Now our shambolic welfare system drives children into the arms of big pharma.
Now we learn from the Boston Globe that poor mothers and their children are increasingly turning to federal disability support for children. In the process, which requires a diagnosis, more of their children are being diagnosed (and medicated) as mental health patients, creating a web of perverse incentives — the kind we don’t seem to impose on the rich (see Rock v. Hard Place).
Caring for children is a job, but when it’s not paid it doesn’t put food on the table, or a table in the house (or a roof on the house). So a single parent needs a paid job and help (paid or not) with the children — without welfare or other income source. As we know, welfare is not there for poor single-parent families, and wasn’t even before during the recession.
A few years ago, I belatedly noticed that disabilities throw off this indelicate getting-by work-family balance — by increasing the care needed and reducing the capacity to work. And, unsurprisingly but little-noticed, the process of caring for children with disabilities includes a very strong set of mechanisms sorting them into living arrangements under the care of women.
As the old welfare system was shedding its wards, women with disabilities were falling through the cracks: more likely to be in poverty, relatively less likely to be employed, and less likely to be receiving state support of any kind — and increasingly turning to extended household living arrangements.
It turns out some of those welfare-receiving single mothers had disabilities, but the old AFDC/TANF had been easier to qualify for than disability support (which may require — for a diagnosis, at least — decent health care), and many were not successfully making the transition (even though states were pushing them toward disability, to meet federal pressure for shrinking “welfare” rolls). In that paper, I concluded:
U.S. social policy does not proceed from the assumption that unpaid carework, and care for children in particular, is an essential public good. Therefore, the practice of caring for children instead of working for pay is easily classified as “idleness,” and public compensation for the time and effort expended is considered charity or demeaned as dependence. … Among single mothers with disabilities in the United States, the rock of disability has met the hard place of welfare reform, and the result is official poverty rates of 56% 32(only marginally minimized by household extension), employment rates below 1-in-5, and an increasing tendency to surrender residential independence for basic survival or wellbeing. For this group of about 700,000 mothers, more than 20% of whom live below half the poverty line, only sustained policy attention … [etc. etc.].
For some reason the authorities haven’t yet taken my advice. Must be because we didn’t have blogs back then.