Haitian-Americans in Miami-Dade County and the Welfare System


A Study of Utilization, Attitudes, and Perceptions Among Haitian-Americans











Marvin Dunn, Ph.D.

Phillip Kretsedemas Ph.D.

Robert E. Beneckson M.S.








Table of Contents


Executive Summary……………………………………………….…..2




Research Design and Methodology………………………………….4-7


Preliminary Research Findings


Part One: Underdeveloped Networks…………………….………….8-19


Part Two: Service Barriers and Client-Caseworker Interactions……20-30














Figure 1. Distribution of Gender by Ethnicity…………………………….23


Figure 2. Number of children under care by Ethnicity……………………23


Figure 3. Marital Status by Ethnicity…………….………………………..24


Figure 4. Accessing Welfare Services, A Comparative Look…………….24


Figure 5. Did you need translation services, but they were unavailable?…25


Figure 6. How long did it take before you started receiving services?……26


Figure 7. How often did you visit the one stop center before your

welfare application was accepted?……………….……………...26


Figure 8. Have you ever been sanctioned?……………………...…………27


Figure 9. How respectful was the whole process?…………………………28


Figure 10. Perceptions of biased treatment………………………………….29


Figure 11. Which group gets the best service at one stop centers?………….29





Executive Summary


This report provides an introductory review of the relationship between the Haitian-American community and the Miami-Dade County welfare system. Report findings are derived from a comparative survey of the welfare service experiences of Haitian-American, African-American, and Hispanic-American clients and interviews with twenty-two service professionals and Haitian-American community leaders.


Part one of the report outlines some of the causes for the underdeveloped linkages between Haitian-American community institutions and the Miami-Dade welfare system.

It finds that increasingly stringent immigration policies, labor market inequities, external funding patterns for non-profit organizations, and the pre-existing reliance on kinship networks as a substitute for government assistance all contribute to the underdevelopment of welfare education programs within the Haitian-American community and the reluctance of many Haitian-Americans to apply for welfare services.


Part two of the report reviews the findings of a comparative survey of (170) Haitian-American, African-American, and Hispanic-American welfare clients. Survey findings indicate that a significant proportion of Haitian-American clients are disadvantaged by the lack of Creole translation services at one stop centers. Haitian-Americans also receive significantly slower service than other client groups and are much more likely to perceive the welfare system as being biased in favor of other groups.

Haitian-Americans are also much more likely than other welfare clients to be single mothers caring for larger numbers of children, and they are much more likely to access the welfare system through the referrals of family and friends who also use welfare. All these indicators suggest a client group that has relatively fewer resources and faces greater resource demands than other client groups, and most importantly, is much more insular than other client groups. Finally, it is important to emphasize that this is a preliminary report. The reliability of the findings, reported here, will be tested against further data gathered during the remainder of the project. Future research will also delve more intensively into the service needs and labor market experiences of unqualified Haitian immigrants and the perceptions of Haitian-American and non-Haitian-American case managers toward the linguistic and cultural communication needs of Haitian-American clients.




Haitian-Americans are, very likely, the most underserved ethnic group within the Miami-Dade County welfare client population, despite the fact that Miami-Dade contains the largest concentration of Florida’s welfare caseload. The legal status of Haitian-Americans sets them apart from African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, Miami-Dade’s most numerous ethnic communities. Furthermore, the terms under which Haitians must qualify for legal residence have been tightened under the 1996 Immigration Reform Act. This has sharply reduced requests for welfare assistance by many Haitian-Americans and intensified the pre-existing decline in welfare enrollments that occurred in direct response to the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act.


These recent reforms have created two sharply differentiated worlds of service access within the Haitian-American community. There is the world of qualified immigrants and legal residents who are eligible for welfare and most forms of government assistance, and there is another world, which is undoubtedly larger but much more difficult to enumerate, that includes both illegal aliens and legal aliens who do not qualify for services. Between these two worlds, however, there exists a large gray area. It includes parents who cannot hold down a full time job because of their care-giving responsibilities, but who are reluctant to apply for assistance because the family members they are caring for are illegal aliens. It also includes working families that may need food vouchers or Medicaid assistance but who believe (often incorrectly) that applying for any sort of public service will jeopardize their application for permanent residency.


Since many Haitian-Americans live inside this gray area it is necessary understand both worlds in order to gain a complete understanding of their service needs. This report provides a beginning description of these two worlds of service access and how they shape Haitian-American attitudes toward, and use of, welfare services. It explores this issue from two different vantage points; first through an overview of the institutional linkages between the Miami-Dade County welfare system and different segments of the Haitian-American community (including non-profit organizations, churches, and elected officials) and secondly, through an analysis of the service experiences of Haitians within the welfare system.



Research Design and Methodology


The research team for the project is composed of faculty from the Department of Psychology of Florida International University and the Social Sciences Division of Florida Memorial College. Team members include project supervisor, Marvin Dunn (FIU), and project coordinators, Robert Beneckson (FIU) and Philip Kretsedemas (FMC).


In keeping with the aims of descriptive case study, the research team selected a diverse range of data collection methods, each of which is intended to expand the scope and depth of the analysis. These data collection methods are listed below and followed by a series of brief, summary descriptions.


  1. Interviews with Haitian-American community leaders and service professionals.

  3. A comparative, quantitative survey of the service experiences of Haitian-American, African-American, and Hispanic-American welfare clients.

  5. Case narratives detailing the social service and labor market experiences of Haitian-Americans.

  7. A quantitative survey of service use and service needs within the Miami-Dade Haitian-American community.

  9. Focus group conversations with One Stop Center case workers





1) Interviews with Haitian-American community leaders and service professionals.


This interview data has been used for two purposes; first to develop question themes for quantitative surveys of service needs and barriers to access (described below) and second to describe institutional relationships between Haitian-American service organizations and the Miami-Dade County welfare system.


Twenty-two interviews were conducted between February and June, 2001. Interviewees were contacted using a snowball sampling method beginning with a small pool of well known Haitian-American public officials and service professionals. Interviewees included two elected officials, seven non-profit administrators and case workers, five government/public sector administrators and case workers, directors of three advocacy groups, three attorneys from legal services organizations, and two pastors who have a long history of involvement in community development activities. Additional interviews will be conducted during the latter phase of the project. A complete list of interviewees and the interview questionnaire are provided in the appendix.



  1. A comparative survey of the service experiences of Haitian-American,
  2. African-American, and Hispanic-American welfare clients.


    This survey has been designed to document client evaluations of the quality of the service received at One Stop Centers and reports on the behavior of caseworkers. The survey, which was adapted from an evaluation instrument originally designed by the Applied Research Center (Gordon, 2001) explores potential language and cultural barriers encountered by Haitian-American welfare clients.


    The research team constructed a cross-sectional sample (composed of the three ethnic groups listed above) in order to better identify those barriers to service and subjective perceptions that are unique to Haitian-American welfare clients. The survey was administered at three one stop centers that are located in Miami-Dade County. Each of the centers serve a client population composed, predominantly, of a single ethnic group. These include the Little River Center, which is located in Little Haiti and serves a predominantly Haitian-American population, the Opa Locka Center, which serves a predominantly African-American population, and the Miami Beach Center, which serves a predominantly Hispanic-American population. Surveys were administered by a team of fourteen FIU undergraduate students over a period of four days (between Monday June 18 and Thursday June 21). Surveyors were present at each of the centers during regular working hours (between 9am – 5pm) for each of the four days. With the cooperation of caseworkers, surveys were administered to all welfare clients who visited each of the centers during the four-day period. One hundred and seventy surveys were completed during this initial phase. A second phase of surveying will be initiated during the latter part of this summer. A copy of the survey instrument is provided in the appendix.



  3. Case narratives detailing the social service and labor market experiences of
  4. Haitian-Americans.


    Case narratives are being used to provide an intensive description of the hardship experiences of Haitian-American service clients. They are intended to provide a qualitative counterpart to the findings of the quantitative surveys included in the research design. The case narratives are also intended to provide a detailed account of the two worlds of service access that were outlined in the introduction, including the welfare service barriers faced by qualified immigrants and the inequities of the Miami-Dade labor market as experienced by a broad range of Haitian-Americans, including unqualified immigrants and illegal aliens.


    Data for the case narratives is being collected using an open ended questionnaire that addresses social service needs, interactions with case workers, barriers to employment, and work place discrimination. Case narrative questionnaires have been distributed to outreach workers at two Haitian-American non-profit organizations who mentor Haitian-American clients in their interactions with government caseworkers. Participating organizations include the Center for Haitian Studies and the Haitian Support Network. The research team expects to collect between twenty and thirty case narratives by September of this year.






  5. A survey of service use and service needs within the Miami-Dade

Haitian-American community.


This survey has been designed to evaluate attitudes toward welfare within the Miami-Dade, Haitian-American community. Like the case narratives (described above) this survey attempts to provide an integrative account of service access problems and service needs of qualified and unqualified immigrants. Specifically, the survey evaluates the current service use and needs of community residents, the reasons why community residents have not sought public assistance, knowledge of the INS "public charge" criteria, problems finding work, work place discrimination, and information sources used to locate services.


