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Who Represents the Needs of Domestic Violence Survivors in State Welfare Policy?

  • Anne Whitesell (a1)
Abstract

A large percentage of women receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) — known colloquially as welfare—have experienced domestic violence in their lives, with studies reporting that upwards of 50% of welfare recipients have been abused at some point. Receiving TANF benefits can provide the financial stability that is necessary for a woman to leave an abusive relationship, though some TANF provisions, such as child support reporting requirements, may also put victims of domestic violence at risk. Under TANF, states may adopt the Family Violence Option and waive many program requirements, including time limits, work requirements, and child support reporting requirements, for victims of domestic violence. Given the importance of TANF for those trying to leave, or who have left, abusive situations, this article asks: Who represents the interests of these women in the states? To answer this question, I employ a mixed methods approach, combining a quantitative analysis of the diversity of interest groups in the states with a case study of Connecticut and New Jersey. I find that feminist and domestic violence organizations do not consistently have a significant effect on the adoption of policy accommodations for survivors, but these groups are speaking out.

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