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Fraser says welfare reform must strengthen the family.

According to Minneapolis mayor Don Fraser, first vice president of the National League of Cites, "The United States is on a self-destructive path of impoverishing families and children."

Fraser, who presented testimony before the House Domestic Task Force of the House Select Committee on Hunger, spoke of the need for the nation's welfare policy to focus on strengthening children and families rather than solely on parents.

The Task Force hearing, chaired by Rep. Mike Espy (D-Miss.), focused on the "State and Local Perspective on Welfare Reform: Rhetoric, Reality and Opportunities." The reality that was depicted illustrated the failures of the AFDC program and other current policies to provide support for family structure. And while the Family Support Act of 1988 was discussed in mostly positive terms, witness imparted some of the shortcomings of implementing a national program when all regions of the country do not fit program expectations.

Rep. Bill Emerson (R-Mo.), who represents a mainly rural district, discussed the problems with requiring job training in return for public assistance in a rural area when there are no jobs to be had and no transportation to get to a job even if there was one. Emerson also described the situation of one young woman who would have to relocate to gain full-time employment. However, she had no place to live if she moved and there was no guarantee that a job would be found anyway. These were not the only problems with current policy.

One witness from Mississippi testified that "the average welfare benefit for a woman with two children is $13,000 per year in this country. I cannot speak for the rest of the county, but I can assure you that the cash benefit for a woman with two children in Mississippi is a whopping $1,440 per year. Even with the full food stamp allotment, this family would still be under 50 percent of the federal poverty line."

"Each and every community in this nation must support its families and children," the witness said.

Quoting a background paper for the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, authored by Frank Barry of the Family Life Development Center at Cornell University, Fraser said, "child maltreatment is a symptom of not just individual or family trouble, but neighborhood and community trouble as well. If a community is in trouble, so are its families. Each community needs to celebrate its own diversity and uniqueness while affirming those values which strengthen its families."

Fraser went on to say that the nation's education system must encourage all children to believe in their future and teach them how to achieve their personal goals. Programs should strive to build self esteem and establish a "can do" attitude in each and every child."

Espy, who is sponsoring several welfare reform bills, has been a long-time advocate for asset-based welfare policy.

The hearing was the second in a series of three to help determine in what direction federal policymakers should move as they work to reform the nation's welfare policies. "In the wake of the riots in Los Angeles and other cities," Espy said, "this mandate is even more critical. We have to act--indeed, the riots have given us a better opportunity to act--but we have to act wisely."
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Title Annotation:Minneapolis, Minnesota mayor Don Fraser
Author:Quist, Janet
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jun 8, 1992
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