The research team has assembled a survey team of Haitian-American outreach workers who have experience conducting door to door canvassing and service in-take in the North Dade Haitian-American community. The survey team includes employees of the Center for Haitian Studies and South Florida ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). The community survey will be administered during the latter part of the summer. The research team expects to collect between three hundred and five hundred surveys. Surveys will be administered using a door to door, quota sampling method in a randomly selected set of working poor Haitian-American communities in the North Dade area. The research team is currently in the process of determining the specific parameters of this sampling area.



5) Focus group conversations with One Stop Center case workers


Focus group conversations will be used to explore caseworker perceptions of the service needs and barriers documented by the research outlined above. The research team expects to conduct between two and three focus group sessions with One Stop Center caseworkers. Focus groups will be composed of both Haitian-American and non-Haitian-American caseworkers who assist Haitian-American welfare clients. Focus groups will be organized in the early Fall after the welfare client survey, community survey, and case narrative documentation have been completed.


Preliminary Research Findings


Part One: Underdeveloped Networks.

The Miami-Dade County welfare system and Haitian-American community institutions


A growing body of researchers has demonstrated that inter-institutional and interpersonal networks play a much more important role than previously understood in shaping patterns and flows of international migration (Kasinitz 1992, Portes 1995; Sassen 1998, Schein 1998). This reliance on personal networks has been especially pronounced for the Haitian-American community, which has become one of the most systematically stigmatized immigrant populations in recent U.S. history.


As Alex Stepick (1998) has observed, South Florida has historically been one of the least favored U.S. destination points for Haitian immigrants. The volatile South Florida racial climate and limited opportunities for social mobility led the first waves of Haitian immigrants to settle in New York and Boston. It is only in the mid 1980s, during the brutal final days of Duvalier regime, that large numbers of Haitian immigrants began to enter South Florida. The poverty of this wave of Haitian immigrants, the unfortunate timing of the migration (which occurred on the heels of the equally stigmatized Mariel exodus), the rise of urban myths that linked Haitians to the emerging AIDS epidemic, unsympathetic rulings from the INS (defining Haitians as economic rather than political refugees) and the underdevelopment of the Miami-Dade County social service infrastructure all contributed toward an extremely inhospitable host environment. It is very likely that this hostile immigration experience contributed toward the prominent role that kinship networks currently play in disseminating information and distributing resources within the Haitian community. Portes and Stepick (1985) have observed, for example, that kinship networks, which tend to favor Haitian men, have played a much more critical role than language ability, education level, and even legal status in determining the employment status of many recent Haitian immigrants.


Given this context, it is significant that there are very few institutional linkages between the Miami-Dade welfare system and the networks of the Haitian-American community. The situation is further exacerbated by the structure of the Florida welfare system, which is the most decentralized of the fifty states. Florida’s welfare system is currently organized under twenty four Regional Workforce Boards (RWBs) that fall under the administration of two relative autonomous bodies; an agency named Workforce Florida which is governed by state legislation and subject to public oversight and the Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI), a wholly private agency. All of the Regional Workforce Boards are charged with creating centralized "one stop" service centers as stipulated under the provisions of the 1997 federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Each RWB is responsible for contracting services with a variety of one stop centers that provide a broad range of workforce support services ranging from welfare to unemployment insurance. Each RWB is supported, primarily, by TANF dollars and funds from the State Department of Labor.


Under state law each RWB has been granted a great deal of administrative autonomy in contracting services with local agencies, but the centralization of services under the RWB system has also distanced welfare agencies from the networks of local government. In 1996 Florida established the Work And Gain Economic Self-Sufficiency program (WAGES) with its TANF block grant. The administrative structure of WAGES was very similar to the current RWB system save that it focused exclusively on welfare services and, in the case of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties (which composes a single administrative region for welfare services) it was managed with the oversight of county government. Under the RWB program that was established in May 2000, however, the links with county government have been largely severed and replaced by administrators from the State Department of Labor. Furthermore, the statewide administrative center for the program (through the addition of AWI) is becoming increasingly more privatized, and hence, increasingly more impervious to public scrutiny.


As a result of these changes, the new welfare system has begun to draw criticism from welfare rights organizers for its increasing insularity from local government and community-based organizations. (Interview: Greenfield, Romano) Given that these concerns are being raised by organizations that had established a working dialogue with the old WAGES system, it is doubly unclear how this transformation will be perceived by Haitian-American community leaders, who only had marginal contact with the welfare system as formerly constituted.


Haitian-American non-profit organizations would appear to be the most likely venue for mediation between the welfare system and the Haitian-American community. For the most part, however, these organizations provide services that parallel, but are not integrated with, services offered by the welfare system. Jean LaFortune, who has worked for many years in the Miami-Dade non-profit sector and currently serves as director of the Haitian Grassroots Coalition, summarizes the disconnect in this way.


I would say there are some long time, long term agencies in the community like HACAD [the Haitian American Community Association of Dade] , that has been here twenty years or CHS [the Center for Haitian Studies] has been here for the past fifteen or twelve years – or Catholic Charities - that have been here for very long. So there are two to four agencies that many people will go to for assistance, but in terms of services from government agencies, this is where you have the problem. (Interview: LaFortune).


The "problem" that LaFortune refers to is the reluctance of many Haitian immigrants to walk in the door of government agencies which are rarely staffed by Creole speaking service workers and are often perceived to be latently hostile to Haitian-Americans. As several interviewees acknowledged, this fear does not prevent Haitian-American families from seeking services, but it does have a pronounced impact on the way in which they go about seeking services. In many respects, this reticence has shaped the socio-cultural context in which Haitian-American non-profit organizations operate, as a relatively isolated sector of organizations that acts as a substitute for government service agencies. Health services (most notably Florida’s CHIP funded KidCare program) are one of the few examples where Haitian-American service organizations link their clients to state and federal programs. (Interviews: Maurice, Prophete, Vieux) But more typically, and especially in the case of emergency assistance and job placement services, Haitian-American non-profits tend to act as welfare diversion agencies. It is important to emphasize, however, that this is not necessarily occurring by the design of agency directors but as the outcome of a complex array of structural and cultural dynamics, including the attitudes of the clients themselves.


Dr. Lumane Claude is the new director of the Little Haiti Neighborhood Enhancement Team (Little Haiti NET). Little Haiti NET is a city government organization that has been charged with the task of building mutually beneficial links with Haitian-American civic groups, primarily through the coordination of neighborhood beautification projects and door-to-door outreach on zoning regulations. Although Little Haiti NET carries information on state and federal service program, Dr. Claude acknowledges that she receives very few requests for information about Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance, Medicare, housing assistance, or subsidized child care. (Interview: Claude) She also notes that she receives no requests for information about immigration policy, adding that most neighborhood residents are probably hesitant to ask a government agency questions about their immigration status. On one hand, this reticence is not surprising given the large proportion of illegal immigrants in the Miami-Dade Haitian-American community, which some interviewees numbered, conservatively, as anywhere between twenty to thirty percent of the Dade Haitian population. (Interviews: Guirand, LaFortune, Prophete, Vieux) On the other hand, it is significant that when many Haitian-Americans need information about government services one of the last places they would consider contacting is a public sector agency. It also bears noting that if a Haitian immigrant is hesitant to seek information from government agencies about INS policies, because they are concerned for their legal status, they are also likely to be fearful of asking questions about social services, which also require them to divulge information about their legal status.


Many Haitian-American service professionals are very sensitive to these fears. For example, when Dr. Claude does receive requests for information on social services, she usually sends people to the Haitian American Foundation Inc. (HAFI), a Haitian-American run non-profit organization, rather than one of the local one stop Centers.

Leonie Hermantin, the director of HAFI candidly acknowledges, "We have very little contact with the one stop centers. We are actually in competition with these centers to some degree since we provide a lot of the same services but we are not in their loop of service-referral agencies." (Interview: Hermantin)


Hermantin’s organization offers a range of services that does appear to rival the offerings of the federally funded One Stop Centers, including job placement and training, bridging gaps in service faced by elderly clients, youth and family services, health outreach and education, and community-based economic development initiatives. Even so, Hermantin’s reference to "competition" is best understood as a general metaphor for the difficulties of the institutional environment in which Haitian-American non-profits must struggle for survival, rather than as a literal account of HAFI’s relationship with the welfare system. As Hermantin points out, it is not so much the case that HAFI and other Haitian-American non-profits are stealing clients from the welfare system, but that they are attempting to meet the needs of clients who have either fallen through the cracks or who are simply invisible to the mainstream social service sector. Marlene Bastien, director of FANM (a Creole acronym that stands for Haitian Women of Miami) also observed that the Haitian-American community has been systemically overlooked and underserved by the Miami-Dade County social service sector. As she explains,


We need to change how public resources are allocated. Most social policies have been developed without Haitians in mind. They [policy makers] are reacting to our needs but we’re not a part of the planning process. (Interview: Bastien)



Similar critiques were voiced by other Haitian non-profit administrators and accompanied by equally frank acknowledgments of the short-fallings of the non-profits themselves. These observations point toward a general point of consensus among the interviewees: the need to build more enduring and mutually beneficial linkages between Haitian-American service organizations and the mainstream service organizations. As some one stop center workers suggested, this transformation should entail the hiring of more Creole speaking case managers. (Interviews: Fleurine, Montfort) Other interviewees noted that Haitian-American non-profits will need to work on improving their own inter-organizational linkages (especially in the area of cross-referrals) before they can effectively partner with government agencies. (Interviews: Bastien, Hermantin, Laurenceau, Maurice, Prophete)


