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Barriers to Employability among Substance Dependent and Nonsubstance-Affected Women on Federal Welfare: Implications for Program Design

Jon Morgenstern, Barbara S. McCrady, Kimberly A. Blanchard, Katharine H. McVeigh, Annette Riordan, Thomas W. Irwin

Objective: This study examined barriers to employability among women meeting criteria for a substance dependence disorder who were identified by routine screening conducted in welfare offices. The characteristics of these women were compared to other women on welfare who did not have a substance use disorder. Method: A sample of 214 substance dependent women on federal welfare were recruited to participate in a substance use disorders welfare demonstration project. An additional 69 nonsubstance-affected women on welfare served as a comparison sample. All participants were assessed in welfare settings through a standardized battery of measures. Results: Substance dependent women reported moderate to severe substance use problems. They also reported significantly higher rates than the women with no substance use disorder of other barriers such as domestic violence, mental health problems, legal problems, child welfare investigations and fewer job skills. Conclusions: Findings raise questions about the likely effectiveness of existing welfare reform services in addressing the needs of substance dependent women. (J. Stud. Alcohol 64: 239-246, 2003)