Featured post

ACTION ALERT: Calls urgently needed to save General Assistance

STOP ELIMINATION OF GENERAL ASSISTANCE!
TAKE ACTION ON GENERAL ASSISTANCE NOW—FULL HOUSE VOTE EXPECTED SOON

The bill that would end General Assistance — HB 33 — was passed by the PA House Health Committee on Monday, March 25 and may move quickly to the House floor for a vote.

Please contact your local legislators and tell them vote no on eliminating or cutting GA.

Call and email your local PA House member, other legislators – also your local PA Senator. Call their Harrisburg and local offices.  Please see sample script, below. 

For more information, see links below:

Also, oppose Governor Wolf’s proposal to divert GA funding to affordable housingwe need both cash assistance and housing!

Featured post

Support the RISE Act & Reintroduction of WORK Act!

End poverty of mothers & children. Recognize caregiving work.
Sign the petition to US Congress • 50+ current endorsersPlease add your organization today! Send this letter to your mailing lists and contacts.


For the first time in decades there is a piece of legislation and one we want reintroduced in the US Congress that recognize the work of mothers.

The RISE Out of Poverty Act (Gwen Moore, D-WI) would make ending child poverty the primary goal of TANF. The Women’s Option to Raise Kids (WORK) Act which needs to be reintroduced into Congress (was introduced in the last Congress by former Congressman Pete Stark, D- CA), recognized that raising children is vital work, and would give mothers the option of raising young children fulltime at home under current welfare legislation (TANF). The two bills together are a power for mothers everywhere, whether we are low income or not. They begin to finally value and provide resources for mothers and to undermine the growing poverty of women and children.

Sign the petition to US CongressCall to ActionJoin the growing list of endorsing organizationsAbout the bills • Letter to Members of Congress, Congressional Black Caucus • Truthout: “Welfare Reform” Is Pushing Women Into Unwaged Work • Letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer • Historic resolution from 1977 Houston Women’s Conference • 2Pac: Dear MamaMore…

General Assistance Must Not Be Eliminated nor the Funds Diverted, But Increased: Testimony to the PA Poor People’s Campaign Demands Delivery rally

Testimony of Pat Albright, Every Mother is a Working Mother Network and Global Women’s Strike/Philadelphia

Pennsylvania Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival Demand Delivery in Harrisburg, March 19, 2019

We are here today to demand that General Assistance or GA not be cut or eliminated as proposed by Republicans, nor the funding diverted to affordable housing as proposed by Democratic Governor Wolf.  In fact, we are demanding that it be increased.  While very little, it is still a lifeline for some who are ineligible for other forms of cash assistance including through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF.  I know from personal experience, as a woman with a disability and who at the time had no children, that GA was vital to my survival after being laid off from my job in a disco light factory, until disability benefits came through.

Who would be impacted if GA were cut or the funds diverted? Some of those impacted, would include:

  • women and others leaving domestic violence situations;
  • young people trying to survive besides a life on the streets;
  • caregivers for an unrelated child;
  • people in drug or alcohol recovery programs;

And people waiting, sometimes for years, for disability benefits, including:

  • veterans;
  • people getting out of prison;
  • mothers who lost TANF when their children were put in foster care, often because of poverty;

People of color would be disproportionately impacted.

This is not the first time we have had to defend General Assistance.  In the early 1980’s I joined a takeover of the Capitol to defend General Assistance which was under attack, taking over the Rotunda for days, sleeping overnight, hanging out laundry.  It was led by Roxanne Jones (later State Senator), Louise Hanible and Nancy Carroll, among others, with the support of State Representative David P. Richardson, who fought for General Assistance, TANF and all welfare benefits as an entitlement, a right, for the work of survival and caregiving, and so that no mother or child or anyone would be poor.  We were inspired by the work of the late welfare rights leaders Beulah Sanders and Johnnie Tillmon, both of whom were in the forefront with Dr. Martin Luther King of the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968.  They along with Black Women for Wages for Housework got passage of a resolution at the first and only Congressionally mandated conference on women held in 1977 that said women receiving welfare should be “afforded the dignity of having that payment called a wage, not welfare”.  Several of those of us carrying on that legacy are involved in the Poor People’s Campaign today.

Tragically, GA was eliminated in 2012.  But ultimately these grassroots efforts inspired a legal case brought before the PA Supreme Court that succeeded in reinstating GA in 2018, only to be under threat again today.

We are here to change the narrative on General Assistance as well as TANF and other welfare benefits often treated as charities for those unable or unwilling to work – while ignoring the reality that the poorer we are the harder we are forced to work.

We demand what rightfully we should have as human beings with the right to dignity and value for our contributions to society — General Assistance as well as TANF and other welfare benefits — and an end to time limits, work requirements and other punitive measures.  We refuse to be divided into “deserving” and “undeserving” poor.  We are part of the Poor People’s Campaign because we are part of the new and unsettling force shifting the narrative away from devaluing the lives of some of us.  We are all workers who are deserving and who all make a contribution to society.

