Families who get assistance must get children to school - WNEM TV 5

Families who get assistance must get children to school or risk losing it

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

Some big changes are just days away for Michigan's welfare system.

Starting Monday, Oct. 1, families who receive cash assistance from the state will be tied to their children's school attendance.

This is a policy change backed by Gov. Rick Snyder and the goal for the reform is to break the cycle of generational poverty.  Under the current policy, the Department of Human Services only looks at the school attendance of 16, 17 and 18 year olds.  But starting next month, new clients applying for welfare must supply proof of their child's attendance from age 6 and up.

For those currently in the system, social workers will check school records at the family's yearly review and on the child's birthday.  If a child is deemed truant, cash benefits will stop.

This news is getting a mixed response.

"You're trying to balance all those things you have to balance as a parent, but it's not always going to be successful, so for those to take cash benefits from those ones who are trying to help their kids, you know, what are they going to do for the parents?" asked Onie Triplett, a Bay City resident.

"If your kids are not going to school, then there's no reason they should get the assistance. It's kind of a motive to keep your kids in school," said Saginaw resident Dan Haynes.

DHS spokesman Dave Akerly said truancy of a student will be based on the local school district's policy.

"All schools have their own policies when it comes to number of days attended and number of days not attended that puts you into a truant situation.  That's what's going to apply.  There is not one number that applies statewide," said Akerly.

But one number that will apply across the board is once you can prove your child is back in school for 21 consecutive days, cash benefits can be restored.  In the 2011-2012 school year, more than 90,000 students were reported truant statewide.

Reggie Williams, a Saginaw community policing officer and also a coach for the freshman girls volleyball team at Saginaw Arthur Hill High School, said his department deals with truancy on a consistent basis.  He believes this new rule will help move truancy from the classroom.

"If you don't have your child in school, it's going to fall back on you in a hard way, so it helps, it really helps," said Williams.

The bottom line is the parents who are on assistance and get their students to school do not have anything to worry about.  Those who don't could have a real impact on their bottom line.

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