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Trends And Emerging Issues Related to Welfare Reform: a Perspective For Extension

Vol. 3, No. 2, Summer 1998

Marilyn A. Corbin, Ph.D.

Condra Jones knows firsthand what is necessary to make the transition from welfare to work. She spent several months last year on public assistance before the local Employment Security Commission matched her with a position at the Speech and Hearing Clinic. "I think anybody can do it if they've got a support group behind them, if they have some skills, and they comply by the rules," says Ms. Jones. "Sometimes you need somebody just to pat you on the back and tell you it's going to be all right." Ms. Jones knows what it is like living in the transition from welfare to work.

Since the passage of the new federal welfare legislation in August 1996, states are actively transforming systems that provide services and benefits to welfare recipients. A major paradigm shift is occurring, especially as workers focus on the importance of work, job placement, and retention rather than on receiving financial assistance without work.

A number of significant trends are evident as organizations and agencies work together to change and manage the transition of the welfare culture to a renewed emphasis on personal responsibility:

Implications for Extension Education

By building on the strengths of the Cooperative Extension Service, extension agents are well prepared and uniquely positioned to facilitate community involvement and work directly and indirectly to address the needs of families in poverty. Each of the following potential audiences has different educational and informational needs.

Extension educators are actively and appropriately engaged in communities to eliminate barriers to independence and self-sufficiency.

Single mothers on welfare remarked during a recent Work First hearing in Raleigh that the logistical difficulties they face as they try to do better for themselves and their children are extremely challenging. One mother said, "the lack of reliable transportation keeps me from holding down a job." Two others want to move up in life by earning degrees, but the state's requirement that they work full-time to receive public assistance makes their dreams impossible. The scarcity of affordable, trustworthy child care also seriously hinders these and other mothers' ability to work.

It is important to note that even though people will be exiting the welfare system, some people will be working but remain poor. Extension will continue to have a role to play as people strive to become more self-sufficient. Extension can not only teach directly to limited resource families, but also play a valuable role in facilitating community involvement, training volunteers, and encouraging citizens to continue the process of lifelong learning.


Braun, B. (1998), Land-Grant Universities and Welfare Reform: Important Public Work for the Commonwealth. See: http://www.cas.psu.edu/docs/casadmin/cashr/updates/McDowellLecture.html

DeBord, K. (1997), What Extension can offer to the Welfare Reform Efforts, National Network for Child Care. See: http://www.nncc.org/Research/ext.welf.html

Hercik, J. (1998), Organizational Culture Change in Welfare Reform. See: http://www.welfareinfor.org/Isseorganiza.htm

Lerner, R., K. Bogenschneider, B. Wilcox, E. Fizsimmons, L. Hoopfer. (1996), Welfare Reform and the Role of Extension Programming. See: http://www.cyfernet.org/welfare_reform/

Rupured, M. (1997), Role of Extension in Welfare Reform. See: http://www.cyfernet.org/welfare/edurole.html

Schuchardt, J. (1997), Employee Education? Contact An Extension Educator, Personal Finances and Worker Productivity, 1997. Vol 1, No. 1.

Cite this article:

Corbin, Marilyn. "Trends and Emerging Issues Related to Welfare Reform." The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues 3.2 (1998): 22 pars. 9 July 1998

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