She is a black woman, 32, jobless, "poor" as defined by the government, and the sole support of her 6-year-old son. She says she wants to become an electrical worker.
An organization called WOW (Wider Opportunities for Women), which is financed by the D.C. Department of Manpower to help women in her situation, happens to have an opening in a basic electricity training program sponsored by D.C. employers.
But this northeast Washington woman, and others like her, cannot get into training or actual job slots lined up by WOW because of a "Berlin Wall" of bureaucratic catch-22s and misinformation in the Department of Manpower, according to the staff of WOW.
The staff says, for example, that the department paid them specifically to serve needy women, but then said it could not refer women to them because that would constitute illegal discrimination against men.
A department spokesman acknowledged that such a problem had existed in the past, but said that he thought it had been resolved in recent months.
Mary Janney, codirector of WOW's D.C. office, says that WOW's problems with the funding department are "an administrative reflection of the way the city does not cope with the whole (jobs) problem . . . We are a microcosm of the system, and the system is a mess."
Manpower officials have tended to blame many of the publicized deficiencies in their program on the economic situation - too many applicants for too few jobs. At WOW, the staff emphasizes that it has the openings, but cannot get the applicants "over the wall."
The 32-year-old mother, who asked that her name not be used, said she has been certified ad financially eligible for the training. But, she said, she has been waiting "six or seven months" for the District of Columbia employment service to forward her aptitude test scores and the formal referral she needs to get into the WOW program.
WOW is a 12-year-old nonprofit national organization, ans is one of 14 organizations to which the manpower unit contracts out its training programs.
Janney says WOW's problems in getting referrals have persisted since 1975, despite numerous meetings with manpower officials and despite her own testimony at a city council hearing last April 5.
Manpower officials have awarded WOW almost $500,000 in federal Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) funds since 1975 to provide an affirmative action program for disadvantaged female heads of households. WOW's program is designed to help women break out of traditional female occupations in which "their earnings are likely to be less than 60 per cent of those of the average male worker," Janney said.
The employment service, through which all WOW job applicants had to pass, has sent only a sporadic trickle of applicants, according to the WOW staff. Many were not those the program was designed for, or were not interested in the jobs it had to offer. Some were men.
Others who contracted WOW or who were recruited by WOW, who expressed interest in the program and seemed suited for it, the staff said, apparently were unable to get referred back through the system.
The WOW staff eventually learned that the employment service was reluctant to refer female job applicants, at least in part, because, under the federal act that funds it, the employment service is not allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex.
Concerning WOW's complaints about the lack of referrals, Lorenzo White, deputy director of the Manpower unit, said that "I will not tell you that it is not a problem; I will tell you that it should not be a problem."
He said the original conflict over the discrimination issue in the WOW case was the result of different perceptions by two elements of his department, its advisory council and its manpower training programs office, which awarded the contract.
He said he thought he had resolved the referral difficulties stemming from the discrimination question earlier this year by making another organization funded by Manpower - the United Planning Organization - an intermediary in the referral process.
The employment service continues to be a bottleneck, Janney said.
"We have met with the counselors at UPO, and they have tried to be helpful," she said. "But they have no control over who the employment service sends him."
Spokesman for UPO said they were not aware of the reasons Manpower had made them the funnel for applicants to WOW and did not know exactly how the mechanisms of manpower training and the employment service operates.
"All I can say is that we are totally dependent for referrals on the employment service," said Eugene Buccelli, head of UPO's employability development program. "If we don't get them [women who conform to WOW's prerequisites], we refer them to WOW."
Buccelli added that he feels "this is not just a one-sided story . . . The problems vary from case to case. Sometimes the clients may have simply changed their minds [about wanting to go into a certain program]."
Meanwhile, WOW has had trouble holding on the job openings and training programs it has lined up.
"We need success to breed success," Janney said. "Each future slot is contingent on filing the present ones."
Under the fiscal 1977 agreement, with a $175,000 CETA grant from the Manpower Department,WOW was to train and/or place 75 women.
In January, WOW attempted to recruit women through the employment service's community centers. The WOW staff its own recruiting efforts then turned up more than 40 women who seemed interested and qualified, who were sent to centers for referral back to WOW.
On the day when the applicants from the employment sevice were to report to WOW, none showed up, Janney sais.A week later, three showed up. They were all men. Later, during February, the employment service referred seven men and two women. One of the women was eligible and interested, and became the only viable client as of April.
Sometimes the only way WOW could get a person into its program was through "a crack in the wall," according to Elaine Libit, WOW's director of CETA training. She said a network of "informal contacts" got some applicants through, in some cases by getting the required papers and walking them through the system.
Since April, four women have "gotten through," according to WOW counselor Carolyn Tapscott.
WOW requested in early February that the employment service stop referring men to them because WOW was not geared to help men.
Despite the problems, Janney said, WOW was able to place 43 women during its first 11 months. Women who had been unemployed or working as counter girls, maids and the like at an average wage of $2.40 an hours were channeled into jobs at the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant where they earn $5.98 an hour, or at Sears as major appliance repair technicians starting at 3.25 an hour, or to basic electricity courses sponsored by Xerox Corp.
But, Janney added, "our major of fort so far has been directed at coping. With the system, not at developing programs for women."