Frequently Asked Questions About Child-Only Cases

09/01/1999


Frequently Asked Questions About Child-Only Cases

Sept. 1999



What is a child-only case?

Child-only cases are those cases in which there is no adult in the assistance unit.  In some of these cases, there is no parent living with the child, and the caregiver is not legally responsible for his or her care (i.e. kinship care cases).  In other cases, a parent is living with the child, but is ineligible for benefits for some reason.  In the period September 1996 to June 1997, the last period for which we have national data, 39 percent of child-only cases did not have a parent in the household, and 61 percent did.  There is significant variation in this figure from state to state, however, as shown in Table A.

States Total AFDC Families Total Child-Only Families Percent Child-Only Of Child-Only Families, Percent With:
Parents Not in the Household Parents in the Household
US Total 4,058,131 918,233 23% 39% 61%
Alabama 36,728 16,268 44% 37% 63%
Alaska 12,312        
Arizona 56,020 18,369 33% 34% 66%
Arkansas 21,405 6,017 28% 38% 62%
California 832,009 190,989 23% 20% 80%
Colorado 31,182 6,273 20% 36% 64%
Connecticut 56,051 6,625 12% 64% 36%
Delaware 9,900 2,585 26% 57% 43%
District of Columbia 24,508 4,780 20% 55% 45%
Florida 179,170 50,556 28% 57% 43%
Georgia 111,924 33,699 30% 48% 52%
Guam 2,279 270 12% 24% 76%
Hawaii 22,487 2,970 13% 61% 39%
Idaho 7,710 1,217 16% 0% 100%
Illinois 202,290 37,371 18% 43% 57%
Indiana 45,813 13,193 29% 34% 66%
Iowa 29,365 5,811 20% 50% 50%
Kansas 21,066 5,557 26% 41% 59%
Kentucky 66,623 20,145 30% 36% 64%
Louisiana 58,665 21,111 36% 26% 74%
Maine 18,961 1,534 8% 24% 76%
Maryland 60,950 12,910 21% 59% 41%
Mass 79,686 16,425 21% 33% 67%
Michigan 154,816 23,073 15% 30% 70%
Minnesota 54,276 6,147 11% 29% 71%
Mississippi 40,646 14,064 35% 31% 69%
Missouri 73,635 17,678 24% 45% 55%
Montana 9,442 1,167 12% 44% 56%
Nebraska 13,481 2,233 17% 18% 82%
Nevada 12,120 5,467 45% 40% 60%
New Hampshire 8,280 1,337 16% 64% 36%
New Jersey 102,034 21,194 21% 50% 50%
New Mexico 29,256 6,143 21% 27% 73%
New York 391,000 72,077 18% 20% 80%
North Carolina 101,783 27,066 27% 82% 18%
North Dakota 4,331 568 13% 37% 63%
Ohio 191,437 43,212 23% 47% 53%
Oklahoma 31,750 9,309 29% 51% 49%
Oregon 25,310 7,259 29% 43% 57%
Pennsylvania 167,933 26,456 16% 51% 49%
Puerto Rico 48,143 6,294 13% 60% 40%
Rhode Island 19,903 3,125 16% 30% 70%
South Carolina 35,895 11,605 32% 52% 48%
South Dakota 5,264 1,921 36% 47% 53%
Tennessee 73,763 19,763 27% 55% 45%
Texas 222,162 56,169 25% 45% 55%
Utah 12,613 2,176 17% 56% 44%
Vermont 8,401 812 10% 40% 60%
Virgin Islands 1,298 79 6% 100% 0%
Virginia 55,260 17,577 32% 60% 40%
Washington 94,619 18,663 20% 48% 52%
West Virginia 34,747 7,830 23% 34% 66%
Wisconsin 44,345 12,260 28% 37% 63%
Wyoming 3,084 832 27% 36% 64%

Source:  October 1996 - June 1997 AFDC QC Data.  Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation.

 

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Why might a parent be in the household, but not in the assistance unit?

