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Fraser calls for welfare reform to focus on helping kids succeed.

Pointing to the many ironies played out time after time under the current welfare system, NLC President Don Fraser said, "A young woman should not have to get pregnant to get job training."

"Today," Fraser said, "we are again reacting to public criticism of a system which appears to reward those who do not work. The public is mystified and angry. We are responding to this anger rather than focusing on the important goal of helping children."

Fraser made his remarks before the Clinton Administration's Working Group on Welfare Reform, Family Support and Independence on August 19 in Washington, D.C.

Current welfare reform proposals do not focus on ways to help children succeed, according to Fraser, mayor of Minneapolis. "I fear that pursuing current reform proposals will worsen the present situation."

Fraser was joined by representatives of the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Association of Counties, National Governors Association and American Public Welfare Association in urging that welfare reform be broadly defined to attack the cycle of poverty. Health care reform and accessible child care were noted as the keys to ending "welfare as we know it."

He described welfare's current status as disastrous. "Children," he said, "are being raised in families in which hope and optimism are strangers, and in which the father is a furtive figure.

Fraser suggested that the Working Group consider creation of a means-tested children's allowance provided to "child rearing units" regardless of composition (single parent, married couple, etc.). Fraser lauded the recent expansion of the earned income tax credit included in the new budget reconciliation legislation and suggested expansion of this mechanism to provide more child-centered support.

The children's allowance, according to Fraser, would be intended to reduce (1) the rewards of parenthood outside of marriage and (2) the penalties for marriage and family formation which exist in the current AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) program.

"What's happening to kids is really bad," Fraser said in response to questions from the Working Group. "The continuing growth in the percentage of births to never-married parents increases the number of children growing up in despondency, with a lack of hope and a lack of role models. It's not a moral issue it's a practical issue."

"It's a disaster when in some Minneapolis neighborhoods 80 to 90 percent of births may be occurring to unmarried parents," Fraser said. "This is a big deal, not a little deal. It is feeding racism." He also called attention to the shortage of "fathers who give a damn and care."

"We have to change expectations," he said, "declare that there is a community value."

In her statement, Ohio State Rep. Jane Campbell cited the current 45,000 adults in Cuyahoga County dependent on public assistance and questioned the availability of an equivalent number of jobs in the private sector. She stressed the importance of family preservation efforts and said that government policies on poverty "shouldn't be anti-family from the get-go."

In his written statement Fraser directed attention to the major points of the recent NLC Task Force Report on Federal Policy and Poverty: (1) welfare is a failure and should be fundamentally transformed; (2) work should be available; (3) work should pay; (4) working more should pay more; (4) child care should be available; (5) child support should be absolute; (6) Health Care should be available; (7) marriage should be rewarded and (8) federal policies should be assessed in terms of their effect on work and family and especially poor families.

City officials interested in copies of Fraser's statement and the NLC Task Force Report on Federal,policy and Poverty can obtain them by calling (202) 626-3020.
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities president Donald Fraser
Author:Peterson, Doug
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Aug 23, 1993
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