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Panel Asks Curbs in Unwed Mothers' Aid

November 14, 1986|LEE MAY | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A special Reagan Administration task force, charging that 20 years of "abrasive experiments" in social policy have damaged the American family, Thursday called for new "pro-family" policies, including restrictions on welfare for unmarried teen-age mothers.

"There is increasing evidence that the easy availability of welfare has greatly increased the incidence of child poverty," said the 70-page report by the White House Working Group on the Family. It urged that subsidized housing and Aid to Families With Dependent Children funding be withheld from single mothers under 21 if they live apart from their parents.

"These steps would go a long way toward making illegitimate motherhood less attractive in the poverty culture," the report said.

Reaction Is Critical

Reaction to the report was swift among advocates for the poor. Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, dismissed the report as "simply an endorsement of the conservative agenda of the Heritage Foundation," a think tank that has influenced Administration policies. "It's a myth that welfare itself creates illegitimate children," he said.

Karen Orloff Kaplan, director of the National Center for Policy and Practice, an affiliate of the National Assn. of Social Workers, said the report's assertions range from "frightening to outrageous." Its recommendations, she said, "are fraught with peril for the very people they are supposed to help."

The seven-month study is one of three reports the Administration will use to construct its welfare policy proposals next year. Compiled by a 22-member panel under the chairmanship of Education Undersecretary Gary L. Bauer, the document already has been presented to the Domestic Policy Council and next goes to Reagan.

'Abrasive Experiments'

Charging that courts, schools and government all have undermined family authority, the report said that the "fabric of family life has been frayed by the abrasive experiments of two liberal decades."

The report castigates liberal divorce laws and suggests that families should have more children to guard against eventual depletion of Social Security funds and a shortage of recruits for the armed services.

While acknowledging that the federal government has no role in regulating state divorce laws, the report said that federal taxpayers "are directly affected by . . . divorce laws in our country" because breakups cast millions of women into poverty and sometimes onto welfare rolls.

Seeks Law Changes

The report urges individuals to "demand the rectification of those laws which have allowed, and even encouraged, the dissolution of the family."

Throughout, the report emphasizes benefits of keeping families together and recommends state and federal policies which would serve that end.

It urges that the President direct all federal agencies to file statements showing not only how their proposed policies would improve economic conditions but also assessing their ability to keep families intact.

That "may be the most important recommendation in the report," Bauer told a news conference, adding that it "would institutionalize family concern in the public policy-making process and, indeed, that is a very important thing to do."

The report also urged that the Treasury Department study the possibility of giving families tax breaks by raising the personal federal tax exemption to $4,000 or $5,000.

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