Under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, child-only cases—those in which no adult is included in the cash grant—have become an increasing proportion of State TANF caseloads in recent years. Child-only cases are either parental or non-parental – parental cases are those in which the parent is resident in the home, but ineligible for TANF receipt for such reasons as time limits,1 sanction, alien status, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) receipt, or previous drug felony conviction. Non-parental cases are those in which neither biological parent is present, and another adult, usually a relative, is the primary caregiver. Research indicates that the percentage of child-only cases relative to overall national caseloads increased 200 percent in one decade –from 12 percent in 1990 to nearly 35 percent by 2000. In some States, over fifty percent of their FY2002 caseloads were child-only.
In addition to the variability in the proportion of a State’s total caseload accounted for by child-only cases, the current research indicates that the composition of the child-only caseload across the States varies as well. In some States, for example, there is a significantly higher proportion of relative (non-parental) cases, while in others, SSI, immigrant, and sanctioned or time-limited parental cases are more common.
In response to these trends, the OFA Peer Technical Assistance Network conducted discussions with State TANF administrators around the country to assess their current policies and programs designed to meet the needs of the child-only caseload, and to gauge their level of interest in participating a Roundtable on this topic. The responses were overwhelming – we gathered significant information on the current child-only environment, and more than thirty States expressed an interest in the Roundtable concept. As a result, eleven States participated in the first Roundtables entitled Developing Strategies to Address the Child-Only Caseload held April 8-9, 2003 in Colorado Springs (El Paso County), Colorado. In response to the positive feedback received following the first Roundtable, a second Roundtable was held in Trenton, New Jersey on June 3-4, 2003. (author abstract)