Since California adopted the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program as the California Work Opportunities and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program in 1997, the composition of the California welfare population has changed radically. While at its onset the vast majority of CalWORKs cases included an aided adult, over half of CalWORKs cases now receive aid just for the children. The adults either never were eligible or have been excluded from cash aid and receipt of most services. The “child-only” cases include those with: 1) parents timed-out, having reached the five-year, lifetime limit on receipt of aid (safety net cases), 2) parents sanctioned for non-compliance with CalWORKs program requirements (sanction cases), 3) parents of citizen children who are themselves considered not-qualified immigrants (immigrant parent cases), 4) parents receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for themselves (SSI parent cases), and 5) nonparental caregivers.
Parents associated with sanctioned and safety net cases were at one time “aided adults” on a CalWORKs case. At some point, however, this status changed, and the parents lost aid. For safety net cases, this is because they “used up” their 60 months of lifetime CalWORKs aid. Sanctioned parents who may have received aid for any length of time short of 60 months became unaided when the county sanctioned them for non-compliance with welfare-to-work regulations. Parents and caregivers in the other three case types, however, because of their ineligibility, may themselves never have been aided.
Lacking information about most child-only cases, and being concerned about the status of both parents/caregivers and children associated with these cases, the Child-only Study was initiated to promote sound CalWORKs policy and program through researching child-only and aided adult CalWORKs cases and informing policy-makers and CalWORKs program administrators about these low-income California families.
This report is the second in a series presenting research on the composition, characteristics, and needs of child-only cases in California counties. Child-only Study Report #1 analyzed county administrative data to understand (1) the prevalence of subgroups of child-only cases by county, (2) the characteristics of family members comprising child-only cases by subgroup and by county, and (3) the patterns of history of receipt of aid by subgroup and by county. This second report is based on interviews with timed-out and sanctioned parents concerning personal, community, and family characteristics that may serve as barriers to work. (author abstract)