Pat Albright testimony to DHS hearing in Philadelphia City Council, Feb 12

Statement for Councilman David Oh hearing on Resolution #180787 Tues Feb 12, 2019
From the Every Mother is a Working Mother Network    

Thank you for giving us and others the opportunity to speak today about our experiences with the child welfare system.   With Philadelphia now once again #1 among large US cities for removing children from their homes, this is an urgent matter for the most impacted communities.

I am representing the Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, a multi-racial local and national grassroots network of mothers, other caregivers and supporters campaigning for resources in recognition of the social and economic contributions of caregivers.

We got actively involved in the child welfare issue 12 years ago when we joined mothers who were holding a weekly demonstration outside of DHS, protesting the unjust removal of their traumatized children and demanding to get them back. Continue reading

Carolyn Hill testimony to DHS hearing in Philadelphia City Council, Feb 12

Hello.  My name is Carolyn Hill and I work with the Every Mother is a Working Mother Network.

Thank you for having me today and letting me tell my story.

DHS put my two toddler nieces in my home for a year.  The child advocate said they were doing well with me, happier than he had ever seen.  I was on track for adopting them.  Then DHS switched agencies. That agency didn’t like me, maybe because I was single in low income housing.  They took my nieces one day in the middle of dinner with no warning. Continue reading

Richard Wexler written testimony to DHS hearing in Philadelphia City Council, Feb 12

Testimony of Richard Wexler, Executive Director, National Coalition for Child Protection Reform
Before the Committee on Public Health and Human Services
Philadelphia City Council
February 12, 2019

Chairwoman Bass, Councilman Oh, Members of the Committee:

My name is Richard Wexler. I am Executive Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. We are a small nonprofit child advocacy organization dedicated to trying to make the child protection system better serve America’s most vulnerable children.  There’s more about us at the end of this written testimony.

Thank you for inviting me to testify today about the state of the child welfare system in Philadelphia.  I have only one regret about being here: Too much of this testimony will be a rerun.

The first time I testified before the Philadelphia City Council was more than 12 years ago.  At that time, I pointed out that Philadelphia was an extreme outlier, tearing apart families at the highest rate among America’s largest cities.

In the years since, there have been improvements. The Department of Human Services takes away significantly fewer children than it did 12 years ago.  DHS has increased the proportion of foster children in the least harmful form of foster care, kinship foster care – but let me emphasize, kinship care is still foster care.  And DHS has reduced the proportion of foster children in the worst form of care, group homes and institutions.

DHS has done one other thing right. When looking for consultants to evaluate the system last year, they chose the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group.  They chose well.  Now DHS needs to pay serious attention to what those consultants found. Continue reading

Richard Wexler testimony to DHS hearing at Philadelphia City Council, Feb 12

Spoken Testimony of Richard Wexler, Executive Director, National Coalition for Child Protection Reform
Before the Committee on Public Health and Human Services
Philadelphia City Council
February 12, 2019

Richard Wexler’s full written testimony to the hearing can be found here.

Chairwoman Bass, Councilman Oh, members of the Committee:

My name is Richard Wexler. I am Executive Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

Thank you for inviting me to testify today. I am honored to be included among such a distinguished group of witnesses.  I have only one regret about being here: Too much of this testimony will be a rerun.

The first time I testified before the Philadelphia City Council was 12 years ago.  At that time, I pointed out that Philadelphia was an extreme outlier, tearing apart families at the highest rate among America’s largest cities.

In the years since, there have been real improvements. But what does it say about this city’s take-the-child-and-run extremism that even with all that improvement, and even when rates of child poverty are factored in, Philadelphia still tears apart families at the highest rate among America’s big cities?

Philadelphia tears apart families at a rate nearly double the average for America’s ten largest cities.  Philadelphia tears apart families at two-and-a-half times the rate of New York City and more than four times the rate of Chicago.

Does anyone seriously think Philadelphia children are more than twice as safe from abuse as children in New York City, and more than four times as safe as children in Chicago?  Yes, there have been horror stories in those other cities.  But, as we all know, Philadelphia has horror stories, too.  So all that additional suffering inflicted on all those children needlessly taken from everyone they know and love is doing nothing to make children safer.

We not alone in singling out Philadelphia’s obscene rate of removal as a serious problem.  Consultants hired by DHS itself raised it as well.

Continue reading

Philadelphia City Council Resolution Calling for Hearings on Standards for Child Removal, Feb 2019

Council of the City of Philadelphia

Office of the Chief Clerk

Room 402, City Hall

Philadelphia

(Resolution No. 180787)

RESOLUTION

Authorizing Council’s Committee on Health and Human Services to hold hearings to examine the possibility of the Department of Human Services creating objective guidelines and uniform reporting standards for personnel who are tasked with protecting children in Philadelphia from abuse while preventing the tragedy of unjustified family separations.

