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Mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients will hurt the children the most

Updated on March 26, 2012

Stop politicking; feed the children

Not feeding our children is not an option
Not feeding our children is not an option

Hunger stays with you forever

I grew up with a single parent who had four other children. A couple of times she tried to get welfare to help us but could not. We lived hand to mouth most of the time. There was one really poignant time when my sister and I ate Ike and Mike cookies for our meal every day. The State of Texas told my guardian, who worked as a nurse’s aid, that she made too much money. We often had to go to our neighbors to visit in hopes of getting a meal or being given something to eat. Sometimes we got the moldy cheese and the powdered eggs and milk from the food banks in our town. Most days we had one meal and that was dinner. During the school year there was a respite because we had free school lunch. When we moved to a larger town, breakfast was added for free. I still only eat two meals a day. It became a habit.

My guardian was not an unattractive lady, and there were nights when she would go out with the express idea of getting money to buy food for us. She was not on drugs. I never asked how she got the money, but I knew. There were no Christmas presents. There was usually, no Christmas dinner. I only remember two Christmas presents as a child, a Dallas Cowboys uniform and a Monopoly game.

My guardian’s daughter, who was five years my senior became a surrogate and cared for me when her mother was working. She often had to ask older male relatives for handouts. She once told me that she had been molested by ever male in her family. She eventually became a crack addict and a prostitute.

By the time I was 14, I was already working at Bonanza Steak House in Beaumont, TX. I have worked every day to defeat hunger in my life. That legacy of hunger has always stayed with me. The emotions are still with me because every time I hear of or think of a child going hungry in the richest country in the world, I still feel the pain of my childhood. Those who have never experienced hunger pains on a consistent basis have no idea what it means to a child to wake up with no idea of where you next meal is coming from. That is why I oppose Florida Governor Rick Scott’s law requiring all welfare recipients to be drug tested because the ones who will be hurt the most will be the children.

Scott is grandstanding for the Tea Party because he knows that there is no significant problem with drug users among the state’s welfare recipients. The next problem with this legislation is where do parents who have no means to feed their children get $10 to pay for a test. Ok, so if they pass the test the $10 is reimbursed, but if they fail they are denied welfare for one year. Their children may then receive welfare through another responsible adult.

From the time I was 10 until I was 16, I lived in 13 different homes. As a child, there were many people who were willing to take me in because they thought I was receiving money from the state or from my father. My father had seven children and paid $140 a month of his $300 a month salary in child support. That $5 a week was the only money we had for food many times. When people found out that I came with real issues and that I only got $5 a week, I was often kicked to the curb.

Finally, drug addiction is an illness. Most addicts, given the ability to be free of their disease would. What the State of Florida should do is test and treat those people whom they know are drug addicted, but the truth is most Florida welfare recipients are not doing drugs. They cannot afford it. They are too busy trying to feed their children. Do not punish everyone who needs this service for the problems of a very few.

I have an 11-year-old daughter and I still wake up at night with fear that she might one day experience hunger pains as a daily part of life. That fear drives me to do what needs to be done. There are too many hungry children in the world who are easy targets for abuse. We need to stop playing politics with the lives of children.


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    • Hollie Thomas profile image

      Hollie Thomas 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Drug dependent individuals are an easy target for polititians. I worked for several years for the UK probation service. Typically, a substance user will not vote, not least because of the cycle of offending and then receiving prison sentences(can't vote)So they're easy pickings, someone to blame for all that goes wrong. I, personally,would like to see the police concentrate their efforts on the drug cartels more than the individual.

    • profile image

      Lea Williams 6 years ago

      This article made me cry. I grew up on welfare benefits, and my mother was on disability. I did not have it nearly as bad as you, we only went without much food occasionally, usually at the end of the month.

      I don't understand why anyone would think that people who are this poor are more likely to abuse drugs. I think that it makes more sense that those with the means to buy them more likely would. Maybe I am wrong, I don't know, but it seems to make sense. Yes I know there are some who might be so drug addled that they use what little money they have for drugs, but I believe it is pretty rare and besides, those who are this drug addicted don't necessarily have children in the first place.

      Our country has become more and more heartless towards the poor. I have little repsect for the direction we are moving in, and hope to get out and move to somewhere more progressive, such as Europe, in the future. Because I don't want to be around when the bomb that is this country detonates.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      The World Food Program's number on children dying of hunger related diseases is 30,000 each day. Bureaucrats like to make-up their own laws not having a clue about the real issues of people living in ghettos and slums.

      Of course cutting-off social assistance would be detrimental. What is someone going to do if they have no means of getting some food (everyone needs food at least once in a while)? They end-up stealing, or robbing, breaking-in, etc. ...

      That is not going to save money - that will cost more. And the rich bourgeois will need to pay more on private security to fend-off the hungry masses ... there is very little common sense nowadays, in my opinion.

      Thanks for writing this. Cheers!