These objectives, however, will require Haitian-American service professionals to surmount a formidable array of external and internal barriers. Some non-profit directors, for example, blame the funding patterns of the government and private foundations for fostering service duplication and inter-organizational competition among Haitian-American non-profits. (Interviews: Hermantin, Vieux, Bazin) They observe that the scarce and erratic nature of funding for community based organizations makes it very difficult for these groups to plan holistically for long-term development initiatives. In this regard, the underdevelopment of linkages between Haitian-American non-profits and the welfare system can also be viewed as an organizational response to an institutional environment that discouraged such linkages. It bears noting, for example, that federal programs that have been targeted at South Floridia immigrant groups, most notably the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were intentionally structured to divert new immigrants from long term welfare assistance. Institutions that have been interested in funding Haitian-American non-profits have been much more interested in assisting with community health, AIDS education, and teen pregnancy, whereas the few institutions that fund welfare education programs tend to have stronger links with groups that serve native-born, working poor communities. As a consequence, even those Haitian-American non-profits, such as Haitian Women of Miami (FANM), that have an interest in educating the community about welfare services find that they very little time to develop the inter-organizational relationships (with legal services organizations and one stop centers) necessary to accomplish this task.


The Haitian Support Network is a non-profit that provides a twenty-four hour telephone hotline that answers questions, and provides mentoring, on a wide range of service issues including welfare. The Network, however, is reliant on a small team of volunteer social workers. New Horizons, a community mental health center that was initiated in the early 1970s by a team from the University of Miami psychiatry program, is the one non-profit organization that does have a paid staff of social workers who mentor Haitian-American welfare clients. Unfortunately, however, New Horizons is not in the Haitian-American non-profit loop and, as a result, it is rarely the case that an organization such as HAFI, FANM, or CHS refers a client to New Horizons for additional assistance.


The external structural problems which contribute toward the underdevelopment of welfare education programs by Haitian-American non-profit organizations, are also compounded by an apparent disinterest in welfare services within the community. In this case, it is not only that individuals are reluctant to inquire about welfare services, but also that welfare often does not rank among their primary concerns. According to all of the interviewees, immigration, access to jobs, and maintaining a stable family are much more central to the popular discourse on Haitian-American community needs than welfare rights. The "boot straps" mentality that is common to many first generation immigrant groups may explain this aversion. Portes and Stepick (1993) have noted, for example, that Haitian-American community leaders tend to look to the Cuban-American ethnic enclave as the model for Haitian-American empowerment, instead of the confrontational activism that has defined the African-American experience. It bears noting, however, that the Hispanic-American community is as equally represented in the state welfare case load as are African-Americans. Furthermore, data from the Florida Department of Labor has shown that the average quarterly income of Hispanic-American former welfare clients is slightly higher than that of both white and black former clients. (Beneckson, Dunn, et.al., 2000) These data suggest that the model of the ethnic entrepreneur has probably been over-extended in explaining the economic stability of the working class Hispanic-American community. It also indicates that use of welfare services is not necessarily antithetical to the ethnic enclave model that has been embraced by many Haitian-American community leaders.

All of this suggests that distaste for public assistance among Haitian-Americans community cannot be explained simply through reference to an ethnic pride that is common to all new immigrant groups. Skepticism with "Haitian pride" as an explanation for low welfare enrollments among Haitian-Americans was voiced by many of the interviewees. (Interviews: Hermantin, LaFortune, Montfort, Prophete, Smith, Vieux) As most interviewees acknowledged, the climate created by the 1996 Immigration Reform Act, that identifies social service use (under the "public charge" clause) as a possible criteria for denial of permanent residency, has played a much more significant role in dampening community interest in welfare services. In this light, it is understandable that many Haitians-Americans view welfare as a potential liability that could result in the eventual deportation of themselves or their family members, and not as a temporary support system that can assist them in achieving economic self-sufficiency. Furthermore, the availability of low-wage labor in the formal and informal sector often renders welfare "moot" as a strategy for getting ahead in the local labor market. This skepticism is summarized by Pastor Harold Vieux.


Welfare will be of no help unless it helps people to improve their job skills, learn English, and advance themselves. Other wise it just dumps them back into the same under-skilled and underpaid labor pool. Haitians do much of the under skilled lowest paying work in Dade county. It is a big problem for the community. (Interview: Vieux)


Recent research indicates that Pastor Vieux has a reason to be concerned. A report published by the Applied Research Center has demonstrated that skills training programs are much less helpful for black clients in finding work after welfare than they are for white clients. (Gooden, 1997) As a result, black clients have to rely much more on their personal networks to find work than do white clients who fare better landing jobs that have been publicly advertised. Considering that many Haitian-Americans are additionally handicapped by their legal status and poor English proficiency, it is not surprising that more trust is placed on personal kinship networks than public services (such as the welfare system) in improving their employment situation. This may also explain why, according to most of the interviewees, Haitian-Americans perceive welfare as a service of last resort which has little to do with the broader community concern for creating "good jobs."


In this regard, the low priority that welfare services hold for many Haitian-American families can be viewed as a rational response to the realities of immigration reform and the racial-ethnic stratification of employment opportunities within the local labor market. This skeptical attitude toward welfare seems to have received further confirmation by the decisions of Governor Bush to disallow the use of TANF dollars for general family support services (which could have provided many Haitian-American non-profit organizations access to a new source of funding) and recent attempts to reverse the current state law that allows the children of illegal immigrants access to KidCare and other CHIP funded health services.


Once formed, however, these attitudes can reinforce the community’s pre-existing tendencies toward insularity and the widespread reliance on kinship networks as a substitute for public assistance. As a consequence, the inequities of the broader environment can act as a disincentive to civic engagement rather than as a stimulus for community discussion on policy alternatives. Furthermore, individuals in the community who qualify for public assistance and seek this assistance are more likely to do so "undercover" as there are few institutions internal to the community that will support them in that decision.


As Pastor Vieux and Father Fritz Bazin of St. Luke's Episcopal Church both observed, the clergy are often the first persons that Haitian-Americans approach with their service needs. Much more so than the Haitian-American non-profit organizations, the church is viewed as an organic extension of the family unit. As a consequence, churches also tend to be viewed as ideal venues for bridging the link between the community and the government. Elected officials, candidates for office, government service workers, and non-profit administrators all make use of church congregations in their attempts to reach the Haitian-American community.


As several of the interviewees observed, however, while church congregations are comfortable receiving information about Medicare they are much less comfortable hosting public forums on welfare. (Interviews: Diller, Vieux) Parents often turn to the church to address the inter-generational conflict between themselves and their children. As Father Bazin explained, parents are more frequently concerned about what their children are doing while they are at work than they are with finding work itself. Quite often, parents attribute their children’s irascible personalities, sexual activity, drug use, truancy, and criminal behavior to the forces of "Americanization" and they turn to the church to help keep their children grounded in Haitian culture. The tendency of the younger generation to "follow in the footsteps" of many African-Americans, by having babies out of wedlock and applying for welfare, are also attributed to "Americanization." As a result, welfare can very easily be interpreted as a government service that stands in opposition to the family and kinship networks that so many Haitian-Americans rely on for stability in an otherwise hostile social environment. Many Haitian-American parents blame the Child Protective Services division of HRS for encouraging their children to act out against them, with the knowledge that the government can intervene on the parent-child relationship. To a lesser extent, the specter of government intervention also looms over the welfare system, since all applicants must file for child support from the child’s other parent (typically the father). For some Haitian-American pastors these criteria may be seen as fomenting confrontation rather than cooperation between parents, and more significantly as challenging the authority of the family patriarch. Although these sorts of attitudes are not universal throughout the Haitian-American community, several interviewees did note that gender expectations about the roles and duties of family members, especially in the older generation, often limit the ability of women to act independently, whether this is to attend a PTA meeting or apply for social services. (Interviews: Bastien, Celestin) But conversely, one of the instances where a close link has been established between the Haitian-American community and the welfare system involves a church organization. Notre Dame, a Catholic congregation located in Little Haiti, operates a branch of Catholic Charities, which also serves as the host site for a One Stop Center. This notable exception highlights the substantially different role that Catholic (as opposed to Protestant) congregations have played in connecting the community to social services. But it also illustrates that the reticence of Haitian-American church congregations to address difficult social issues is not necessarily inherent to the culture of the church itself, as exemplified by Pastor Vieux’s Coalition of Protestant Pastors who do an extensive amount of work on AIDS education.


There are promising signs on the horizon for the Miami-Dade Haitian-American community. The recent victory of Joe Celestin in the North Miami mayoral race set a new precedent for the public visibility of the Haitian-American community in local government. Celestin’s victory demonstrates that the Haitian-American community is beginning to seriously engage the institutional political system, which, in turn, provides Haitian-American community leaders with a greater degree of leverage in their interactions with government service agencies.


