Single families or households refers to a social family set up in which children are being raised up or nurtured by either their mother or their father. Such families are always catered for by only one parent. This family set-up may be as a result of various factors and conditions. Most of single families in our societies today are products of divorce or separation. Several marriage problems such as infidelity and mistrust top the list of why married couples often separate or legally divorce. In fact, many court cases in our contemporary society today revolve around divorce. When court grants a divorce under legal grounds, the court decides on which parent to take charge of the children. This automatically sets pace for the onset of single family and single-parenthood. Occasionally, some single families emerge from teenage or unplanned pregnancies. (Ellwood and Jencks 6)
The United States Public Assistance was instituted in the early 1960s and 1970s to benefit basically the US single-parent families. These public benefits are not flexible with changes in the US economy but differ from one state to another. Generally, the public assistance and benefits are below the poverty line of these single families and households. Jaynes and Williams cites that in 1986, the monthly public assistance and benefits for a family of four in California and Mississippi were US $698 and US$ 500 respectively. This was however still less than the poverty line by roughly 75% by then. In fact, they emphasize that in most states these benefits were about a half of the United States poverty level. (Jaynes and Williams 289)
Men are generally viewed by the society as the bread winners of every family simply because they are the people who secured and maintained jobs in the american socirty. The high rise in numbers of widows, single mothers, and deserted women who can barely cater for their children has been a very big challenge for both the United States federal and state governments. Faherty stresses that there are very many families headed by single mothers than those under the sole care of single fathers. The single-mother families thus end up lagging in poverty and are the the group that the public assistance program targets.
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Poor women are better off with public assistance than holding a job. The public assistance cash may be very small but not subject to taxation at all. However little this cash may be, it is still very significant in the lives of poor single parents or households. If such parents get jobs with minimum wages, then deductions or other taxation would seriously reduce it below the poverty line. Again, they do not toil so much to get such jobs done so as to earn the little wages. This is discouraging and such mothers find a relief in receiving the monthly public assistance. This is because having a job would expose them to a lot of taxations tha will highly reduce their net pay. This would take them far much below the poverty level.
Another benefit of providing public assistance to the single families and households is centered in the Medicaid. This health program is more important than the giving of cash assistance. Families under the care of single parents especially those headed by jobless mothers are very vulnerable. During the early ages of children from single families, they can easily be attacked by disease which can lead to a lot of sufferings and eventually death. The free medicare for such children in any case they get ill is timely and crucial. It has therefore saved many lives that would have rather been lost.
Public assistance ensures that homeless single families are accommodated. This program ensures the provision of cheap or free government housing for single families and households. For instance, single families headed by women are the most vulnerable group of people that this program addresses most. Supposed withdrawal of such a program would throw these families back into the open streets.
Employment of single mothers has nearly doubled in the near past. This is a result of public assistance that is highly connected to welfare activities. In cases whereby single parents have to do some work, whether part time or full time, the welfare programs encourage them to work extra hard. Having a job may sound more psychologically comforting than relying fully on public assistance. Such jobs can uplift single families’ socioecononmic status by boosting their income. Furthermore, some of the public assistance beneficiaries have had very smooth transitions into very good jobs. This is because this program prepared them well enough to adopt to such independent conditions. Securing a job will cut down the huge lambs of cash the the federal and the states government channel towards this program. For example, poor single parents who secure and maintain jobs can take care of other expenses such as health and rent. (Zastrow 133)
Drop in overall poverty rate in the United States has been a product of public assistance program. It is already very clear that most of the single mothers or households in the United States live below poverty line. They can hardly afford their daily care, food, shelter and education. If no intervention is done by the government, they will always lag behind. The issuance of public assistance in monetary form or materially has highly boosted the single families’ economic status. Even though they cannot cross this poverty line, they at least narrow down the gap by moving up closer to the poverty level.
The educational services that are offered under this public program is very necessary. It is doubtless that free things are never that much valued. However, the kind of education given to these needy children is inevitable. Without this fundamental education will simply ensure that the children does not grow up in total darkness. In fact, this in essence would set a very good step for the upgrading of such children. Even though chances of furthering their education is diminishing, they have somewhere to begin from. They surely will not start from zero.
The US teenage pregnancies and birthrates have greatly reduced since the introduction of the public assistance. According to the public assistance policies reforms, public assistance no longer cater for single unmarried mothers. This policy denies the teenage mothers the public assistance thus discouraging such teenage pregnancies. This is a very strong signal to teenagers especially the school going age that having babies at their age is not rewarding and they should refrain from it.
