Trauma support for welfare recipients helps them earn more

January 26, 2018

People on welfare can earn more money in their jobs -- and potentially leave the program -- if the trauma they've faced since childhood is addressed, Drexel University research shows.

Think of it this way: If you were constantly being given job training but couldn't stay employed or make enough money to get by, you'd probably feel pretty badly about yourself.

But what if you became of a member of a group who could help you feel connected to a support network of like-minded people? Suddenly, you might not feel so alone, and you could start to feel that your troubles are not just your own to bear. Now, you can pay attention to issues affecting you, work on them with your new peers, and focus clearly on your health, building wealth, and reaching goals.

That's what a new study led by Drexel's Center for Hunger-Free Communities shows -- trauma support could be the key to success in the population who receives welfare.

"Financial education without the trauma-informed peer support had virtually no impact on improving income and in promoting health," said Mariana Chilton, PhD, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities and professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health. "Once the trauma-informed peer support was mixed in, income started to improve and mental health for the parent really improved."

Officially titled Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the state program is almost purely focused on getting recipients into the workforce, with little thought given to other conditions that might affect recipients' advancement opportunities or ability to secure competitive pay.

But the study, which tested the effectiveness of a financial empowerment program with this trauma support built in, found that those who received added peer support for past or current trauma were significantly more likely to earn more money in their jobs.

More than 100 TANF recipients who are caregivers to young children took part in the study. And those who received the trauma-informed peer support experienced improvement in their feelings of self-confidence (termed self-efficacy) and in dealing with depression, according to the study, published in the Journal of Child and Families Studies.

"It turns out that the trauma work that the groups did helped to create a sense of connectedness and purpose that helped caregivers build the muscle to earn more and to promote a sense of well-being," Chilton said.

Eligibility criteria for a caregiver of a young child on TANF is very strict--a person must make less than half of the federal poverty line (less than $700 per month for a caregiver and two young children). Some experts think that simply teaching a little bit of extra financial savvy on top of helping people get into the workforce can help bolster income.

And, as it stands now, the standard programming for state TANF recipients only focuses on finding employment and building jobs skills, as the recipients are required to work at least 20 hours a week, or spend that time training or looking for a job. However, research has shown that the current programming doesn't help recipients stay in a job -- or provide a sustainable way out of Welfare.

A reason for that may be that TANF recipients are very likely to have experienced trauma as a child or have ongoing experiences with it. This trauma might include being exposed to neglect, abuse or severe poverty. A third of participants may have a work-limiting health condition (like depression) and exposure to violence and adversity is extremely common.

So Chilton and her research team conducted a study in which 103 caregivers on TANF taking part in the Center's Building Wealth and Health Network were split into three groups:The research team found that participants who received the full intervention -- financial education and trauma-focused peer support -- were significantly more likely to make more money. Participants who only got financial education programming or the regular TANF programming had no significant changes in their earnings.

And while the group that got the full intervention experienced a significant improvement in self-efficacy, those who only got regular TANF programming -- with no trauma support -- actually were more likely to have a decline in self-efficacy. Additionally, the full treatment group was five times as likely to have reduced symptoms of depression compared to those who got no trauma support.

This study shows just how valuable -- and effective -- such peer trauma support could be. So how practical would it be to add it to current TANF programming?

"It's very feasible and we did it with encouragement from the state," Chilton said. "Throughout the country, there is great interest in promoting a culture of health in all domains of everyday life, especially those that involve our tax dollars."

The significant benefits of trauma-informed support were not just limited to the caregivers, however.

"It's good for the long-term success for the caregiver, and they can pass it on to their children," Chilton concluded. "You can see it in our results: Those who got the trauma-informed peer support and financial education were able to protect their kids from signs of developmental risk. That's profound for two generations."
-end-


Drexel University

Related Mental Health Articles from Brightsurf:

Mental health strained by disaster
A new study found that suicide rates increase during all types of disasters -- including severe storms, floods, hurricanes and ice storms -- with the largest overall increase occurring two years after a disaster.

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

World Mental Health Day -- CACTUS releases report of largest researcher mental health survey
On the occasion of 'World Mental Health Day' 2020, CACTUS, a global scientific communications company, has released a global survey on mental health, wellbeing and fulfilment in academia.

Mental illness, mental health care use among police officers
A survey study of Texas police officers examines how common mental illness and mental health care use are in a large urban department.

COVID-19 outbreak and mental health
The use of online platforms to guide effective consumption of information, facilitate social support and continue mental health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic is discussed in this Viewpoint.

COVID-19 may have consequences for mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be adversely affecting mental health among hospitalised patients, the healthcare professionals treating them and the general population.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental ill health 'substantial health concern' among police, finds international study
Mental health issues among police officers are a 'substantial health concern,' with around 1 in 4 potentially drinking at hazardous levels and around 1 in 7 meeting the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder and depression, finds a pooled data analysis of the available international evidence, published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Examining health insurance nondiscrimination policies with mental health among gender minority individuals
A large private health insurance database was used to examine the association between between health insurance nondiscrimination policies and mental health outcomes for gender minority individuals.

Mental health care for adolescents
Researchers examined changes over time in the kinds of mental health problems for which adolescents in the United States received care and where they got that care in this survey study with findings that should be interpreted within the context of several limitations including self-reported information.

Read More: Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.