Celestin’s successful campaign was the product of approximately two years of intensive organizing. The idea to run in North Miami first occurred to Celestin after attempting, unsuccessfully, to campaign in predominantly African-American districts (Interview: Celestin). After a period of research, he surmised that a critical mass of registered Haitian-American voters was accumulating in the North Miami area. As Celestin narrates the story, he released his research findings at a private meeting with a small group of Haitian-American men who were also interested in running for office. Between 1998 and 2001, this group sponsored twelve successful electoral campaigns including seats in county government and the state legislature, culminating with the recent victory of Celestin as Mayor of North Miami and the election of Jacques Despinosse as North Miami Councilman. Celestin also takes credit for rallying the Haitian-American community around Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas’ successful re-election campaign. It is widely acknowledged that Penelas entered the race as a relatively weak candidate, given the controversy surrounding the Elian Gonzalez affair. Even so, it is difficult to ascertain whether the Haitian-American vote did, as Celestin claims, seal the victory for Penelas without a run off against Diaz de la Portilla, a former Miami Dade Commissioner, and a prominent figure within the local Cuban-American community. It is apparent, however, that the new cohort of Haitian-American politicians, typified by Celestin, is making strides in getting the local political establishment to take the Haitian-American community seriously. It is also very likely that this group of Haitian-American leaders will play a critical role in defining the popular discourse and political objectives of the Haitian-American community on social welfare issues.


Celestin’s views on welfare services, though not strictly representative of all Haitian-Americans, provide additional insights into the ambivalent attitudes outlined earlier in this report.


I don’t like welfare. I think welfare is something that can be used temporarily to help people who are going through a hard time. Not as consistently…not as a practice the way they have it now. We had people having children or structuring themselves just to qualify for welfare. That is wrong. It’s a form of slavery. I mean it keeps people… you’re getting subsidized and then you believe in the system that’s giving you a handout and then you won't make an effort to work. I believe the welfare to work program that the federal government has now made, they may not have a program that is working the way it should be because we don’t have people with the knowledge who know how to make it work in the African-American community or in the minority community, but the concept is a good concept. (Interview: Celestin)


Celestin is a Republican, but it is misleading to assume that his critique of welfare is strictly derivative of his partisan loyalties. In many respects, Celestin’s critique of welfare is premised on polemics that were used to justify the restructuring of the former welfare system under the Clinton/Gore administration. Furthermore, in pursuing the issue further, it was apparent that Celestin approved of the reformed welfare system but remained fundamentally skeptical of the integrity of a person who would, apparently, choose welfare over work. As City Mayor, Celestin does not interact with state and county welfare agencies or influence social welfare policy to any significant degree. On policy issues with which he is directly involved, however, he takes a more stridently liberal tone, defending the basic principals of inclusion, equality, and affirmative action.


The issue is fairness. . . We have a city where less than 1% of contracts are going to minorities and women, less than less than half of one percent. Almost none, in fact last year we had no black contractors, we had no contractors… If I do anything in this area, it's for everybody to benefit, and certainly I don’t control the hiring and firing at the city…what I can do is just create…equal access for everyone, not just Haitians. For Latinos, for everybody, for Jamaicans, for everybody. And that’s what I’m advocating, equal access, equal opportunity. That’s why I’m here. The city of North Miami doesn’t have a local housing authority, we don’t have a local housing authority – we are the only major city without a local housing authority and why? Because a family that makes fifty or sixty thousand, if you make over that money you don’t qualify (to sit on the board) and this city is controlled by big timers. But they are not interested in having a local housing authority that would provide gap financing for low income individuals. [They say] Why should we encourage low-income individuals to move into our neighborhoods? So I made a commitment that once I’m elected I would start a local housing assistance program. (Interview: Celestin)



Celestin’s critique of welfare may appear to contradict his support for low-income housing programs. It is possible that housing assistance resonates much more powerfully with Haitian-American narratives on progress, kinship networks, and family stability than does welfare assistance. In this regard, housing programs that offer a helping hand for hardworking families who are taking "the next step" to property ownership can be contrasted against the undeserving welfare recipient who seeks government assistance as a substitute for work.


Even so, Celestin’s support for housing assistance (and affirmative action) illustrates the populist overtones of his partisan loyalties, which are heavily mediated by his commitment to the needs of working poor Haitian-American families. In this regard, Celestin’s ethnic-populism shares something in common with the Republicanism of Miami’s Cuban-American politicians who often join forces with local Democrats to support health and social service bills that benefit their constituencies.


Again, it is probably more accurate to view Celestin’s views on welfare as a slightly more conservative reading of cultural values and narrative themes that are typical of the attitudes that many Haitians-Americans hold toward public assistance. Celestin may not directly influence welfare policy, but as the most prominent Haitian-American politician in Miami-Dade County, he is likely to play a critical role in shaping Haitian-American attitudes and expectations of the role of government, especially among the community leadership. Celestin’s critique of welfare services suggests the need for a cultural re-framing of the idea of welfare, in addition to pragmatic assessments of service barriers, information networks, and the local labor market. In order to generate an open conversation on welfare in the Haitian-American community it will, most likely, be necessary to situate discussions on welfare policy and service options within more holistic narratives on progress, kinship, and social justice that are culturally relevant to the Haitian-American community.


Part Two: Service barriers and client-caseworker interactions.

This section uses interviews with Haitian-American service professionals and a survey of one stop center clients to make some preliminary observations about service barriers that are particular to Haitian-American clients. As noted earlier, the survey compared the service experiences of Haitian-American, Hispanic-American, and African-American clients. It is also important to emphasize that the survey findings are preliminary. Although the results point toward potential ethnic disparities in both quality of service received and client perceptions of caseworker behaviors, the research team intends to conduct a second phase of surveys during the late summer to confirm the reliability of these results.


According to case managers, Haitian-American clients tend to stay on welfare for shorter periods of time than other clients. (Interviews: Dorcely, Fleurine, Guirand, Montfort) They also seem to prefer diversionary services to direct cash assistance. These perceptions may be colored by a romanticized stereotype of the respectable, hardworking immigrant, but it is likely that this cautious use of welfare services has been influenced by the immigration and welfare reform acts referenced earlier. These reports are also consistent with anecdotal observations offered by other service providers. Pastor Harold Vieux, for example, who serves as the director of a North Dade community health center, observed that the numbers of Haitian-American welfare clients served at his center declined by more than fifty percent during the first year after the passage of the immigration reform and welfare reform acts. (Interview: Vieux)


Government caseworkers, non-profit administrators, and public benefits attorneys also agreed about common service barriers faced by Haitian-American clients. These include legal status, English language proficiency, and the self-perceived cultural outsider status of Haitian-American welfare clients. Legal status concerns center on the "public charge" criteria of the INS. Haitian-Americans who are most concerned about public charge designations are usually individuals who live in the gray area between the social networks of legal and illegal immigrants. These are individuals who legally qualify to receive services but are concerned that their service use will either compromise their application for permanent residence or will lead government workers to "discover" and deport undocumented persons who are living in their household. This situation has produced both realistic and exaggerated fears of public charge criteria. These concerns, however, inhibit Haitian-Americans from applying for services. In contrast, the barriers of language proficiency and cultural alienation directly impact the quality of service that Haitian-American clients receive once they enter the welfare system.


The barriers posed by language and culture are qualitatively distinct, but not surprisingly, closely interwoven with one another. Although many Haitian-American clients can hold a conversation in English, they often have trouble following technical discussions on eligibility criteria that are explained exclusively in English. It is important, however, that Creole translations are provided orally and not only as written text. As several interviewees explained, many Haitian-Americans are not literate and even those who are literate may not necessarily understand every nuance of a Creole translation. Since Haitian Creole has only recently been transformed into a written language, it is very possible that some Haitian-Americans will not be familiar with elements of a particular translation, especially if this translation involves technical social service jargon.


Several interviewees observed that Haitian-Americans tend to receive sanctions because they do not understand the service guidelines that have been outlined by their caseworkers (Interviews: Dorcely, Fleurine, Greenfield, Guirand, Laurenceau, Montfort)

According to the interviewees, Creole speaking caseworkers are able to bridge the cultural as well the linguistic barriers faced by Haitian-American clients. Although many Haitian-American clients violate service guidelines because of their limited English proficiency, they are often reluctant to raise questions due to inhibitions caused by cultural barriers. As noted in part one, kinship networks play an extremely critical role in the lives of many working poor Haitian-Americans. Many Haitian-American clients are used to accessing employment opportunities, policy information, legal assistance, and other services, through references provided through their personal networks. Concerns for their legal status and a sensitivity to the persistence of negative stereotypes about Haitian immigrants lead many Haitian-American clients to withdraw from non-Haitian-American or non-Creole speaking case workers.


