A Michigan mother and her children have been kicked off of welfare after her 12-year-old daughter, suffering from brain cancer, failed to attend school. According to The Daily Beast, Lisa, whose name has been changed for anonymity, was in no shape to regularly attend class, facing constant seizures and disability from many strokes. A doctor in charge of Lisa’s care noted that her battle with brain cancer left her in need of “assistance in dressing, eating, and eliminating urine and feces.”

The superintendent, principal, and head of special education in her district were all aware of Lisa’s problems, and did not penalize her for it. “For the past two-and-a-half years of her life, she was in and out of the hospital,” said her mother Martha, whose name had also been changed. “She went from being this chatterbox to not talking at all.”

Lisa had been absent from school since 2012 after having her first stroke. Her prolonged period of truancy compelled her school to drop her from enrollment, prompting her family’s loss in welfare. “I checked my [benefits] card monthly to see how much I would have, and thought, ‘Why is the amount less?’ Then I got a letter in the mail,” Martha told The Daily Beast.

Martha’s subsequent lack of welfare funding was due to the passing of the Republican-sponsored state bill, “The Parental Responsibility Act.” The law states that frequent absenteeism on the part of a child under 16 years old means the whole family will lose out on the cash benefits of welfare — the child alone will lose benefits only after turning 16.

“Our top priority is to keep kids in school, and we want to use whatever tools we can to incentivize children to stay in school,” said the state’s Department of Health Services representative, Bob Wheaton.

Since 2012, the DHS says 350 households have been taken off welfare in an attempt to get their kids to go to school. But is this actually keeping kids at their desks? Wheaton’s response to this question left much to be desired. “That’s not anything we’re able to track because they’ve stopped receiving public assistance,” he said, adding the department has the “ability, in some cases, to manually cross-reference new applicant [data] and current-recipient data.” But Wheaton still concedes that the method has not been wholly effective; one-sixth of families who have been taken off of welfare for truancy have been put back on, while about half who lost welfare did not re-apply.

Despite the lack of concrete evidence that this new policy is working, several representatives who initially supported the bill still believe it is the best, and only, method to keep kids in class. Representative Jim Runestad said in a hearing this year that “tough love” was necessary for truancy, because parents whose children did not attend school “were on drugs” and their “kids were running free.”

Several democrats in Michigan have proposed an amendment to the bill, decrying that restricting welfare is not an incentive for children to go to school, but rather an exacerbation of the problem. “This is not about helping poor people. This is about kicking people while they’re down,” Senator Coleman Young II told MLive. “It’s wrong. It’s disgusting. It needs to stop.”

Many others are working on coming forward alternatives to improving frequent absenteeism without involving politics. The Daily Beast notes “Pathways to Potential,” a Michigan-based program, uses caseworkers in 200 schools across the state to help families find daycare for younger children, so that older children won’t need to stay home and watch them. The program also offers travel vouchers to families in need. And Wheaton says this program has reduced truancy in Michigan by 33 percent.

Martha, whose child could not attend school regardless of outside assistance, had no choice but to take her case to court. In her first hearing, the judge was “sympathetic to extenuating circumstances,” but was still bound by the law claiming that Martha was ineligible for benefits. Four weeks later, another judge ruled in favor of Martha’s plight, saying that because she never transferred her daughter to another school, she was owed several months in back-payments for missed welfare. She was ultimately reinstated into the program.

Unfortunately, Lisa did not live to see her mother win the case. She died just before the second ruling. Now, Martha is hoping that her experience will shed some light on the injustices of the current welfare system in Michigan. “They’re supposed to be a help department, but I think they actually hurt you more than help you,” she said. “I don’t want her death to be in vain. If her situation can help another family, I really want it to be done. I hate to have anyone go through what I went through.”