The foundation for LIFETIME began when founder Diana Spatz fought a legal appeal against the county welfare department to stay in college and began organizing to help other welfare mothers at City College of San Francisco know their rights to education under welfare law. Spatz subsequently won a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, where she met Professor Jane Mauldon of the Goldman School of Public Policy. With Mauldon’s sponsorship, Spatz developed a service-learning class to help low-income students with children share survival strategies, learn their rights under welfare law, and develop support systems to realize their educational and employment goals. After graduating with honors with a BA in Political Economy of Industrial Societies in 1996, Spatz won an echoing green Public Service Fellowship to develop LIFETIME. What began as a single class is now a dynamic grassroots organization that helps low-income parents graduate off welfare and out of poverty for good, while organizing for welfare policies that will help them become educated, employed and economically secure.
Each year, LIFETIME provides direct services to help more than 400 parents enroll in, continue and complete education and training programs, while engaging them in political education, community organizing and direct advocacy to address the policies that keep their families and communities poor. LIFETIME’s successes include the following:
• Served as a resource to Assembly member Dion Aroner to have higher education included as a work activity under CalWORKs and to have study time to count as a work activity for CalWORKs students;
• Organized the Dr. Betty Shabazz Family Center at City College of San Francisco and the Stay in School Family Resource Center at San Francisco State, student-run resource and referral centers for low-parents;
• Changed welfare policies in all 58 California counties and increased parents’ access to education and training, increased transportation support services for CalWORKs parents in welfare-to-work activities and gained critical accommodations for parents with learning disabilities statewide. In all three efforts, parents were granted retroactive reimbursements for supportive services they had been incorrectly denied, were allowed to re-enroll in education and training programs if they had been forced to quit school, and were given additional time on their 24-month time limit if they had a learning disability that had not been assessed and/or accommodated or if they had been forced to quit school in violation of state law;
• Organized for the creation of Student Parent Scholarship Funds in San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties to help low-income parents’ with their ongoing educational and training needs once they time off welfare, andorganized the statewide Parent Leadership Committee to increase the involvement of TANF parents in the reauthorization of welfare reform and its state implementation. Since 2001, more than 60 CalWORKs student parents from throughout California have joined the committee, and have testified at six Congressional briefings, twelve state hearings, six national and three state conferences, and over a dozen local and regional events on welfare reform and family poverty. As a result of parents’ efforts, funding to the community college CalWORKs programs was restored in the midst of a state budget crisis and most recently, the California State Legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 3 (SJ3), urging Congress to reconsider time limits under welfare reauthorization.