deliveries, exposure to both child abuse and neglect, school dropouts, emotional distress, one-parent families, as well as long-term welfare dependency.

The tab for government is high - more than $400 million a year in Wisconsin.

In addition, the rules currently in place for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) prohibit young couples who marry from retaining eligibility for AFDC if the father lacks a work history.

This can drive a significant wedge between unmarried couples - particularly in urban areas where young minority males often have very limited job opportunities open to them.

AFDC today also does little to foster a sense of responsibility among young fathers, who currently often neither marry the mothers of their children nor provide child support.

AFDC was established in the 1930s for widows and their children. The assumptions at the time provided that mothers would marry again, that AFDC would be a short-time bridge, and that mothers would not work. …

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