Under AFDC, the federal government set the basic standards for who must be included or excluded from the assistance unit.  The parent of a child receiving assistance had to be in the assistance unit if she lived in the household, unless she was specifically ineligible.  There were three primary reasons why a parent might be ineligible:  receipt of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits; alien status (for example, immigrants legalized under the Immigration Reform and Control Act were specifically banned from receiving AFDC or Food Stamps for five years); and sanctions.

In the period September 1996 to July 1997, the last period for which we have national data, 23 percent of child-only cases had a parent ineligible due to SSI receipt, 16 percent of child-only cases had a parent ineligible due to alien status, and 9 percent had a parent ineligible due to sanctions.  Again, there is much variation from state to state due to both demographic variation and policy choices, as shown in Table B.

State Child-Only Cases
with Parents in the Household
Of those Cases with Parents in the Household:
Reasons Parents are Ineligible
SSI Benefit Alien Status Sanction [ETP 12] Other or Unknown
US Total 563,363 38% 26% 15% 21%
Alabama 10,253 52% 0% 26% 22%
Alaska          
Arizona 12,116 13% 32% 6% 50%
Arkansas 3,748 56% 1% 8% 34%
California 152,572 25% 58% 9% 9%
Colorado 4,046 47% 13% 4% 37%
Connecticut 2,362 50% 0% 0% 50%
Delaware 1,122 48% 4% 32% 16%
District of Columbia 2,136 27% 9% 31% 33%
Florida 21,667 41% 13% 10% 36%
Georgia 17,397 20% 0% 18% 62%
Guam 205 0% 0% 18% 83%
Hawaii 1,167 9% 0% 65% 26%
Idaho 1,217 33% 0% 11% 56%
Illinois 21,253 44% 11% 21% 24%
Indiana 8,675 46% 2% 34% 18%
Iowa 2,906 59% 6% 2% 33%
Kansas 3,269 45% 12% 14% 30%
Kentucky 12,978 72% 5% 23% 4%
Louisiana 15,521 43% 0% 1% 56%
Maine 1,166 91% 0% 4% 4%
Maryland 5,291 36% 3% 39% 22%
Mass 11,075 49% 10% 12% 29%
Michigan 16,204 76% 2% 16% 6%
Minnesota 4,348 30% 10% 7% 53%
Mississippi 9,704 59% 0% 10% 31%
Missouri 9,663 42% 7% 14% 44%
Montana 656 14% 0% 29% 57%
Nebraska 1,820 52% 13% 13% 22%
Nevada 3,288 19% 14% 57% 10%
New Hampshire 483 43% 0% 0% 57%
New Jersey 10,655 25% 13% 58% 4%
New Mexico 4,482 26% 4% 30% 40%
New York 57,406 28% 30% 12% 30%
North Carolina 4,776 74% 0% 13% 13%
North Dakota 357 37% 0% 26% 37%
Ohio 22,992 69% 1% 12% 18%
Oklahoma 4,562 52% 1% 25% 21%
Oregon 4,113 48% 16% 43% 6%
Pennsylvania 12,947 36% 1% 4% 58%
Puerto Rico 2,528 0% 0% 25% 75%
Rhode Island 2,193 44% 32% 2% 22%
South Carolina 5,533 55% 0% 26% 20%
South Dakota 1,023 18% 0% 27% 56%
Tennessee 8,883 75% 0% 42% 17%
Texas 31,035 23% 45% 18% 13%
Utah 967 46% 19% 8% 27%
Vermont 487 92% 0% 0% 8%
Virgin Islands 0 0% 0% 0% 0%
Virginia 6,983 49% 3% 20% 27%
Washington 9,657 47% 24% 20% 9%
West Virginia 5,174 62% 0% 12% 26%
Wisconsin 7,770 65% 4% 13% 18%
Wyoming 532 24% 0% 33% 42%

 

Source:  October 1996 - June 1997 AFDC QC Data.  Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation.

