The information from the case-study interviews with 12 LBP parents yields three major findings concerning basic needs, family support, and return to welfare:
- The most pressing issue facing these parents was meeting their families' basic food and housing needs. To obtain enough food, they adjusted their shopping patterns so as to purchase more bulk quantities of food. Food stamp benefits were very important to them as was food provided by friends and relatives, churches, food pantries, and the government commodity distribution program. To ensure adequate housing, they gave top priority to the payment of the rent, followed by the electricity and water bills. In extreme cases, parents who felt that they could not meet the basic food and shelter needs of their children sent them to live with extended family members.
- These parents frequently relied on extended family members and friends for emotional, financial, and in-kind support. In some cases, this support was so extensive that it may be appropriate to regard the families as having shifted their dependency from public assistance to family and friends. These informal assistance networks appeared to be more critical to their success in coping with the loss of FIP cash benefits than assistance available through churches, food pantries, and other community service organizations. However, reliance on family and friends has significant drawbacks: people feel guilty about imposing a financial burden on loved-ones; they lose self-esteem and the freedom to live their lives without intense scrutiny by others; and this form of assistance may be subject to informal time limits.
- . These parents varied in their degree of confidence about the future and their ability to remain off welfare. The parents who had weathered the FIP ineligibility period through their own employment or the employment of a partner with whom they had a stable relationship displayed healthy levels of self-confidence and were optimistic about their prospects for living without public assistance. The parents who had been unable to establish a stable source of income during the period of FIP ineligibility doubted their ability to continue without welfare and were planning to reapply for FIP benefits.
The case-study findings summarized here, and presented in more detail in preceding sections of this chapter, describe only the 12 parents and their families purposefully selected and interviewed for the case studies. Hence, while the case studies clearly enrich our understanding of the effects of the loss of cash benefits, they cannot be generalized to either the LBP Survey population or to the larger LBP population.
1. Two families changed from category one to category two; one family changed from category two to category three; and one family changed from category three to category two. Hence, after the final classification, there were two families in category one, six families in category two, and four families in category three.