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Welfare reform makes parents pay


Programs aimed at improving children's preventive health care and school attendance, initiated by the state as part of welfare reform, make parents pay for their shortcomings.

Dave Ensor, assistant director of Carroll County's Department of Social Services, told members of the Carroll County Children's Council yesterday that such initiatives would make families who receive AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) pay a price for neglecting their children's health and educational needs.

"The PPI [Primary Preventive Initiative] instituted on Jan. 1, 1993 is an incentive program for parents to see that their preschool-aged children receive preventive health care," Mr. Ensor said. "The program requires the parent to supply Social Services with the necessary documentation on their child's health care or they will be sanctioned $25 per child."

Mr. Ensor said the second part of the PPI program requires parents to enroll their children in school and see that they attend 80 percent of the time. This requirement specifically applies to children ages 7 to 16.

A parent who fails to meet this stipulation can be fined $25 per child.

Since PPI's inception, the county Department of Social Services has sanctioned three families with a total of six children.

"So far, the program seems to be working," Mr. Ensor said. "With AFDC we do a six-month review for eligibility. At this time, parents are checked to make sure they are providing their children with the necessary health care and maintaining good attendance. Essentially, if parents do not comply, we find out what the problem is and we give them 10 days to correct it."

Providing further incentive to the PPI program would be recent cuts in AFDC grant money made by the state.

Since last November, the changes in AFDC have resulted in decreases in monthly benefits to families; parents who do not comply with the PPI requirements have sanctions taken directly from their already reduced monthly AFDC checks.

"Reduced grants became effective in November 1992," Mr. Ensor said. "For example, a family of two in Carroll County went from $294 a month to $280 a month."

AFDC is assistance given to families where the parent/caretaker is absent from the home due to a separation or death or the parent/caretaker is unemployed or cannot work due to a disability.

In Carroll County, 750 to 800 families receive AFDC.

"Most of these families are utilizing AFDC because they have lost their jobs or they have exhausted their unemployment benefits," Mr. Ensor said.

In addition to the AFDC program, Mr. Ensor reported on a number of other Social Services programs that have been modified.

The PWC (Pregnant Women and Infant Children) is a federal program that had its income scale revised last month.

The program covers pregnant women and their prenatal care, delivery and post-partum care. It also provides the newborn child with medical care through the first year.

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