The world of welfare is replete with urban legends. My favorite goes something like this: “I was standing in line at the grocery store one day behind a nicely dressed woman who was buying beer, steak, shrimp, and a whole bunch of stuff I couldn’t afford. She had them put the steak and shrimp on her food stamp card and used her cash to buy the beer. She packed up her groceries and went to her brand new SUV.” In teaching this subject for years, I have heard this story in countless renditions from students who were either customers or grocery employees. The story is almost always the same. While the story may be about fraud, it is also quite likely about their misinterpreting the actions of a foster parent. Most states give foster families Medicaid cards and an allotment on a food stamp card to pay for the food and medical expenses of the children in their care. That some of these families are wealthy enough to afford nice meals and nice vehicles does not diminish our obligation to pay them for the service they are providing us by caring for orphaned, discarded, or abused children or those children whose parents are in prison.

What other “urban legends” exist about the poor and welfare? What research could be conducted to dispel these legends or prove them to be factual?How would respond to the statement, “… Why should wealthy people who can afford to raise many children be given any food stamps for foster children? After all, they may claim the children on their tax returns and that should be sufficient…”

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