WHEREAS, Child abuse is a very serious, deplorable offense that has no place in a just society; and

WHEREAS, While the balance is delicate between erring on the side of caution or deciding against reporting any level of suspicious activity, the bonds between family members—especially parent and child—are developmentally important, and should be jeopardized only under compelling circumstances based on evidence in the interest of protecting the child; and

WHEREAS, Recent high-profile cases of child abuse have underscored the importance of protecting children from abuse; and

WHEREAS, The lack of objective reporting standards and the risk of liability for mandated reporters incentivizes the reporting of all incidents as suspected child abuse, regardless of evidence; and

WHEREAS, Such policies have the adverse effect of causing a proliferation of reporting without adherence to standards, protocols, or guidelines regarding the merits of such reports; and

WHEREAS, A lack of objective guidelines and uniform reporting standards as to what qualifies as reasonable grounds for reporting incidents as possible child abuse opens the possibility of subjective reporting influenced by cultural or other biases instead of factual evidence; and

WHEREAS, Reports of suspected child abuse which are not backed up with any evidence but instead rely on the intuition of personnel who are incentivized to report all incidents while lacking established, objective criteria can cause significant risk and hardship for families subjected to unjustified separations; and

WHEREAS, Every effort is needed to ensure that cases of child abuse are properly identified, reported, and prosecuted. Adherence to a clearly-defined set of guidelines and uniform reporting standards could increase organizational efficiency and effectiveness in accomplishing this goal; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, That it hereby authorizes Council’s Committee on Health and Human Services to hold hearings to examine the possibility of the Department of Human Services creating objective guidelines and uniform reporting standards for personnel who are tasked with protecting children in Philadelphia from abuse while preventing the tragedy of unjustified family separations.

 

Testimony at DHS Hearing in Philadelphia City Council February 12

Feb 12 DHS Hearing in Philadelphia

Pat Albright and Carolyn Hill from the Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, along with Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, testified in Philadelphia City Council on February 12 in support of a resolution calling for hearings on standards for removal. The testimonies are here: Carolyn Hill ● Pat Albright ● Richard Wexler spoken testimony ● Richard Wexler’s full written testimony.  Our testimony concluded with a quote from a foster mother in our network, “If they can pay me, why can’t they pay the biological mother?”

Watch the video of the full hearing which featured many other powerful testimonies, including from Jennina Gorman, who we work with in the Poor People’s Campaign fighting to get her children back from the child welfare system, as well as dozens of mothers and families who filled the court and testified about their horrific experiences with DHS.

Some coverage in the media:  Legal Intelligencer, Phila. DHS Targeted by Parents, Legal Experts at Intense Council Hearing Over Child Removal ● Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly’s foster care system comes under fire at three-hour hearing on child abuse reporting rules  also editorial on Feb 14: We should do a better job supporting families, not separating them – a breakthrough in supporting family preservation! ● CBS 3, Philadelphia Department Of Human Services Faces Heavy Criticism Over Child Abuse, Custody Battles

Later that evening, at a briefing hosted by Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, Professor Dorothy Roberts and Richard Wexler spoke on why Philadelphia is the highest in child removals among US large cities, and what can be done. (Video coming soon)

They concluded – as did we – that what needs to be done, in addition to good quality legal help, is that money needs to go directly into mothers’ and families’ hands to raise children, rather than money going to the professionals to remove them.

Next steps: Come out on March 8, International Women’s Day, Speak out against family separation by the child welfare system, at the border, from detention, prison, poverty, war… Friday March 8, 5-6pm  outside Department of Human Services (DHS) 16th & Arch St, Philadelphia

Save the date – July 10th, Crossroads Women’s Center Ground Breaking

crossroads july 10

After years of hard work to make this a reality, the Crossroads Women’s Center is hosting a ground-breaking celebration for our new space on Wayne Avenue on July 10th! We are excited to celebrate with the community the next step in the new Crossroads Women’s Center’s renovation.

Join us in Germantown at 5011/5013 Wayne Avenue on Tuesday, July 10th from 4-7 PM, for a giant rummage sale, info and merchant tables, a bounce house and other fun for children, water ice, food, and music.

At 5:30pm, the official ceremony will begin, to thank the many people that got us this far and to discuss what the Crossroads Women’s Center is and can become. We hope that you can come to this celebration and help create a new space bringing women and communities together.

Table space will be available for Germantown neighbors and groups that work with the Center. For more info, call 215-848-1120. To donate, go to www.buildingcrossroads.center.

We are also looking for a long term commercial renter for part of the space at 5013 Wayne, post-renovation. Contact Gardner Realty, 215-844-1788, www.gardnerrealtyco.com if you are interested.