Should California Pay Welfare Parents to Stay Home?

Filed under: Opinions

Should the government pay those on welfare to stay home and care for their kids?

That's the question Los Angeles officials are asking as the number of unemployed rises and California deals with a budget crises that threatens to land the state in bankruptcy. Governor Schwarzenegger wants to eliminate Cal Works, the state's welfare to work program. LA County Supervisors prefer to make deep cuts and save the program. Their goal: Target the most expensive people.

Currently, California "Welfare to Work" recipients are required to find a job or participate in government funded training or school. While fulfilling the program requirements, the government also covers childcare costs of about $500 per child per month.

The only exception to the work and training requirement are welfare recipients with a child under the age of one. One of the easiest ways to save money is to expand the exemption to include those with a baby under two years of age and those with two or more children under age six. In other words, pay more people to stay home with their kids.

Seems like a good idea -- but how do other parents feel?

I decided to search the web for the opinions of other moms and was surprised to find how many working moms were peeved that they might be subsidizing some other woman's at-home experience. "Hey, I'd like to stay home with my kids too," was the sentiment, "but I can't afford not to work! Why should they get a free ride?"

Others complained that this proposal would set us back years in welfare reform. The government, they argue, should steer clear of any policy that might provide low-income women with an incentive to have more babies than they can financially support.

While I believe that the government ought to be in the business of saving taxpayers money, especially during tough times, there are other considerations, such as who actually makes a good at-home parent? It's impossible to separate those parents who would do well as at-home parents from those who will not. For example, I happen to have a relative on government assistance whose kids would surely be better off in daycare while mom works. At home, there is no structure and very little supervision.

In the "LA Times" article, moms who would be affected by the proposed changes were conflicted. Some looked forward to spending more time with their children, while others said that it was best for the economy and their self esteem to "push people" to train and work.

These are complicated policy questions with no easy answers. Most states are facing staggering and unsustainable budget deficits. At the same time, unemployment is at an all-time high and families are hurting. Is it best for the economy to invest in the education and training of welfare recipients or is this the time to make cuts and keep low-income parents home with their children?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.