Note:  an additional 13 percent of child-only cases were reported as parent in the household/ineligible for other or unknown reason.  In some states, this category accounts for as many as 62 percent of child-only cases.  This raises some concerns about the accuracy of the data in these states; however, the overall patterns in the data appear to be consistent.

Under TANF, states have the power to define the assistance unit and to define an eligible family.  This is important, because two of the key provisions under TANF  the participation rate requirement and the five-year federal time limit  only apply to cases that include adults.

Information on the reasons why a case does not include an adult recipient is not collected under the Emergency TANF Data Report, but will be collected as part of the full TANF data requirements which states will begin reporting in FY 2000.

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Has the child-only caseload grown in recent years?

The child-only caseload grew significantly both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the caseload in the decade prior to PRWORA.  The greatest increase came during the period 1989-1994, when the number of child only cases more than doubled.  (See Table C.)

States Number of
AFDC Cases with no Adult Recipient
[In thousands]
Percent of
AFDC Cases with no Adult Recipient
[In percent]
1985 1989 1993 1994 1995 1996 1985 1989 1993 1994 1995 1996
Alabama 10.1 7.4 13.6 16.1 16.5 17.1 19.3 16.5 26.3 32.1 35.8 40.4
Alaska 0.9 0.5 0.9 0.8 0.8 1.1 14.3 6.7 7.5 6.6 6.5 9.1
Arizona 4.9 4.9 12.8 15.1 18.8 18.8 19.2 13.6 18.3 21.0 27.0 29.7
Arkansas 1.1 4.1 6.6 6.9 6.8 8.2 4.8 17.1 24.9 26.4 27.8 36.0
California 96.6 85.7 223.5 201.3 194.9 198.5 17.5 14.2 26.0 22.1 21.2 22.2
Colorado 3.3 2.1 5.1 6.4 6.1 6.7 11.8 6.2 12.1 15.3 15.8 18.9
Connecticut 4.5 3.9 5.5 6.5 7.2 6.6 10.7 10.1 9.6 11.0 11.8 11.3
Delaware 1.6 1.3 2.4 2.8 2.7 2.7 17.8 17.0 21.3 24.3 25.0 25.8
Dist. of Col. 3.4 2.4 4.9 4.5 4.3 4.4 15.3 13.3 19.7 16.5 16.1 17.0
Florida 20.5 27.5 38.2 47.9 45.9 47.8 21.1 23.2 15.0 19.4 19.9 22.5
Georgia 15.5 13.9 22.4 26.6 30.8 29.0 18.1 15.0 15.8 18.8 22.1 22.3
Guam -- 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 -- 4.0 4.5 4.0 4.5 3.8
Hawaii 1.3 1.4 1.4 1.8 2.3 2.6 7.9 9.8 7.7 8.8 10.6 12.0
Idaho 0.9 0.3 0.9 1.4 1.5 2.3 14.0 4.8 11.0 16.7 17.0 25.8
Illinois 26.8 17.4 24.1 32.1 34.1 38.8 11.2 8.4 10.4 13.4 14.4 17.3
Indiana 2.9 3.3 7.9 10.4 11.8 13.1 5.2 6.5 10.8 14.1 18.0 24.7
Iowa 3.6 2.8 4.0 5.3 5.0 6.9 9.0 8.1 10.9 13.4 13.7 20.9
Kansas 2.5 2.6 4.1 4.1 5.0 5.5 11.0 10.2 13.4 13.8 17.8 21.7
