The Supported Work Program, a counceling, training and job placement program for women who are probation, has asked for D.C. government funding next year.
Testifying before the D.C. City Council, program director Andrea Cleaves said that funds from a Law Enforcement Assistance Administration grant would expire June 30.
The Supported Work Program, developed in 1974 by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), is designed to place women into entry level jobs in non-traditional fields at adequate salaries. WOW is a non-profit organization with several programs geared to help Washington-area women take advantage of employment opportunities.
The women in the Supported Work Program are referred by the Superior Court. According to Cleaves, 95 per cent are on probation and 5 per cent are on work permits at halfway houses.
"Most of the women are first offenders. The majority have been charged with misdeameanor crimes against property such as petty larceny, shoplifting, or welfare fraud," Cleaves explained at the Council hearing April 25. "Seventy-one per cent are heads of households."
Because they are heads of households, non-traditional jobs such as welders, meatcutters, truck drivers, carpenters, construction workers, custodians, press operator, computer technicians, electricians and warehouse workers are sought because of the pay, the job seurity and the chance for on-the-job advancement.
In a sample of 34 women surveyed for the City Council testimony, the women entered the program with an average income of $1.35 and hour or $3,792 a year. When the sample completed the program and were successfully placed, the average income was $10,202 per year or $4.94 per hour.
In its three years, 120 women have begun the program, 22 of whom have not finished.
Because the District's preliminary budget for fiscal 1978 has already been sent to Congress, funding for the program would need to be included in later supplemental amendments. Senate hearings on the preliminary budget were held last week but no date has been set for consideration of budget amendments.
If the program funding is approved, interim funding between June and October, when fiscal 1978 begins, would also be needed. Cleaves said four foundations have been solicited for the $45,000 needed to continue the program through October.
According to Cleaves, the program is spending approximately $2,800 for each of the 60 women involved this year. By expanding to 100 women per year, the cost can be reduced to $1,730 for each woman served.
It is not only job placement that the program offers to woman offender. "When the women come here, they all have problems," Cleaves said. "Some need to find a day-care facility. We know that if there are problems about who's going to care for the children, she won't get to work on time. We help her find a day care center.
"Some of the women have health problems. Some have no work history." Cleaves said the program provides tutors and classes to help the women with high school equivalency tests. it provides classes in parenting to help women cope with coming home after a hard day's work and dealing with small children and classes in nutrition and budgeting. The program will teach the women to drive, if it is important to a job. Women with serious drug or alcohol problems are screened out.
"Not all women are suited for non-traditional jobs, of course," Cleaves said. They do place women in more traditional jobs but the salary must be at least $3.50 an hour.
In her testimony before the Council, Cleaves emphasized the benefits of taking the women off welfare and turning them into taxpayers, the advantages of increased self-esteem and the positive results of economic improvement. She also pointed to the possible alternative of $23,000 per year needed to maintain one woman in the Women's Detention Center.
Several officials have endorsed the program but staff members regard some of the women who have completed the program as the best endorsement.
They point to the history of a woman, the mother of three young children, charged with welfare fraud. She now makes $5.20 an hour in basic electronics, maintainance and repair of copying equipment. She has completed her probationary period on the job and has an opportunity to earn as much as $16,000 annually. She recently bought a home.
Or in the case of a mother of two on probation for possession of marijuana. She is now making $5.75 an hour as a meatcutter's apprentice and will soon be eligible for her journeyman's license. She is also self-sufficient and maintains an apartment for herself and her children.
Alan Schuman, director of Social Services for the Superior Court, wrote a letter of support saying, "In my opinion, WOW has had the most successful employment program I have ever been associated with."
Superior Court Judge Harold Greene also srote a letter to the Council. " I believe the loss of this program would be a significant detriment to this community," he said. "I strongly urged steps to be taken to insure it will be continued."