Under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA)of 1996, most families receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) are subject to work requirements and time limits on benefit receipt. However, one portion of the TANF caseload, cases where only a child or children are receiving assistance, are generally exempt from these federal requirements. These "child-only" cases are not currently growing in absolute numbers but are becoming an increasing proportion of the overall TANF caseload. In 1998, child-only cases made up 23 percent of the TANF caseload nationally, ranging from 10 percent to 47 percent of state caseloads. This has led to increasing interest in understanding the characteristics of child-only cases and the program services they receive.
A variety of circumstances result in child-only cases. In some cases, the child is not living with a parent, but with a relative, who chooses not to be included in the assistance unit or whose income and assets preclude him or her from receiving cash assistance. In other situations, the child is living with a parent, but the parent is a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient, a non-qualified alien, a qualified alien who entered the country after August 1996, a sanctioned adult, or otherwise excluded.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) contracted with The Lewin Group to obtain more information about the characteristics and trends of the child-only population. This report describes how federal and state policies affect child-only caseloads, discusses the national TANF and child-only caseload trends, and examines the characteristics of child-only cases. For a more in-depth review, The Lewin Group focused on three states — California, Florida, and Missouri — interviewing state and county officials and staff, conducting case file reviews in one county in each state, and analyzing administrative data. (author abstract)