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Abstract

The latest iteration of welfare reform, the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), endorses work requirements and time limits on benefits, while giving greater discretion to individual states in developing welfare programs. Linking personal responsibility with work indicates that policy makers believe that it only takes properg uidancea nd minimal trainingfo r welfare recipients( predominately women) to make the transition from welfare to work. We suggest, however, that focusing on incentive, sanction, or compulsion ignores the structural features of poverty, especially as they impact the multiplicities of poor women's lives. In order for the welfare system to deal with women on their own terms, there must be a reconceptualization of the type of knowledge women require. Thus we argue for the development of a more critical literacy among welfare recipients so that they can uncover the (limited) options and alternatives available to them under current welfare reform programs. Wisconsin's latest welfare reform program, Wisconsin Works (W-2), is the model used to demonstrate the extent to which such programs fail to address the needs of women as they attempt the transition from welfare to work.

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