In this illuminating examination of our national welfare policy, award-winning veteran reporter and writer LynNell Hancock offers an intimate, heart-wrenching, and beautifully rendered portrait of three women and their families as they struggle to find their way through the new rules and regulations of the public assistance system.
Hands to Work takes us on a journey within the day-to-day struggles of these women, describing their hopes, regrets, and deepest dreams. Hancock demystifies contemporary misconceptions of poverty and illustrates how welfare policy and reform have been conceived, offering a thought-provoking look at the most divisive questions about America's neediest citizens.
When President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996, the bill set in motion a complete overhaul of the federal welfare system, and states soon followed suit. Hancock, a journalism professor at Columbia University, gives a human face to welfare reform as she follows three women navigating the new rules in New York City. Alina, a 19-year-old immigrant from the former Soviet Republic of Moldova, speaks little English but is determined to become a doctor. Brenda, a single mother of two, has supported herself with minimal government assistance through a series of low-paying jobs until a confluence of unfortunate events leave her jobless and homeless. Christine, who was kicked out of the apartment she shared with the father of her youngest son when he discovers she'd used heroin during the pregnancy, is a longtime dependent of the city's welfare programs. In between the stories of how these very different women deal with a tangled bureaucracy, Hancock details the philosophies and decisions of Mayor Giuliani and Welfare Commissioner Jason Turner, the man previously responsible for implementing Wisconsin's welfare reform system. The disconnect between those in charge and those who require their assistance becomes strikingly clear in Hancock's narrative. Without posing a list of specific solutions, Hancock's incisive look into the welfare quagmire provides insight into some of the major changes that must result if reforms are to be termed successful. (Jan.) Forecast: As tens of thousands of welfare recipients face the approaching five-year limit on receiving aid, welfare reform will be much in the news, and if Hancock can find a place as a talking head in the media conversation, she should generate good sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.