By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Globe goes deep on “The Other Welfare”

In case you haven’t seen it, the Boston Globe is publishing a three-part series on poor families that medicate their kids — sometimes for flimsy reasons — so that they can be classified as disabled and thus qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.

The reporting, by Patricia Wen, is first-rate. And to point out the obvious, the series, titled “The Other Welfare,” is the sort of accountability journalism that is rarely done by any news organizations other than major newspapers.

What I especially like about the series is that, rather than blaming the families, Wen takes pains to point out the difficult circumstances under which they live. As one single mother, Geneva Fielding, puts it, referring to the medication her 10-year-old son is taking for impulsiveness:

Sometimes I don’t know why we get a check for this. But if someone says you have ADHD and you’re depressed and you can get a check, they’re going to try to get a check. The poor people will take that every time. It’s all about surviving.

A chilling example of unintended consequences.

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  1. Doug Shugarts

    Agreed — the Globe’s investigative work has been first-rate lately.

    I’d also recommend the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s recent reporting on mine safety and their series this week on air pollution in western PA.

    It seems that regional papers are finally reasserting their core strengths, and not a moment too soon.

  2. Too bad it has taken the Globe this long to do the series. Howie Carr has been writing and talking about this “crazy check” scheme for at least 12 years or so, probably longer.

  3. Laurence Glavin

    Ok, synchronize watches; NOW: how long will we have to wait before Howie Carr demands his Pulitzer for the same coverage?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Laurence: I don’t think there’s a Pulitzer for sneering putdowns of “gimme girls.”

  4. Mike Rice

    Just another reason as to why this country continues to head toward bottom, unabated.

  5. Michael Pahre

    The photos and some of the text/interviews look to me as though this story was reported on in the summer. Yet it just now appears, a week before winter.

    Any idea why they appear to have held the story so long?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Michael: No insight, except to say that’s not unusual.

  6. jmstewart

    Pat Wen did a live chat and an interview with Emily Rooney explaining the evolutiuon of the story. When she received teh diagnosis data, she realized that the speech delay diagnosis required its own story, then a third story on summer jobs. Then a decision was made to shoot some videos. They probably did not want to publish anything before election day as this is somewhat controversial.

  7. C.E. Stead

    @ JM – of course you cannot publish anything controversial before election day. Especially if it’s true, like the probation pay-to-play, or DSS problems. Then, an informed electorate might not vote correctly.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @C.E.: That’s why the Globe didn’t publish a word about the Probation Department scandal before the election. Oh, wait …

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