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Abstract

This article presents an argument for revisiting social work's relationship to public assistance in the wake of 10 years of welfare reform. Three case studies drawn from a mixed-method study of the quality of life of former TANF recipients illustrate the range, depth and complexity of the needs of persons while they are on the welfare rolls, transitioning off and living without cash relief. The article briefly traces the history of social work's commitment to and provision of social services for this population and argues that it may be time to revisit the profession's role in public assistance. In light of history and a review of welfare "leaver" studies and the authors' research, the article suggests interventions that could improve service to the poor, both on and off cash relief. The role of social work in advocating for changes in welfare policy, program and practice contexts is also discussed.

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