Editorial: Children in need

State assistance policies that are driving more Kansas children into poverty need to be re-examined.

January 10, 2013


Gov. Sam Brownback is defending his administration’s new approach to programs designed to help poor families in Kansas, but the numbers are troubling.

According to news reports, the number of people receiving Temporary Aid for Needy Families has declined by 38 percent since the state instituted stricter rules for the payments in October 2011. That’s about 15,000 Kansans who no longer receive welfare payments aimed at sustaining the state’s poorest families. Among that number are 9,000 children, whose families no longer receive TANF.

If all of those people were successfully making the transition to self-sufficiency, there would be no cause for concern. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Since the Great Recession began in 2008, the number of Kansas families living in poverty has risen by about 80,000 people. During that same period, the child poverty rate in Kansas has increased from 14.5 percent to 18.8 percent. That’s nearly one in five Kansas children living in poverty.

On Monday, Brownback defended the new system, saying that most of the decline in families receiving TANF money is the result of a new requirement that they be actively looking for jobs. According to the regulations, that means people must make 20 job contacts each week. Brownback called that “a pretty modest requirement,” but it may not be so easy for some people, especially those living in small towns or rural areas, to achieve. A representative of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said that mothers with infants in their homes don’t have to meet that requirement, and caseworkers have “a certain amount of flexibility” in how that requirement is applied.

It’s certainly reasonable to try to motivate people on welfare to get a job, but if, as the governor suggested, the arbitrary new job requirement is the primary reason that 9,000 Kansas children have been thrown into poverty, the state should reconsider its stand.

Childhood poverty has many consequences, many of which will be costly to the state as those children grow up: problems in school, juvenile offenses, general lack of civic engagement and others.

Whatever the state is saving now by cracking down on public assistance funding may cost it much more dearly in the years to come.


mypointis 1 year, 3 months ago

I was fortunate enough to get into a job program a couple of years ago after being unemployed for over a year. I couldn't even find 20 jobs a MONTH in Lawrence that I actually applied for. I was either over qualified, under qualified or physically could not perform the tasks required to get the job due to physical limitations.

At the time I had no car, no internet and most of all NO MONEY! My job coach gave me a ride to interviews, SRS gave me a clothing allowance, and the agency I hooked up with gave me leads on jobs that weren't widely publicized.

Fortunately, after about six months of searching I found a job paying just above minimum wage that did not offer benefits of any kind. I currently have NO HEALTH INSURANCE and I no longer receive any State or federal assistance.

After 3 years I am working the same job and currently make a couple of dollars above minimum wage to provide for myself and child whose father pays NO child support and YES we were married for almost twenty years! I have NO ADDICTIONS, NO ARREST RECORD and am not uneducated, ignorant or stupid by any means! So stop with the sterotypes people!

I feel blessed to have a job, but the system is SO screwed up. Yes there are always those that abuse the system but a large number of individuals who are currently receiving assistance would LOVE to be employed. If the Brownback administration wants these people to seek gainful employment they must be ready to offer these people assistance in other ways whether it be transporation to interviews, childcare, clothing expenses, or other services.

Let's see, get a job, become the working poor and have no medical insurance! Sounds like a real incentive to me........


verity 1 year, 3 months ago

My experience has been that applying for jobs via the internet isn't very successful and if you have to go to the library to get access, you probably need transportation and possibly daycare. Of course, having jobs actually available helps in finding one. Then there's that pesky interview---transportation necessary and possibly daycare. Also appropriate clothes and transportation to a thrift shop to try to find something affordable. It seems that Brownback's policies are making this all more difficult.

But the very important point here is---you can argue about the ethics involved until hell freezes over, but we are going to pay more in the long run and have more wasted lives of children who will grow up in situations not of their making. This is not good for any of us. Yes, there are welfare frauds, yes, there are irresponsible people and, yes, some people have no doubt become discouraged because they are caught in a vicious cycle they can't see a way out of and have given up. But, in the end, we will all pay more, both in taxes and in a less safe society.


Cait McKnelly 1 year, 3 months ago

I wonder if Brownback would consider doing something about the whole Walmart-welfare connection?
1 Walmart is the largest private employer in the US.
2. All four members of the Walton family rank in the top ten richest billionaires in the country.
3. Yet they pay their employees so little that two thirds of their work force qualifies for public assistance; food stamps and/or Medicaid. The corporation actually employs people to assist their employees in applying for assistance.
4. This means that Federal taxes are, in essence, going into the coffers of some of the richest people in the country.
Anybody think our governor will do anything about ensuring that the state's poorest are paid a fair wage, given the opportunity to support their own children and taken off of public assistance and stop the flow of tax dollars to the Waltons?
Yeah, I thought not.


disappointed_regressive 1 year, 3 months ago

Many parents are OK with the state in control----until a paddle lands on their l'il one's rear end for misbehaving, then all heck breaks loose.


katz 1 year, 3 months ago

If Brownback is going to be so generous to businesses through tax cuts, he should add requirements for them, too. Companies that provide on-site child care have more productive employees. The cost of child care alone makes it prohibitive for low wage earners to make enough to support a family. If Brownback cared as much about children as he does about the unborn, why not require businesses to provide on-site child care or better yet, living wages, as a requirement for business tax breaks?


headdoctor 1 year, 3 months ago

Guess my question was answered. Silly me. What was I thinking.


rockchalk1977 1 year, 3 months ago

Are parents responsible for their own children anymore? It would seem government schools have failed to properly educate these people if they can't provide for their children. Time to introduce some competition into the the educational system so no parent is left behind.


jhawk1998 1 year, 3 months ago

In this technology age there is no reason a job seeker cant' look for and apply for employment online. If that is the only requirement to receiving aid it seems reasonable to me.


Les Blevins 1 year, 3 months ago

In response to grammaddy's question; "What about those with no car?" I suppose our Gov. would have them use the rent money or perhaps use the kids lunch money to rent a car.


Les Blevins 1 year, 3 months ago

63BC, On Monday, Brownback defended the new system, saying that most of the decline in families receiving TANF money is the result of a new requirement that they be actively looking for jobs,, so no,, according to Brownback himself,, most of what's in the article doesn't pre-date the Brownback Administration and his policies


grammaddy 1 year, 3 months ago

Looking for 20 jobs a week can get expensive. What about those with no car? And where are these jobs?


63BC 1 year, 3 months ago

Given that the most recent poverty data are from 2008-2011 and that the Kansas budget year runs July 1 through June 30---doesn't most of what's here and in the article pre-date the Brownback Administration and Brownback policies?


Cait McKnelly 1 year, 3 months ago

This is just more of Governor Brownback's post birth abortion policies. Nothing to see here. Move along.


horsegirl 1 year, 3 months ago

LD, because you don't have to be a good parent to have children. Maybe we shouldn't worry about abused kids either, I mean, their parents chose to have them. They are not our responsibility. Better yet, lets regulate who can have children and then we won't have to worry about these excess expenses. Hmmm. Meet minimum income levels or sterilization until you do.


Laus_Deo 1 year, 3 months ago

Why is it someone else's responsibility to take care of their children they had a choice to have?


Les Blevins 1 year, 3 months ago

Careful Dolph; making rational statements and taking rational positions is a good way for a guy like you to be labeled a moderate Republican, and having such a label isn't safe here in Kansas anymore.


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