Kentucky 8.5 8.6 12.9 14.8 17.1 19.9 14.4 14.6 15.6 18.5 22.7 27.7
Louisiana 12.1 10.9 17.4 19.4 20.8 22.5 15.8 11.8 19.4 22.3 26.1 31.9
Maine 1.5 0.9 1.1 1.6 1.8 1.6 7.6 5.1 4.8 6.8 8.2 7.6
Maryland 7.2 6.8 10.9 12.1 12.4 14.6 10.0 10.8 13.6 15.1 16.0 19.7
Massachusett 8.8 5.2 12.7 14.9 16.8 15.9 10.1 5.9 11.1 13.3 16.7 18.0
Michigan 5.1 3.0 17.6 22.0 24.6 22.6 2.3 1.4 7.7 9.8 12.2 12.7
Minnesota 3.6 1.9 5.2 6.4 6.1 8.1 7.1 3.5 8.1 10.2 10.7 13.8
Mississippi 11.7 8.3 12.8 14.9 13.1 16.5 22.6 13.8 21.3 26.3 25.0 34.3
Missouri 8.0 6.7 10.6 12.2 15.8 14.2 12.0 9.8 11.8 13.3 17.7 17.2
Montana 0.6 0.4 0.9 0.8 1.2 1.2 7.7 4.7 7.9 6.9 10.1 11.0
Nebraska 3.0 2.4 3.5 4.1 4.3 4.1 19.6 17.0 21.1 25.5 28.8 28.9
Nevada 1.0 1.4 2.1 3.5 5.0 4.9 20.9 19.8 16.3 24.6 31.6 32.9
New Hampshire 0.6 0.8 0.9 1.5 2.0 1.7 11.6 15.5 7.9 13.1 18.4 17.7
New Jersey 12.5 14.3 18.7 20.1 19.6 23.2 10.1 13.9 14.9 16.4 16.5 20.7
New Mexico 2.5 2.1 3.5 5.3 5.4 5.4 13.8 10.4 11.3 15.8 15.6 15.9
New York 33.8 16.0 42.6 62.0 66.1 76.1 9.1 4.8 9.8 13.6 14.5 17.6
North 14.9 12.5 21.4 26.1 29.7 33.3 23.5 16.2 16.4 19.9 23.7 29.4
North Dakota 0.3 0.4 0.6 0.5 0.7 0.7 7.6 6.4 9.8 9.0 12.5 14.2
Ohio 18.3 18.6 35.7 43.6 47.8 48.7 8.2 8.4 13.8 17.4 21.0 23.6
Oklahoma 2.8 3.5 7.2 6.4 8.0 8.6 9.9 9.8 14.8 13.6 17.9 22.3
Oregon 3.6 4.4 6.1 8.0 9.0 12.9 13.1 13.7 14.2 19.0 22.9 38.5
Pennsylvania 14.5 12.1 22.2 24.7 24.2 29.6 7.8 6.9 10.8 11.7 11.8 15.6
Puerto Rico -- 6.1 6.4 6.7 6.2 5.8 -- 10.5 10.6 11.4 11.3 11.5
Rhode Island 1.3 0.8 2.1 2.4 2.6 3.2 8.2 5.1 9.6 10.6 11.8 14.9
South 9.2 7.3 13.7 15.3 15.9 15.7 21.2 19.6 25.7 29.5 32.5 34.4
South Dakota 1.1 0.7 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.6 18.9 10.1 20.1 21.8 23.5 27.2
Tennessee 10.5 10.0 14.8 19.5 21.3 24.2 18.4 14.1 13.7 17.6 20.4 24.4
Texas 5.8 21.1 52.1 53.5 70.9 67.4 4.9 11.6 18.7 18.9 25.8 26.4
Utah 1.5 1.2 2.1 2.7 2.7 3.0 11.4 8.0 11.6 15.1 16.0 20.4
Vermont 0.3 0.2 0.9 0.7 0.6 1.0 4.4 3.4 8.7 7.6 5.9 10.9
Virgin -- 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 -- 20.7 9.1 9.4 8.9 8.6
Virginia 11.7 8.9 15.5 16.2 17.7 18.6 19.9 16.6 21.0 21.7 24.5 28.6
Washington 8.0 8.5 14.2 15.1 15.1 16.9 12.5 10.9 14.1 14.7 14.8 17.1
West Virginia 3.4 3.3 6.0 5.4 6.7 7.7 10.1 9.3 14.4 13.3 17.4 21.0
Wisconsin 8.2 8.4 11.6 13.7 15.3 15.7 8.6 10.3 14.5 17.8 21.2 26.2
Wyoming 0.5 0.3 0.7 0.7 1.1 1.1 12.1 6.8 11.1 11.5 20.7 23.6
U.S. Total 437 400 787 869 923 978 12.0 10.6 15.8 17.2 18.9 21.5

Source:  ACF, Characteristics and Financial Circumstances of AFDC Recipients, 1996 and earlier reports.