All of the Haitian-American caseworkers who were interviewed acknowledged that they frequently receive calls from Haitian-American clients from different one stop centers who need help understanding procedural guidelines. (Interviews: Dorcely, Fleurine, Guirand, Montfort) Haitian-American non-profit workers also acknowledged that one stop center clients periodically contact them for this sort of assistance. (Interviews: Hermantin, Laurenceau, Prophete) Quite often, these clients have questions that they are hesitant to ask caseworkers who, they believe, may not understand their concerns. According to the interviews, some of the primary concerns that Haitian-American clients have include: sharing information that may lead either to their deportation or denial of permanent residency, a fear of losing their children to HRS Child Protective Services, and a general reluctance to disclose their "family business" to outsiders, especially when this involves filing for child support payments. Case managers also report that many Haitian-American clients believe they receive discriminatory treatment from one stop center workers. Furthermore, they believe that this discrimination is not primarily racial, but based on their nationality and legal status. A Haitian-American case manager noted, for example, that many of his clients complain that African-Americans are treated more leniently than Haitian-Americans on sanctioning decisions. (Interview: Fleurine)


The survey of one stop center clients, coordinated by the research team, both supports and disconfirms some of these anecdotal observations. The survey was administered to one hundred and seventy welfare clients. This sample included (34) thirty-four Haitian-Americans, (56) fifty-six African-Americans, (58) fifty-eight Hispanic-Americans, thirteen Anglo-Americans, and nine respondents listed under an unidentified "other" ethnicity. This review focuses, specifically, on the contrasting experiences of Haitian-American, African-American, and Hispanic-American clients with an emphasis on the reports of Haitian-American clients.


The survey findings indicate that there are significant ethnic disparities both in client self-reports of their treatment by caseworkers and in client perceptions of bias. Furthermore, Haitian-American clients tend to experience slower service than other ethnic groups, are more likely to have been disadvantaged by the lack of effective translation services, and are more likely, than other ethnicities, to perceive the actions of caseworkers as biased.


Not surprisingly, the majority (66%) of respondents were women. The correspondence between gender and ethnicity was more pronounced for Haitians-Americans than all other ethnic groups. The results of an ANOVA test demonstrate that there was a statistically significant correspondence between ethnicity and gender (F = 3.459, p > .01). The Haitian-American client group contained the largest proportion of women compared to other client groups. (see Figure 1, below)


Figure 1.


Significant relationships were also found between ethnicity and the number of children under the client’s immediate care (F = 3.875, p > .01), and between ethnicity and marital status (F=3.514, p > .05). Cross tabulations of these variables revealed that Haitian-American clients cared for larger numbers of children than Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans and were much more likely to be single mothers than Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans (see Figures 2 and 3).


Figure 2.



Figure 3.

1 = Married 2 = Single (never married) 3 = Common law marriage 4 = Separated 5 = Divorced 6 = Widow/Widower


These findings indicate that Haitian-American clients were more likely to be single mothers with larger numbers of children under their care than mothers of other ethnic groups. The survey also indicates that Haitian-American clients were more likely than other ethnic groups to be referred to one stop centers from other Haitians who use welfare services. (see Figure 4, below)


Figure 4. Accessing Welfare Services, A Comparative Look *



Haitian-Americans African-Americans Hispanic-Americans

N = 34 N = 56 N = 58


Always knew 38% 61% 29%

about welfare


Referred by friend/

family on welfare 47% 25% 26%


Referred by friend/

Family (not on welfare) 5% 18% 2%


Referred by

Govt. agency 26% 21% 40%


Referred by non profit 0% 2% 0%


Referred by church 12% 14% 17%



* Respondents were allowed to select more than one category. As a result, all column totals are greater than 100%. Also note that this is a selective presentation of findings which excludes the responses of Anglo-Americans and the "other" ethnicity category. It also excludes findings on radio referrals and referrals through other means due to the low frequency counts for both questions.


It is also significant that none of the Haitian-American clients were referred to one stop centers by non-profit agencies or by friends and family who do not use welfare. On the other hand, they were much more likely to be referred by another government agency (although as a group, Hispanic-Americans were the most likely to be referred by government agencies). These findings provide additional evidence of the disconnect between Haitian-American community institutions and the welfare system. They indicate that Haitian-American clients, who are typically single mothers, tend to rely on other Haitian-American women welfare recipients to find out about services. It is very likely that these informal networks of welfare clients share information outside of the communication channels of the Haitian-American church and Haitian-American service organizations.


Survey responses confirmed some of the case managers’ observations of the service barriers faced by Haitian-American clients. Haitian-Americans were much more likely to have suffered from a lack of translation services (see Figure 5). Approximately 25% of Haitian-American clients (the largest proportion of any ethnic group for this response category) acknowledged that there were times when they did need translation services, but these services were unavailable. An ANOVA test revealed a significant correlation between ethnicity and responses to this question (F = 3.185, p > .01).


Figure 5.

Haitian-American clients also made more visits to the One Stop Center than other ethnic groups before their applications were accepted. They also waited longer before they began receiving services. Over one third of all Haitian-American clients waited two months or more to receive services and over one third had to visit the One Stop Center more than three times before their applications were accepted (see Figures 6 and 7). ANOVA tests revealed a statistically significant relationship between ethnicity and survey responses for both of these questions. (F = 3.756, p > .01 and F = 3.089, p > .05, respectively).


Figure 6.

Figure 7.

There were other instances, however, where Haitian-American clients did not surface as the most underserved group. For example, although there was a statistically significant relationship between ethnicity and sanction decisions (F = 4.180, p > .01) African-American clients were more than twice as likely to receive sanctions than Haitian-American clients. (see Figure 8). ANOVA tests also revealed significant relationships between ethnicity and the number of services that clients were told about, applied for, and are currently receiving. Haitian clients were not over-represented in either the upper or lower ends of the scale for these questions.


Figure 8.


Haitian-American clients were somewhat more critical of their service experiences than other clients. An ANOVA test revealed a significant relationship between ethnicity and perceptions of respectful treatment. (F = 3.29, p > .05) Haitian-Americans were the only ethnic group that did not report having been treated respectfully and perhaps more significantly, approximately 90% of Haitian-American clients abstained from answering the question. (see Figure 9)




Figure 9.


Haitian-American clients were also more likely than Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans to perceive case workers acting in a biased manner favoring other ethnic groups. (see Figure 10) ANOVA results revealed a significant correspondence between ethnicity and responses to this set of questions. (F = 4.571, p> .01) ANOVA results also revealed that client’s perceptions of which ethnic group received the best service also varied by ethnicity. (F = 10.860, p >.001) Most respondents believed that Hispanic-Americans received the best service. Of this group, Haitian-Americans were most likely to report that Hispanic-Americans received preferential treatment. Hispanic-Americans, in contrast, were most likely to believe that no group received preferential treatment. Survey findings demonstrate that there may be some truth to these perceptions as Hispanic-Americans did report waiting less time than African-American and Haitian-Americans before receiving services. Hispanic-Americans were also more likely to report that they had received respectful treatment from case managers and reported being sanctioned slightly less than Haitian-American clients.





Figure 10. *


* Scores range from 0-5, with "0" indicating a respondent who perceives no bias and "5" indicating a respondent who perceived bias in all five question categories. These five categories include: 1) Other ethnic groups are given faster service, 2) …are given more polite service, 3) …told about more benefits, 4) …get less sanctions, 5) …get better work opportunities. See Question 35, Service Experiences of One Stop Center Clients (Appendix).



Figure 11.

It bears noting, however, that a significant proportion of welfare clients of any ethnicity did not feel that they had been discriminated against because of their race, nationality, or English language proficiency. For Haitian-American clients in particular, language barriers may have played a role in the significantly slower service received, but this did not lead Haitian-American clients to be sanctioned more often, as was expected. These findings suggest that there is a certain degree of slippage between the actual inequities that Haitian-Americans experience in the welfare system and their perceptions of how and where these inequities occur. Conversely, it also appears that although most Haitian-American clients believe that the system is biased, they do not necessarily attribute this bias to explicit racist or anti-Haitian attitudes on the part of case managers.




This report has provided an introductory review of the relationship between the Miami-Dade County welfare system and the Haitian-American community. Part one of the report illustrated the dearth of linkages between Haitian-American community organizations and the social service sector. Increasingly stringent immigration policies, labor market inequities, external funding patterns for non-profit organizations, and the pre-existing reliance on kinship networks as a substitute for government assistance, all appear to contribute toward the underdevelopment of welfare education programs within the Haitian-American community and the reluctance of many Haitian-Americans to apply for welfare services.


Part two of the report examined some of the barriers that Haitian-Americans face once they enter the welfare system. Survey data illustrated that a significant number of Haitian-American clients are disadvantaged by the lack of Creole translation services at one stop centers. Data also indicate that Haitian-American clients receive significantly slower service. It is possible that this slower service is related to the lack of translation services. It did not, however, contribute toward a significantly higher sanction rate among Haitian-Americans, as was expected by some of the Haitian-American case managers who were interviewed for the project. Haitian-American clients did report significantly higher rates of bias (compared to other ethnic groups) in their observations of the behavior of case managers. This finding corroborates the observations of the Haitian-American case managers, who noted that Haitian-American clients tend to view themselves as "cultural outsiders" in government institutions and are more sensitive to perceived inequities than are other clients. In a similar vein, Haitian-American (and African-American) clients were much more likely to believe that Hispanic-Americans receive better service at one stop centers, whereas Hispanic-American (and Anglo-American) clients were more likely to believe that no ethnic group received preferential treatment. Again, the perceptions of Haitian-American clients may not be entirely accurate (especially considering the relatively equal sanction rates of Haitian-American and Hispanic-American clients). The self-reports of Hispanic-American clients do illustrate that Hispanic-Americans received faster service, do not experience language barriers to the degree faced by Haitian-American clients, are much less likely to perceive the system as biased, and were more likely to be referred to welfare services by workers in other government agencies. Furthermore, prior research by the Florida Scholar-Practitioner team has illustrated that the post-welfare quarterly incomes of Hispanic-American clients are significantly higher than both black and white American clients, in most Florida counties.


