A social worker talking about welfare? wild

It is hard being a social worker. 

Not because of the small salary

Not because of the long hours

Not because of the crisis calls

No, it is hard because many people have the wrong idea of the social welfare system. People hear “welfare” and think single moms who have a ton of kids to “make money” from the government. First, I cannot tell you how wrong that stereotype is. Just set that aside for a moment. I am not trying to take that hurtful, wrong idea away from you. 

I am trying to show you another side of welfare. The side that I work with.

I am a case manager with Pinnacle Services. My company is contracted by Hennepin County and my job is to manage waivered services for people with developmental disabilities. This waiver is called the DD waiver (should not be to surprising). 

Have you ever wondered what happened to the handicap kid in your class? Or the little girl with Down Syndrome who lived across the street? Well, they grew up. Into adulthood. And, for whatever reasons, were denied reasonable access to a “normal” life. 

So in order to live, they need some help. They need a company to be willing to hire them, they need a place to eat, sleep, and live, and they need to develop relationships. And we, as a community and through our taxes, have said “yes, people with developmental disabilities are worth supporting.” And then we voted in representatives who have determined how we support them. 

I manage the services for the DD waiver. I make sure my clients have housing and what we call DT&H programs which are often vocational in nature. If there is a problem or a client wants to move, I help them find the appropriate solution. 

My clients are wonderful. I want to ensure they can continue living where they do and keep seeking access to employment. God forbid, we ever backslide and shunt those who are different off into a corner again. Yet, you, yes YOU, make my job difficult. Every time people cut taxes and welfare spending you are taking money away from these wonderful people. All because you have the wrong understanding of what welfare is.

At the end of the day, we need to remember the most important thing: we are talking about people. People’s lives. People’s livelihoods. People’s happiness. 

Yeah, it costs money. And of course we should always look for places to improve. But how can you look at someone and tell them you do not think their life is as valuable as your own? 

The most frustrating thing for me is my inability to articulate what I am actually trying to say.

Welfare of the 80s is gone. People are not “cut checks” and social workers do not just “hand out” money. Welfare is bigger than single moms. It is people with developmental disabilities who need some source of income. It is people who are sick and need health insurance. It is people who are going to college and cannot afford the upfront costs so we create government student loans. It is people who did good throughout the year and so they write off their charitable donations on their taxes. Everyone participates in the welfare system. And the welfare system is larger than it is possible to articulate. There are so many faucets and the government helps so many people. 

Please stop saying we should stop having welfare because everyone just abuses the system. This is not true. Admit the truth to yourself at least: taxes are a pain in the ass, it is hard to see how tax money is used, and you would rather have the money in your own pocket. That’s okay. It is fine to think that way. Just know that welfare is not a money maker and it is not easy to manipulate and that there are a lot of people who need welfare who are not single mothers with 25 kids; in fact, you’ve probably had a little government support in your life (even if you don’t know it).


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