The availability of public assistance for the needy single families is highly acceptable to many. However much this program may offer good food and shelter to these poor and desperate single families, it should be accorded a second thought. Over-dependency on the public assistance is a direct discouragement to adequate labor supply. More astonishing is that health side effects such as obesity can be witnessed among poor single families and households. Smith (2009) argues that poor people are issued with a lot of money from the public assistance kitty. They then use this money to buy a lot of food which they eat uncontrollably leading to obesity. He reiterates that these poor people may end up eating a lot of food which has got high contents of calories. (Smith 5) Giving an individual help on a daily basis is a great discouragement to hard work and self reliance. According to Faherty (2009), it is better to employ a physically and mentally retarded person than entitle him or her to daily and constant help.
The public assistance program is a very expensive one to maintain. Faherty cites that in 2000, total federal and state spending on public assistance program amounted to $434 billion. The bulk of this funding came from the federal government with a significant figure footed by the state government. This kind of huge spending is a burden on the federal governments and thus should be readdressed. The federal or county governments constantly provide the needy single families with cash assistance from Temporary Aid to Needy Families. Their healthcare is taken care of by the Medicaid. Besides, the needy single family public assistance includes the food stamp, public housing, access to educational programs and a number of social services. These series of aids can be very challenging to finance. (Faherty 18)
Another setback of single families relying on public assistance is that they may remain within the poverty bracket forever. Zastrow (2009) observes that those receiving Temporary Aid for Needy Families may not possibly make it beyond the poverty line. He emphasizes that even if they secure jobs, they receive minimum wages that cannot push them beyond the poverty line. In case they make it, it would be just a little step above it. He fears that these Temporary Aid for Needy Families beneficiaries will be trapped in to long term poverty that may be very challenging to overcome. They have little opportunities to further their education or even invest. This permanently locks them within the minimum wage range. Furthermore, the kind of education at their disposal does not promote upward job mobility for them. (Zastrow 133)
Another disadvantage of the public assistance to single families is that this assistance creates a series of dependency. As already discussed, the kind of education that children from such families receive hardly favor or support their upward mobility. This simply implies that they will follow suite in depending on public assistance for the better part of their lives. This is a problem that will be transferred from one generation to another. (Faherty 27) Besides, some Americans get public assistance illegally by faking identifications. The dependency of this group is very worrying since they may abandon their good jobs only to receive public assistance toil free. (Gustafson 34-35)
Public assistance is a government initiative that comes with both good news and bad ones. Most people applause the assistance as it gives hope to the hopeless single families which can hardly withstand harsh economic times. In fact, it is a very humane step that ensures that everybody is part of the government. The above findings have clearly shown that giving public assistance to single families and single households may not be the perfect solution to single parenthood. It is very temporary and its recipients should constantly think of better ways of caring for running their families. Besides, limitations have also been exposed and much caution should be taken by such families too break off from this help as soon as they can to ensure their economic independence.
The federal and state governments should constantly audit and evaluate this program to track its success and failure. A very strong policy review should be done to ensure that the Temporary Aid for Needy Children meets and reaches its intended targets. This will be very instrumental in curbing imposters who constantly and illegally get access to such material or cash. It would be a mockery if the federal and state governments pump millions of dollars into a project who’s its beneficiaries are not well known. Federal governments should also ensure that they expand and redefine their Temporary Aid for needy families so as to minimize cash aid but focus most on humanitarian assistance. I recommend this because money is very flexible and may end in wrong activities. Finally, the government should design a long lasting mechanism that shall provide single families and households with long lasting solutions to their social and economic problems.
David T. Ellwood and Christopher Jencks. The Spread of Single -Parent Families in the United
States since 1960. PhD Thesis. USA: Harvard University Press, 2002.
Faherty, Sara. Welfare Reform. USA: Infobase Publishing, 2009.
Gerald David Jaynes and Robin Murphy Williams. A Common destiny: Blacks and American
Society. illustrated. 1989: National Academies, USA.
Gustafson, Kaaryn S. Cheating Welfare: Public Assistance and the Criminalization of Poverty.
New York: NYU Press, 2011.
Smith, Patricia Kay. Obesity Among Poor Americans: Is Public Assistance the Problem?
illustrated. USA: Vanderbilt University Press, 2009.
Zastrow, Charles. Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare: Empowering People. USA:
Cengage Learning, 2009.