Survey data reveal a much different profile for Haitian-American clients. Haitian-American clients were more disproportionately female than other ethnic groups (with a ratio of women to men of approximately 6:1 as opposed to 3:1 for Hispanic and African-Americans). Haitian-American clients were also significantly more likely to be single mothers caring for larger numbers of children. Furthermore, Haitian-American clients were most likely to be referred to welfare services by friends and family who also use welfare (as opposed to being referred by non-profits, churches, government agencies, or friends and family who do not use services). All of these indicators suggest a welfare client group that has relatively fewer resources and faces greater resource demands than other client groups, and most importantly, is much more insular than other client groups. Lack of sensitively and welfare education programs among Haitian-American community institutions, and underdeveloped linkages between these institutions and the welfare system has most likely contributed to the tendency of Haitian-American clients to turn to each other as their primary sources for information on welfare.


This initial review does lend support to a number of suggestions for improving the service experiences of Haitian-American welfare clients. There is a need to address both the linguistic and cultural barriers faced by Haitian-American clients. This may entail demands for more Creole speaking case managers in one stop centers and/or cultural sensitivity training programs for one stop center workers. There is also an urgent need, however, to strengthen institutional linkages between Haitian-American community institutions and the social service sector. In this area, there is a need to increase the flow of welfare policy information to Haitian-American community institutions, to enhance linkages between the welfare system and those Haitian-American organizations that are already providing some type of welfare mentoring services, developing long term strategies (for Haitian-American non-profits) for sustainable funding of welfare/social service education programs, and strengthening inter-institutional linkages between Haitian-American community institutions (especially in the area of cross-referrals). In addition to this, there is a need to re-frame the public discourse on welfare services in the Haitian-American community by addressing popular stereotypes and seriously engaging the cultural values and narrative themes that are used by many Haitian-Americans to conceptualize community empowerment. As noted in the report, some of the most prominent public figures within the Haitian-American community tend to contrast the ethnic enclave model, epitomized by the Cuban-American experience, against a model of government subsidized "welfare-dependency." As the experiences of Hispanic-American welfare clients have shown, however, these two models of community and personal empowerment (centered, respectively, around the ethnic entrepreneur and the government service client) are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the strategic combination of both of these models may explain the higher degree of success experienced by Hispanic-American clients in accessing the welfare system and transitioning to economic self-sufficiency. In this regard, Haitian-American community leaders could benefit from looking strategically (rather than ideologically) at how the Hispanic-American and African-American communities of Miami-Dade County have engaged the social service sector and used this relationship to further their community development objectives.


In closing, it should be emphasized that this is a preliminary report. The reliability of the findings reported here will be tested against the data gathered during the remainder of the project. The research team expects to complete approximately two hundred additional surveys of one stop center clients. Future research will also delve more intensively into the service needs and labor market experiences of unqualified Haitian immigrants and the perceptions of Haitian-American and non-Haitian-American case managers toward the linguistic and cultural communication needs of Haitian-American clients.




Beneckson, Robert E., Dunn, Marvin, Gonzalez-Eilert, Anjenys, Marichal, Clara. 2000.

Successful Welfare Leavers in Florida, A study of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Income Levels and Their Relationship to The Federal Poverty Level. Kellogg Foundation, Scholar Practitioner Team, Florida International University.


Gooden, Susan. 1997. Examining Racial Differences in Employment Status Among

Welfare Recipients. Applied Research Center, Grass Roots Innovative Program

Policy Report.


Gorden, Rebecca. 2001. Cruel and Unusual: How Welfare Punishes Poor People.

Applied Research Center Policy Report.


Kasinitz, Philip. 1992. Caribbean New York: Black Immigrants and the Politics of Race.

Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.


Portes, Alejandro (ed). 1995. The Economic Sociology of Immigration. New York.

The Russell Sage Foundation.


Portes, Alejandro and Alex Stepick. 1993. City on the Edge: The transformation of

Miami. University of California Press.


    1. "Unwelcome Immigrants: The Labor Market Experiences of 1980 Cuban

and Haitian Refugees in South Florida". American Sociological Review 50.

Pp. 493-514.


Sassen, Saskia. 1998. Globalization and its discontents. New York. The New Press.


Schein, Louisa. 1998. "Importing Miao brethren to Hmong America: a not-so-stateless

Transnationalism." pp.163-191 in P. Cheah & B. Robbins (ed) Cosmopolitics. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.


Stepick, Alex. 1998. Pride Against Prejudice: Haitians in the United States.

Allyn & Bacon.






Church Organizations


Reverand Fritz Bazin, Head Pastor of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, North Miami. March 30, 2001.


Pastor Harold Vieux, Chair of the Conference of Haitian Pastors United in Christ

and Director of the North Miami Community Health Center, North Miami.

March 13, 2001.



Community Advocates


Jean La Fortune, Officer of Citizen Participation for the Miami-Dade Community Action

Agency and Director of the Haitian Grassroots Coalition, North Miami.

February 28, 2001.


Carline Paul, Executive Director, Haitian American Youth of Tomorrow, North Miami.

March 12, 2001.


Tony Romano, Director, Miami Workers Center, North Miami. March 14, 2001.



Elected Officials


Representative Phillip Brutus, Florida State Legislature, North Miami Office.

June 4, 2001.


Mayor Joe Celestin, Office of the Mayor, City of North Miami, North Miami.

June 6, 2001.



Government and Public Sector Service Professionals


Ernst Dorcely, Senior Case Manager, Perrine 2, One Stop Center, Perrine. April 5, 2001.


Elou Fleurine, Senior Case Manager, Opa Locka Youth Co-Op, One Stop Center,

Opa Locka. March 10, 2001.

Carline Guirand, Case Manager, Opa Locka Youth Co-Op, One Stop Center.

February 17, 2001.


Lumane Claude, Co-Director, City of Miami, Little Haiti Neighborhood Enhancement

Team. Little Haiti, North Miami. March 26, 2001.


Edwing Montfort, Case Manager, Perrine 2, One Stop Center, Perrine. April 5, 2001.



Legal Services Attorneys


Ingrid Edouard, Staff Attorney (Immigration Policy), Florida Immigrant Advocacy

Center, Miami. March 5, 2001.


Valory Greenfield, Public Benefits Attorney (Welfare Policy Specialist), Florida Legal

Services, Miami. February 20, 2001.


Tom Zamorano, Public Benefits Attorney, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center,

Miami. March 5, 2001.


Non-Profit Service Professionals


Marlene Bastien, Executive Director, FANM (Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miami), North Miami.

April 2, 2001.


Sam Diller, Director of Community Outreach. Little Haiti Homeowners Association,

North Miami. December 4, 2000.


Leonie Hermantin, Executive Director, Haitian American Foundation, Inc., \

North Miami. March 28, 2001.


Claudia Laurenceau, Executive Assistant, Haitian Support Network, North Miami.

April 6, 2001.


Myrtise Maurice, Director of Programs (Public Health/HIV Prevention), Center for

Haitian Studies, North Miami. March 10, 2001.


Mellie Prophete, Case Manager, Center for Haitian Studies, North Miami.

February 19, 2001.


Magaly Smith, Program Coordinator of Children Services and Cuban/Haitian

Adjustment Services, New Horizons Community Mental Health Center, Miami.

March 27, 2001.




































Item 1 Summary of ANOVA Findings for the One Stop Center Survey

(Ethnicity: Independent Variable)


Item 2 Survey Instrument: The Service Experiences of One Stop Center Clients.


Item 3 Survey Instrument: Case Narrative Outline for Social Service and

Labor Experiences.


Item 4 Survey Instrument: (Haitian) Community Survey of Service Needs.




Summary of ANOVA Findings for the One Stop Center Survey

(Ethnicity: Independent Variable)






Sum of Squares


Mean Square



TANF or AFDC Cash Benefits

Between Groups






Within Groups









Food Stamps

Between Groups






Within Groups









Child Care

Between Groups






Within Groups









Medicaid or Kidcare

Between Groups






Within Groups









Rent or homeowners assistance

Between Groups






Within Groups









Job Training

Between Groups






Within Groups









Assistance for school or college tuition

Between Groups






Within Groups









Emergency Assistance

Between Groups






Within Groups









Total number of benefits told about

Between Groups






Within Groups









Total number told about and applied for

Between Groups






Within Groups









Total number told about, applied for, and currently receiving

Between Groups






Within Groups









Total number told about, applied for, but stil waiting

Between Groups






Within Groups









How long did it take to start receiving services?

Between Groups






Within Groups









Did a caseworker ever wait on someone before you even though you were first?

Between Groups






Within Groups









Did a caseworker ever ask personal questions without explaining why?

Between Groups






Within Groups









Did you ever need translation but it was not available?

