From Former Welfare Recipient to Frontline Worker: The Influences of Discretionary Power and Personal Experiences
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In 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). The legislation was intended to limit the federal government’s control over how individual states governed their poor people, aggressively end entitlements, create block grant funding for states, and create time-limited benefits and mandatory work requirements for recipients. While states gained discretion over the implementation of welfare policy, the largest increase in discretion under the new welfare policy occurred between case managers and recipients. Welfare reform also led to the streamlining of the case management profession and the hiring of less skilled case managers. The purpose of this study was to investigate how the discretionary power and personal experiences of case managers who are former welfare recipients influence their case load management. To facilitate the investigative nature of this study and achieve its purpose, I applied qualitative methodology using a conceptual framework to investigate the phenomenon. The finding revealed three major themes: a) learning, b) experiences and relationships, and c) case management practices. The findings indicated that the four stages of learning to become a case manager are informal and need to be redesigned using the principles of adult learning. The findings also revealed that participants rely on their personal experience and relationships to guide their case management practices, use of discretionary power, and decision-making process. Although former welfare recipients were hired for these deskilled case manager positions, turnover was high. As a result, many of those hired as case managers have higher levels of education and household income. Thus, welfare policy needs to be redesigned holistically by policymakers so all recipients have access to higher education and job opportunities within the welfare system.
Johnson, Michelle Ann (2017). From Former Welfare Recipient to Frontline Worker: The Influences of Discretionary Power and Personal Experiences. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from