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Social Work in Action (September 2012)


Laura Lein, dean and professor of social work at the University of Michigan, testified June 5 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance for the hearing “Combating Poverty: Understanding New Challenges for Families.”

Lein has focused her career on the interaction between families in poverty and the institutions that serve them.

She cited a 2012 report that estimates 1.46 million U.S. households (with 2.8 million children) were surviving on $2 or less in income per person per day in a given month since early 2011.

“The prevalence of extreme poverty rose sharply between 1996 and 2011,” she said.

Lein testified that families need to have support systems in place to help avoid a snowball effect of small challenges that can result in life-changing events. She gave an example of a single mother whose efforts to find a new child-care facility escalated to additional problems and ended with the mother losing her job.

Lein said the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program is critical for families facing difficult situations, and TANF remains a significant bridging program.

“Access to child care and health insurance are keys to family stability,” she testified.

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