Between Groups






Within Groups









Have you ever been at a center where there is no one who speaks the language in which you are most fluent?

Between Groups






Within Groups









Did a caseworker ever tell you that you couldn't apply for benefits?

Between Groups






Within Groups









Are you a U.S. citizen?

Between Groups






Within Groups









Did a caseworker ever tell you that you couldn't get benefits because you are not a citizen?

Between Groups






Within Groups









How often did you visit the One Stop Center before you were accepted?

Between Groups






Within Groups









When you applied for benefits, were you told what the rules were?

Between Groups






Within Groups









Were these rules explained to you in the language in which you are most fluent?

Between Groups






Within Groups









Were you told what to do if you thought you were being punished unfairly?

Between Groups






Within Groups









Have you ever been sanctioned?

Between Groups






Within Groups









How easy was the whole process?

Between Groups






Within Groups









How respectful was the whole process?

Between Groups






Within Groups









How difficult did language barriers make the process for you?

Between Groups






Within Groups









Do you think you would have received better service if the case worker was of your same ethnic background?

Between Groups






Within Groups









Perceptions of biased treatment (Total Score)

Between Groups






Within Groups









Which group gets the best service at One Stop Centers?

Between Groups






Within Groups









General knowledge...always knew about social services

Between Groups






Within Groups









Referred by a friend/family member who uses services

Between Groups






Within Groups









Referred by a friend/family member who doesn't use services

Between Groups






Within Groups









Heard about it at church or another community organization

Between Groups






Within Groups









Referred by another government agency

Between Groups






Within Groups










Between Groups






Within Groups










Between Groups






Within Groups









Number of children under immediate care

Between Groups






Within Groups









Marital status

Between Groups






Within Groups









Fluent in English

Between Groups






Within Groups









Fluent in Spanish

Between Groups






Within Groups









Fluent in Creole

Between Groups






Within Groups










Between Groups






Within Groups











The Service Experiences of One Stop Center Clients


Accessing services



1. TANF or AFDC (cash benefits)


Was told Have applied Getting benefits Still waiting


  1. Food Stamps

    Was told Have applied Getting benefits Still waiting


  3. Child care

    Was told Have applied Getting benefits Still waiting


  5. Medicaid or KidCare

    Was told Have applied Getting benefits Still waiting


  7. Rent or homeowner’s assistance

    Was told Have applied Getting benefits Still waiting


  9. Job training

    Was told Have applied Getting benefits Still waiting


  11. Assistance paying school or college tuition

    Was told Have applied Getting benefits Still waiting


  13. Emergency Assistance

    Was told Have applied Getting benefits Still waiting


  15. Any other service that I haven’t mentioned? (Describe)_____________________

    Was told Have applied Getting benefits Still waiting



  17. To be filled out by the surveyor


a. Total # of benefits told about _________

  1. Total # told about and applied for _________
  2. Total # told about, applied for, and currently receiving _________
  3. Total # told about, applied for, but still waiting _________







  1. If you have started using services, how long did it take to get these services, from the time you made first contact to the time you first started receiving the service?

    Less than a month 1-2 months 2 months or more



    Interactions with case workers



  3. Did a case worker ever wait on someone else before you even though you were their first? YES NO


13. Did a case worker ever ask personal questions without explaining why they

needed the information? YES NO


  1. Did you ever need translation in your own language but there was no translation available? YES NO

  3. Have you ever been to a center where there is no one who speaks the language in which you are most fluent? YES NO

  5. Did a case worker ever tell you that you couldn’t apply for benefits?



17. Are you a U.S. citizen? YES NO


(if the answer is "yes" skip to question 19)


18. Did a case worker ever tell you that you couldn’t get any benefits because

you were not a U.S. citizen? YES NO


  1. Only For those respondents who are currently receiving services
  2. How many times did you have to go to the One Stop Center before your application was accepted?




    Three times

    More than three times





  3. When you applied for benefits were you told what the rules were
  4. and what would happen if you broke the rules?

    YES NO


  5. Were these sanction rules explained to you in the language in
  6. which you are most fluent? YES NO


  7. Were you told what to do if you thought you were being punished

unfairly? YES NO

23. Have you ever been sanctioned? YES NO


(if the answer is "no", skip to next section, question 32 )


  1. Did you lose your benefits temporarily or permanently?


Temporarily Permanently


25. Was your child taken away? YES NO


26. Any other type of punishment? (Describe)




27. What was the reason they gave you for the sanction?

(Check all that apply)


a. Missed Appointment ___

b. Lost paper work ___

c. Child did not go to school ___


  1. Complained about problems
  2. at work assistance program ___


  3. Wasn’t helping to identify
  4. child’s other parent ___

  5. Workers found unreported

Income ___


g. Missed appointment ___


  1. Other (describe)




General Perceptions of Service


28. How easy would you say the whole process was?


Easy Medium Hard


29. How respectful would you say the whole process was?


Disrespectful Neutral Respectful



30. How difficult did language barriers make the process for you?


No problem Some problems Very difficult






31. Do you think you would have received better service if your case

worker was of your same ethnic background?


No difference Somewhat better Much better



32. Do you think you were treated different from someone of another




33. Do you think you were treated different from others because of your ability to speak English? YES NO MAYBE



34. Do you think you were treated different from others because of your

country of origin? YES NO MAYBE



35. Comparing your experiences to people of different ethnic groups, which of

the following do you think is true?


People of different ethnic groups… (check all that apply)

  1. Are given faster service ___
  2. Are given more polite service ___
  3. Are told about more benefits ___
  4. Get less sanctions ___
  5. Get better work opportunities ___

f. TOTAL # of items checked ___


36. Which group do you think gets the best service at One Stop Centers?

They are all treated the same

African American clients

Haitian clients

Hispanic clients

Other (describe) ___________________


Background Information


37. How did you learn about One Stop services? (Check all that apply)


  1. General knowledge…always knew about social services ___
  2. Referred by a friend/family member who also uses services ___

  4. Referred by a friend/family member who doesn’t use services ___

  6. Heard about it on the radio ___

  8. Heard about it at church or another community organization ___

  10. Was referred by another government, social service agency ___

  12. Was referred by a non-profit service agency ___

  14. Found out by other means (describe)_____________________ ___


38. Gender Female Male


39. Age ____


40. Ethnicity (based on the ethnicity of your birth parents)

African American




Other ____________


41. Number of children under your immediate care ____


42. Marital Status

Married Single/Never married Living together

Separated Divorced Widow/Widower


43. Languages that you can speak and understand fluently

(check all that apply)


a. English ___

b. Spanish ___

c. (Haitian)Creole ___



44. Education (check highest level attained)


___ High School or equivalent

___ Some College

___ Two year College degree (Associates)

___ Bachelors degree (four year degree)

___ Graduate level education (Masters, Doctorate)























Case narrative outline for social service and labor experiences


1. Gender:


2. Age:


3. Marital Status: Single Married Living with Partner Divorced Separated Widowed


4. Number of Children:


5. Number of People in Immediate Household:


6. Occupation:


7. Current Employment Status: Full time employment Part time Unemployed


8. Highest Educational Degree Attained (in U.S.)


9. Highest Educational Degree Attained (in Haiti)

(only list this if info if the degree from Haiti is higher than the degree obtained in the U.S.)


10. Immigration Status:


11. Years in the U.S.


12. Speaks fluent: Creole English Spanish


13. Reads & Writes Creole English Spanish


14. Please list all of the services that you have helped this person access


___ Child Care assistance

___ College tuition assistance

___ Domestic abuse counseling

___ Drug treatment

___ Food Stamps/Food Vouchers

___ Housing needs

___ Job/Skills Training

___ Job Placement

___ KidCare

___ Legal Consultation: immigration

___ Legal Consultation: other _____________

___ Mediation/Counseling (general)

___ Medicaid

___ Medicare

___ Paying monthly Bills

___ Small Business Loan

___ Transportation needs

___ Welfare/TANF payments

___ Other (please describe)








15. How would you describe this person’s existing support network?


Type of Support Provided


Financial Household Emotional Informational Contacts to

Or Material or Care giving Support or Technical Influential People

Assistance Assistance Assistance



Birth family

& kin _________ ___________ _________ __________ __________


In – Laws _________ ___________ _________ __________ __________


Spouse _________ ___________ _________ __________ __________


Children _________ ___________ _________ __________ __________


Friends _________ ___________ _________ __________ __________



Community _________ ___________ _________ __________ __________


Boss _________ ___________ _________ __________ __________



Peers _________ ___________ _________ __________ __________



__________ _________ ___________ _________ __________ __________


__________ _________ ___________ _________ __________ __________



_____________ _________ ___________ _________ __________ __________




16. Any other observations on this person’s support network and the type of support they receive?




















For Social Service Clients__________________________



17. Please briefly describe the service access problems that led this person to seek help from you.















18. Which of the following best describes the sorts of barriers, to accessing services, that this person faced?



___ Could not take time off of work schedule

___ Domestic violence problems

___ Health problems

___ Lack of care giving assistance (for children and other relatives)

___ Lack of information about the availability of the service

___ Lack of information about service eligibility requirements

___ Lack of support or discouragement from family & friends

___ Need for technical assistance to help file for services (working thru the red tape)

___ No fixed address

___ Translation problems (translating English into Creole)

___ Transportation problems

___ Cultural insensitivity of the service provider

___ Ethnic, racial, or gender discrimination by the service provider

___ Misinformation given by the service provider

___ Overly harsh sanctions given by the service provider

___ Other: please describe if not described above in your answer to question 17.








19. If the un-helpfulness of the service provider was a factor, in this case, please describe in detail the sort of treatment that the client was receiving. Please also indicate whether the client’s










20. Please describe how you helped this person to access services










For Work Place/Employment Problems______________



  1. If the person is employed, please briefly describe the job that is giving them



a. What sort of service or product does the company provide?



b. Is this a public sector, private sector, or non profit organization?



c. Is the person given a regular pay check (with federal taxes taken out) or are they paid "off the books"?


