Job, Welfare, and Community Change
Senator Dianne Wilkerson
I HAVE BEEN IN MASSACHUSETTS ALMOST ALL OF MY LIFE AND I remember spending short periods of time as a child living with my mother, who was a single woman with eight children, on AFDC in Massachusetts. I remember the anguish, although I never understood what it was. Also, I have had the experience as an adult of raising children on AFDC.
One of the most significant reasons I decided to run for the state legislature was because I knew during the 1992 campaign, that the then-sitting legislature had indicated that it was their intention to take up the welfare reform issue in the 1993-94 legislative session. We had gone through "reforms" three or four times since I had been in Massachusetts, and it seemed to me that every time that our legislature had reformed our system, things got a little bit worse! I had always been of the opinion that the reason things have gotten so disorganized with our system is because we didn't have anybody who had actually lived through raising children on AFDC making the decisions and developing policy about what a real reformed system ought to look like to make it work for the people -- the children -- for whose benefit it was created, who would otherwise live in poverty in Massachusetts. I thought that running for the legislature would be a chance to be involved in an issue in a much more direct and personal way than I could ever do from the outside. After all, the welfare system was established by the government to meet the needs of poor women, so why are government officials blaming them for using it? It's been a very difficult time.