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Battered women abused
by welfare system
Mothers protest states failure
to protect them and Bushs proposal to marry them off
San Francisco - A dramatic new report
indicates that under welfare reform in California, the state failed
to protect thousands of poor mothers and their children fleeing
domestic violence. The survey of 900 CalWORKs mothers found that
nearly a third of respondents were battered women who had been denied
domestic violence counseling and services under state implementation
of welfare reform.
The survey was conducted by LIFETIME,
a statewide organization of low-income parents, who held a press
conference Tuesday in front of the San Francisco office of Gov.
Schwarzenegger to demand an investigation of the failure of the
California Department of Social Services to protect battered women
and their children under the states implementation of welfare
Battered mothers in California
are abused by their men, only to be abused by The Man -the welfare
system, declared Kalia Mullin, a CalWORKs mother from Oakland.
For three years, I suffered from constant physical and emotional
abuse, but I had to show up with a black eye before I was told about
my eligibility for a domestic violence waiver.
According to LIFETIME Executive Director
Diana Spatz, Mullins experience is not unique. State
data indicates that less than 800 mothers in California were granted
domestic violence waivers in 2003 even though recent studies show
that as high as 80 percent of welfare mothers in California are
victims of domestic violence. Statewide, less than one-third of
one percent of CalWORKs mothers were granted domestic violence waivers,
and less than 2 percent are receiving any domestic violence services
at all. Something is terribly wrong with this picture.
Speakers at the event included CalWORKs
mothers who, as battered women, were denied services and waivers
for domestic violence under welfare reform. Said Pepper Moore, a
single mother and CalWORKs student at Cal State Hayward, I
was in an abusive relationship for four years, but I was never told
that I could receive counseling or a waiver for domestic violence.
When I requested help, my caseworker said I had to have bruises
all over my body and still be living with my abuser to get
a domestic violence waiver.
With LIFETIMEs help, I learned
this was illegal. But most mothers in my situation have no clue,
and are abused all over again when they turn to the welfare system
for help. So Im here to demand that Governor Schwarzenegger
investigate the state department of social services for failing
to protect battered women like me under welfare reform.
The event featured a mock wedding to
protest the presidents proposal to spend $1.5 billion on marriage
programs for welfare moms, which was promoted at a forum this morning
at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. According to protest
organizers, the Bush proposal is particularly troubling, given the
findings of their survey.
Because of domestic violence, I
lost my home and my job. Now the president wants to make me quit
school and get married, said Pepper Moore. Mothers like
me need access to education, not marriage counseling. My degree
will get my family off welfare, not a husband.
Mothers in two-parent families also agreed.
The welfare department forced me to stay in an abusive relationship
so that my childrens father could stay home and take care
of our kids - at no cost to the state - while I did my mandatory
welfare-to-work activity. Marriage is not a solution for mothers
like me, said Vivian Hain, a CalWORKs student at Vista College
in Berkeley and LIFETIME board member. The president needs
to spend that $1.5 billion on child care and domestic violence counseling
and services instead.
Even more troubling was what organizers
described as a pattern of discrimination in the delivery of domestic
violence services under welfare reform. Protest organizers cite
the fact that 343 of the 783 domestic violence waivers (43 percent)
granted statewide in November 2003 were in Orange County alone,
a county whose population is predominantly white. Moreover, organizers
pointed to previous studies that found that 75 percent of immigrant
mothers on welfare were never told about their eligibility for domestic
violence counseling and waivers, and when they were, they were often
given forms in English and not their native language, as required
under state and federal law.
According to Spatz, welfare reform,
as we know it, has put the lives of battered mothers and children
in danger. Immigrant mothers fleeing domestic violence were basically
being told to go home and not talk back to their husbands.
In one case, a Vietnamese mother living in a battered womens
shelter in San Jose was denied welfare benefits because she refused
to identify her childrens father, who had threatened to kill
her and her children if she did. Out of fear, she provided a false
name. She was later charged with felony welfare fraud for giving
false information, even though battered women have the right to
withhold the name of their childrens father if their safety
is at risk.
LIFETIME parent leaders demanded a meeting
with the governor to discuss this widespread problem. However, despite
having made three requests for a meeting with the governor since
December, mothers were forced to sit in his office, only to meet
with a staff person who promised to relay their concerns to the
My dad and relatives voted for
Gov. Schwarzenegger, so we hoped that a new governor would meet
with the people being affected by his decisions,
said CalWORKs student Melissa Johnson of Davis. So much for
his campaign promise to represent the people!
Said LIFETIME Program Director Anita
Rees, The governor declared that he would review the performance
of state agencies. Given the mistreatment of battered mothers under
welfare reform, the Department of Social Services is where he should
CalWORKs mothers from more than 15 California
counties participated in the LIFETIME survey, including San Francisco,
Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Sacramento, Yolo, Orange, Los Angeles,
Ventura, San Diego, Sierra, Butte and Shasta counties.
LIFETIME, Low Income Families Empowerment
through Education, is a state-wide, membership-based grassroots
group of low-income mothers and fathers throughout California organizing
for public policies that will get their families out of poverty.
LIFETIME has been waging its statewide End Poverty, Not Welfare
campaign since January 2003 to gain improvements in the States
CalWORKs program and for the creation of state welfare and budget
policies that will help low-income parents get off welfare and out
of poverty for good. Call LIFETIME at (510) 452 5192.
Stop Family Violence
331 W. 57th St #518
New York, NY 10019
the people's voice for family peace