  1. Do they work part time or full time?


e. What sort of work does this person do on job?




f. Does the person work any other jobs? If so, please list these other jobs.







22. Briefly describe this person’s employment or work related problems.






23. Did this person feel compelled to work in a "bad" job because they had no other opportunities? If so, please briefly describe their work situation.






24. If the person is having a hard time finding work, which of the following

barriers apply in their case?


___ Cannot get assistance for vocational training

or higher education to improve skills.


___ Family, spouse, or close friends are not supportive

of their decision to look for employment.


___ Have too many family responsibilities to hold

down a good job.

___ Legal status limits the work they can get


___ Limited by English or Spanish language proficiency


___ No inside contacts to any good jobs

___ Personal health problems


___ Transportation problems


___ Other: please describe



  1. If this person is facing problems on the job, please indicate which of the following apply.

    ___ Work hours are too long

    ___ Work hours are too short or irregular

    ___ Inflexible work schedule

    ___ Pay is too low

    ___ Dangerous/unsafe work environ

    ___ Is not being promoted

    ___ Poor benefit package

    ___ No benefit package

    ___ Ethnic/racial discrimination

    ___ Sexual harassment

    ___ Other: describe _________________________



  3. If discrimination is a factor, please indicate which of the following applies


___ Discrimination based on race (being black)


___ Discrimination based on culture and ethnicity (being Haitian)


___ Discrimination based on immigration status (not a U.S. citizen)


___ Discrimination because of language proficiency

(cannot speak English or Spanish very well)


___ Sexual harassment


___ Other: describe _______________________________





27. If discrimination or harassment is a factor in this person’s workplace problems, please describe in more detail (if this has not be described already).










28. Did this person put up with discrimination or harassment on job because they felt they had no other opportunities? Is so, Please explain why they felt they had no other opportunities (if this has not been explained already).







29. Please briefly describe how you have attempted to assist the person with their workplace problems.


















Community Survey of Service Needs________________


  1. Have you ever considered going to a One Stop Center to get assistance for you or a family member?

    If "no" skip to question 3.



  3. If yes…which of the following services have you considered?

    Thought Applied for service

    about it or receiving service


    TANF/Welfare (cash benefits) ______ ______


    Food Stamps or Food Vouchers ______ ______


    State subsidized child care ______ ______


    Medicaid (for adults) ______ ______


    Kidcare ______ ______


    Housing assistance ______ ______


    Job training ______ ______

    Any other service?

    Describe _______________ ______ ______


    Now skip to question 4



  5. Why haven’t you considered applying for services? (check all that apply)

    My income is too high to qualify for services _____


    Don’t trust government agencies _____


    It is too embarrassing ask for services _____

    There are no Haitian or Creole speaking

    service workers at those places _____`


    I don’t want to file child support _____

    against my child’s other parent


    I don’t qualify because of my immigrant status _____


    I am filing for residency and do not want to be

    labeled a public charge. _____


    There are other people in my household who

    are not legal residents. _____





  7. Which of the following social services would definitely cause someone to be labeled a "public charge" by the federal government?


    If they receive… Yes they will be labeled No they won’t


    Food Stamps or Food Vouchers ______ ______


    Medicaid ______ ______


    Kidcare ______ ______


    Child care ______ ______


    Public housing ______ ______


    Mental health or drug

    treatment counseling ______ ______


    WIC Assistance ______ ______


    Utility Bills assistance ______ ______


    Job training ______ ______


    School lunch programs ______ ______


    Head Start ______ ______

    Any type of short term

    Emergency assistance ______ _______




  9. What type of support do you get from people in your community?

    Financial Leads Household Technical or Provide links

    or material to jobs & care giving informational to influential

    assistance assistance assistance people


    Spouse ____ ____ ____ ____ ____


    Immediate &

    Extended family ____ ____ ____ ____ ____


    Friends ____ ____ ____ ____ ____


    Pastor/Church ____ ____ ____ ____ ____


    Employer ____ ____ ____ ____ ____


    Other ____ ____ ____ ____ ____







  11. Have you ever asked for assistance for you basic living needs from a non-government organization? If "no" skip to question 8.

    YES NO



  13. If "yes"…which of the following have you gone to for support? (check all that apply)


Church ___


Haitian service

Organization ___


Local business ___


Legal services

Organization ___


Health center ___


Food bank ___


Shelter ___



service center ___


Other ___

Describe ___________________




8. Have you faced any of the following problems in looking for work?


No inside contacts to any good jobs ____

Cannot get good jobs because of my legal status____


Cannot get assistance for job training

or higher education to improve myself ____


Have too many family responsibilities to hold

down a good job ____


Transportation problems ____


Personal health problems ____


Limited because of my English or Spanish

language ability ____


Racial discrimination ____


Gender discrimination ____





  1. Have you ever felt that you were forced to take a bad job because you had no other opportunities? YES NO

    If "no", skip to question 11



  3. If "yes"…What is the ONE most important reason that you felt forced to take these
  4. sorts of jobs?


    ___ Limited access to work because of immigration status


    ___ No inside leads to better jobs


    ___ Don’t have the skills or training to get the job I really want


    ___ Language proficiency limits ability to find work.


    ___ Other (describe) ___________________________




  5. Have you ever put up with discrimination or harassment on job because you felt you had no other good job opportunities? YES NO

    If "no" skip to question 13.



  7. If yes…..what was the basis of this discrimination? (check all that apply)

    ____ Discrimination based on race (being black)


    ____ Discrimination based on culture and ethnicity (being Haitian)


    ____ Discrimination based on immigration status (not a U.S. citizen)


    ____ Discrimination because of language proficiency

    (could not speak English or Spanish well)


    ____ Discrimination because of my gender


    ____ Sexual harassment








  9. Is there any type of assistance that you could use right now that you are not getting help with? (Check all that apply)

    ____ Help finding work


    ____ Food assistance


    ____ Transportation


    ____ Child care


    ____ Health care


    ____ Housing


    ____ Legal Assistance for immigration


    ____ Legal Assistance (other). Describe ______________


    ____ Job/Skills training


    ____ College tuition assistance


    ____ Counseling or mediation for children


    ____ After school services for children


    ____ Other (Describe) _____________________________




  11. Which of the following sources do you turn to get information about social services?


All the time Some times Rarely


Family and friends ____ ____ ____

Church events ____ ____ ____


Community events ____ ____ ____

(health fairs, festivals etc)


Haitian-run service

organizations ____ ____ ____



Haitian radio shows ____ ____ ____


Haitian TV shows ____ ____ ____


Haitian newspapers ____ ____ ____


Other source (describe ____ ____ ____








Background Information

15. Gender Male Female


16. Age ____


17. Number of children (18 or under) in your immediate household ____


18. Total number of people in your immediate household ______


19. Marital Status Married Single Living together


Separated Divorced Widow/Widower


20. Education

Haitian System U.S System


High School or equivalent (GED) ____ ____


Some College ____ ____


Two year College degree (Associates) ____ ____


Bachelors degree (four year degree) ____ ____


Graduate level education (Masters, Doctorate) ____ ____



21 Employment Status


Employed, Full time Employed, Part time Unemployed



22 Occupation (for either current or past work if unemployed)


____ Professional white collar work (manager, teacher, lawyer, accountant etc)


____ Office and sales work


____ Craftsman or repair worker


____ General labor (factory or warehouse)


____ Farm worker


____ Domestic helper or child care provider


____ Nursing home worker


____ Health care service worker


____ Other _________________






23. Employment Sector


___ Public Sector (federal, state, county, city)


___ Not-for-Profit (non government service provider)


___ Private Sector small business (less than 100 employees)


___ Private Sector large business (100+ employees)

___ Informal Sector (paid off the books)






24. Annual household income.


___ Less than $6000

___ $6000 - $12000

___ $12000 - $18000

___ $18000 - $24000

___ $24000 - $30000

___ $30000- $36000

___ $36000 - $42000

___ $42000 - $48000

___ $48000 - $54000

___ $54000 - $60000

___ $60000 +

25. Were you born here or did you migrate?


Born in U.S. Migrated to the U.S.



26 If you migrated, how many years have you been living in the U.S.? ______



27. Are you a U.S. citizen? YES NO



28. If "No"… are you applying for residency?



___ Yes I am applying


___ No, I already am a resident


___ No, I do not plan on applying


___ No, I am not actively applying but I will soon


___ Other (explain) ________________________________