Welfare reformers commit to new focus/New Bush Push - 11/18/2001
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Wed Nov 21 10:14:39 EST 2001
subject: Welfare reformers commit to new focus - 11/18/2001
from: Smart Marriages
Note - two articles here - Chicago Trib followed by Agape Press.
WELFARE REFORMERS COMMIT TO NEW FOCCUS
Welfare reformers commit to new focus
By Monica Davey Tribune staff reporter
November 18, 2001
WEATHERFORD, Okla. -- On a recent school night, Les and Leslie Parrott, the
state's official "Marriage Ambassadors," shared the secrets of their 17-year
union with a crowd of mostly women students in the auditorium of
Southwestern Oklahoma State University's remote campus.
The Parrotts' stories were the dull stuff of everyday life, of messy closets
and making salads. But the messages were larger: don't be too clingy in your
relationships nor too aloof.
If the evening sounded like a self-help segment from the "Oprah" show, where
the Parrotts appeared earlier in the day, it was not. This was a new layer
of national welfare reform in action.
Five years after the United Statesoverhauled its welfare system, the top
priority of placing recipients in jobs has happened. However, experts worry
the accelerated economic downturn after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could
set back a national achievement that has seen welfare rolls slashed by half
Despite the potential snags ahead, Bush administration officials in recent
months have began focusing on what they view as the next phase of welfare
reform: promoting marriage as another way to reverse the patterns of poverty
and dependence on government.
Program on the frontier
Oklahoma, more than any other state, has pioneered the movement with a
program that takes a multifaceted approach. It includes lectures by the
Parrotts, training for state welfare workers and public health nurses to
help their clients get counseling on relationships, pairing of married
couples as mentors to younger couples, and religious leaders urging
Gov. Frank Keating has pledged an unprecedented $10 million in federal
welfare funds to this "Marriage Initiative" aimed at encouraging marriage,
reducing out-of-wedlock births and cutting the state's divorce rate by
one-third by 2010.
The pro-marriage concept has raised concern nationally, with critics
wondering whether a government-sponsored marriage movement will discriminate
against non-traditional relationships. They also fear that abused women may
be urged to lock themselves into dangerous relationships and, perhaps most
of all, question whether government officials and taxpayer dollars belong in
decisions so personal.
But Bush's welfare chief, Wade F. Horn, said the notion "ought to be a
pretty uncontroversial idea" and was meant to be part of the 1996 welfare
reform legislation, even if it took a back seat to first putting people to
"This isn't about forcing people to get married," said Horn, assistant
secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human
Services. "It is not about withdrawing benefits to single mothers merely
because they're not married. It's not about keeping people in abusive
situations. It's not about the government running a dating service.
"This is about helping couples who choose marriage get access to what they
need to sustain a healthy marriage," said Horn, who until his appointment to
HHS this year ran an organization called the National Fatherhood Initiative.
Since then-Vice President Dan Quayle stirred up a controversy 10 years ago
by condemning Murphy Brown, a television character who wanted to have a baby
and remain single, the so-called marriage movement has blossomed in the
It has spawned experts and academics along with a whole crop of think tanks,
conferences and marriage courses. Smart Marriages' sixth annual conference
next year promises 40 different courses, including Divorce Busters, How to
Avoid Marrying a Jerk and Hot Monogamy.
Government's entry into the movement is more recent. Programs have begun in
states including Arizona, Louisiana and Florida. With the urging of
officials like Horn, more states are preparing to follow suit.
But Oklahoma, thanks largely to Keating, has arranged a more extensive, more
expensive program than any other state.
The Republican governor, who has been married for 28 years, said his
interest in the "Marriage Initiative" began as a matter of economics. He
asked academics to explain why Oklahoma was lagging behind other states
economically, and they came back with some surprising conclusions: Part of
the state's poverty was being prompted by too many divorces--the nation's
second-highest rate--along with too many out-of-wedlock births and too much
drug and alcohol abuse.
"So I got to thinking about it, and thought, tell me the goodness of a
society where it's easier to get a divorce than a hunting or a fishing
license?" Keating said in a recent interview. "This way, public health
nurses who talk to single mothers can at least be asking the questions:
Where is your husband? Or, have you thought about marrying the father of
This fall, state workers--including public health officials and welfare case
workers--are learning about the marriage course slated as a relationship
counseling tool, Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program.
During one of those training sessions at the University of Central Oklahoma
in Edmond, Linda Waite offered statistics that backed up the state's focus.
The University of Chicago sociologist cited research suggesting married
people are richer, healthier, happier and have better sex lives.
Oklahoma officials say it is too early to know whether the state's divorce
rate is slowing or whether its marriage rate is rising, although Keating
said he is "confident" results will come.
For the most part, the initiative has been met with little criticism within
However, state Sen. Kevin Easley, a Democrat, has voiced worries about
paying for the project with the state's welfare coffers--federal money that
could be used for items like child-care subsidies, job training or other
services that help people adjust to life without welfare checks. He said he
fears too much money will go to consultants putting together "glitzy"
marriage programs, like the Parrotts' 11-college speaking tour and the
training sessions for state welfare workers.
"I have philosophical concerns as to whether $10 million for poor Oklahomans
should go to high-paid consultants," said Easley. "I haven't seen any
results other than some fancy, pat-ourselves-on-the-backs program, and I
don't know if we ever will."
Mary Myrick, the Marriage Initiative project director, said her eight-person
staff, consultants and expenses totaled $300,000 in the fiscal year that
ended in October. Next year's budget has not been completed.
In Weatherford, 70 miles west of Oklahoma City, the students in the
auditorium at Southwestern Oklahoma State listened as the Parrotts advised
against idealizing a mate and in favor of "making yourself whole" before
picking a mate.
Brandy Carlson tuned in from the second row. "I'm proud if our state is
leading the way on this," said the 18-year-old freshman, who plans to marry
Copyright © 2001, Chicago Tribune
BUSH'S NEW FAMILY-ORIENTED PUSH:
Fatherhood, Adoption Among Bush's Family-Oriented Push
By Bill Fancher November 19, 2001
(AgapePress) - A federal official says the White House realizes the benefit
of a stable home to the nation and to children, and will be promoting the
stability of the American home throughout the next three years.
Martin Dannenfelser heads the Administration for Children and Families, a
division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dannenfelser
says one part of the Administration's focus will be to promote responsible
"The consequences to children who were raised without a father in the home
are staggeringly negative," Dannenfelser says. "It is vital that fathers be
prepared to nurture and take responsibility for any children they produce,
and hopefully to do so in the context of a strong and committed marriage."
Dannenfelser says one step involves $64 million which has been proposed by
Bush to be allotted to programs that promote responsible fatherhood. He says
the Administration has also unveiled its plan to reduce abortions through
its proposed federal budget.
"The President has proposed $33 million to establish maternity group homes
to help young mothers and pregnant women who cannot live with their own
families," he says. "In these homes, they will have a safe and stable
environment where they will receive childcare, education, job training,
counseling, and parenting training."
Dannenfelser says the President has also set aside several million dollars
to promote more adoptions in the efforts to reduce the number of abortions.
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