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Statement by Shay Bilchik on Welfare Sanctions and the Health of Children


Washington, DC - Infants and toddlers whose families have lost welfare benefits or had their benefits reduced through sanctions are at increased risk for health problems, higher hospitalization, and hunger, according to a study just published in the July 2002 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

As child advocates, the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) and its 1,175 child-serving member agencies are committed to protecting children and their families. The unintended, harmful consequences of families being sanctioned and removed from receiving Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) has proven to be detrimental to the health of young children. Parents, policymakers, and the public need to be fully aware of the impact these sanctions have on the children of TANF families, especially now, as the Congress is deciding the future of TANF.

The impact of TANF sanctions on infants and toddlers in families whose benefits have been terminated or reduced resulted in:
  • an approximately 30% higher risk of having past hospitalizations,
  • a 90% higher risk of being hospitalized at the time of an emergency room visit, and
  • an approximately 50% higher risk of having inadequate food in their homes.
The study examined the impact of TANF sanctions on families in Baltimore, Boston, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC.

As Congress addresses the reauthorization of TANF, CWLA asks that the following policy implications be considered to protect America's children:
  • Reject mandating full-family sanctions.

  • Provide for assessments of each TANF family by qualified individuals trained in identifying barriers to employment-such as substance abuse, mental health, or disability-that, if untreated, could leave the family unable to comply with TANF rules and, thus, more likely to be sanctioned.
CWLA is committed to "Making Children a National Priority." We have a vision for America in which every child is healthy and safe, is able to develop to his or her potential, and is nurtured and receives what he or she needs to grow into an adult who is able to make positive contributions to family, community, and the nation.

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