Child-only cases were far from the center of attention when the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was created in 1996, and even when it was reauthorized in 2005. However, with adult-aided cases at less than one-quarter of their pre-TANF levels, child-only cases have become a substantial presence in the nation’s TANF caseload, and interest in these cases is growing. In 2011 child-only cases represented about two in every five TANF cases.
Child-only TANF aid reaches a diverse mix of children, including children living in the homes of relatives, children of parents who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and U.S-born children of parents whose immigration status renders the parents ineligible for TANF benefits. These groups have little or nothing in common with each other. They also have little in common with adult-aided TANF recipients. Most crucially, child-only cases are not subject to the federal and state program rules that have driven down TANF caseloads since TANF’s inception in 1996.
This report is written to aid policy makers as they contemplate modifications to TANF. It has three goals: to describe child-only policies and explore how these policies create and shape the three distinct child-only caseloads; to provide information about the needs of the children and adults in the households that receive child-only aid; and to situate child-only TANF policy in the context of other relevant policies.
Among the relevant trends are shifts in foster care policy (which can affect NPC child-only TANF caseloads), patterns of immigrant location within the United States (which influence IIP child-only caseloads), and the availability of SSI aid for low-income parents. This report emphasizes the fact that policy changes to TANF must address child-only cases, paying explicit attention to each of the four TANF caseloads separately – the three child-only caseloads referenced above plus adult-aided cases. The authors of this report provide recommendations for policymakers to improve TANF aid to child-only cases. (author abstract)