Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Welfare vs. Human Services Here's Why a Government Name Change Makes a Difference

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Welfare vs. Human Services Here's Why a Government Name Change Makes a Difference

Article excerpt

Words matter! They can engender wonderful feelings and thoughts. Or they can be hurtful and create a stigma.

Over the past few decades the word "welfare" has changed its meaning from something good - "for the welfare of all" - to something now interpreted as weak or helpless. The word welfare took on an especially hurtful meaning in the late 1970s when some of our national leaders referred to women raising children on their own as "welfare queens."

For many years Pennsylvania continued to use the word "welfare" to describe a department that actually provides human services. Pennsylvania has been one of only two states to call the department that provides human services the Department of Public Welfare.

As of Monday, though, Pennsylvania is no longer using the stigmatizing word "welfare" in an official capacity. The Pennsylvania Department of Welfare will now be known as the Department of Human Services. This important change is due to the efforts of brave lawmakers and thousands of human service consumers, providers and funders,

Thanks to the leadership of the Campaign for What Works, a statewide initiative promoting human service programs that work for the consumer, taxpayer and state, and the leadership of state Rep. Tom Murt and state Sen. Bob Mensch, both from Montgomery County, the General Assembly passed and Gov. Tom Corbett signed HB 993 changing the name of DPW to DHS. Their votes and the governor's signature prove that words really do matter.

First some facts: 98 percent of what the Department of Public Welfare, now Human Services, provides and funds are human services. By anyone's definition these services cannot be defined as welfare.

These are programs like Medicaid to cover long-term nursing care for the grandmother who worked all her life in hospital housekeeping but now needs help. …

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