From “Welfare” to “Human Services”

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Words matter. Names matter. Stigma lasts.


These should be reasons enough for Pennsylvania to change the name of our Department of Public Welfare. If providing “welfare” to “welfare” recipients is what the department actually did, then the name might make sense. But the fact is that 95 percent of what the DPW does and who they serve are human(s) in need of service(s).


We join together as former governors of our great commonwealth in asking the Legislature to change the name of the Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services. We support the legislative efforts of Rep. Tom Murt, R-Hatboro, and Senators Bob Mensch, R-Marlborough, and Jay Costa, D-Homestead, that would make this change at no cost to taxpayers.


We are also pleased to stand beside former DPW Secretaries Harriet Dichter, Estelle B. Richman, Feather Houstoun, John F. White Jr., Karen F. Snider and Walter Cohen, in supporting the efforts to change the department’s name.


Pennsylvanians who are served by the department are our mothers and grandmothers in need of long-term nursing care. They are our neighbors struggling with mental illness, children with physical disabilities, and family members with a terrible drug addiction. And sadly, they are the mothers next door, needing the protection and help of a shelter. These are not welfare recipients. Again, they are humans in need of services.


According to American Public Human Services Association, every other state has ceased calling the department that provides services to human beings “Welfare.” Except Pennsylvania. Here in Pennsylvania, the commonwealth partners with county governments in the delivery of human services and not one of our 67 counties has an agency or department of ”Welfare.”


We hope you will join us and urge your legislators to change the name to the Department of Human Services.



George Leader


Dick Thornburgh


Tom Ridge


Mark Schweiker


Ed Rendell



Leader, Thornburgh, Ridge, Schweiker and Rendell are former governors of Pennsylvania.


From “Welfare” to “Human Services”

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