In the mid 1990s, the rate of increase declined, and beginning after FY 1996, the number of child-only cases actually declined.  Because the overall caseload declined more rapidly, however, child-only cases continued to constitute a growing fraction of the caseload.  Between FY 1996 and the first 3 quarters of FY 1997, the average monthly number of child-only cases declined by 6.5 percent compared to 12.2 percent for the total caseload, so the fraction of the caseload that was child-only cases rose slightly, from 21.5 percent to 22.6 percent.

Based on the first full year of TANF data, the national average monthly number of child-only cases fell substantially from the first three quarters of FY 1997 to FY 1998 (26.8 percent), almost as rapidly as the overall caseload (27.6 percent).  These national figures cover a great deal of state-to­state variation, but only six states reported increases in the average monthly number of child-only cases during this time period.  (See Table D)

 

States 10/96-6/97
Total AFDC
Families
6/97-9/97
Total TANF
Families
10/97-9/98
Total TANF
Families
% Change
FY 97
to FY 98
10/96-6/97
Child-Only
Families
6/97-9/97
Child-Only
Families
10/97-9/98
Child-Only
Families
% Change
FY 97
to FY 98
Total 4,058,131 2,899,580 3,179,167 -22% 918,231 670,718 723,894 -21%
Alabama 36,728 28,293 23,792 -35% 16,268 12,126 11,081 -32%
Alaska 12,312 a 10,210 -17% a a 1,059 --
Arizona 56,020 50,912 40,163 -28% 18,369 15,673 12,441 -32%
Arkansas 21,405 a 13,844 -35% 6,017 a 5,538 -8%
California 832,009 767,625 707,063 -15% 190,989 178,948 180,755 -5%
Colorado 31,182 a 21,193 -32% 6,273 a 5,835 -7%
Connecticut 56,051 55,042 47,189 -16% 6,625 9,040 8,040 21%
Delaware 9,900 a 7,568 -24% 2,585 a 2,488 -4%
D.C. 24,508 22,954 21,264 -13% 4,780 4,188 2,752 -42%
Florida 179,170 147,574 111,143 -38% 50,556 43,168 40,814 -19%
Georgia 111,924 92,350 78,196 -30% 33,699 32,393 29,208 -13%
Guam 2,279 a 2,075 -9% 270 a 206 -24%
Hawaii 22,487 a 17,031 -24% 2,970 a 2,085 -30%
Idaho 7,710 a 1,860 -76% 1,217 a 798 -34%
Illinois 202,290 a 170,917 -16% 37,371 a 24,858 -33%
Indiana 45,813 -- 39,679 -13% 13,193 b 4,730 -64%
Iowa 29,365 27,438 25,167 -14% 5,811 4,851 4,790 -18%
Kansas 21,066 17,508 13,914 -34% 5,557 3,906 4,256 -23%
Kentucky 66,623 60,486 52,645 -21% 20,145 15,743 15,697 -22%
Louisiana 58,665 50,460 47,916 -18% 21,111 16,060 11,985 -43%
Maine 18,961 16,997 15,331 -19% 1,534 2,970 3,135 104%
Maryland 60,950 -- 47,564 -22% 12,910 b 10,968 -15%
Massachusetts 79,686 72,898 66,409 -17% 16,425 17,224 15,670 -5%
Michigan 154,816 142,166 123,693 -20% 23,073 19,326 21,556 -7%
Minnesota 54,276 a 48,464 -11% 6,147 a 6,939 13%
Mississippi 40,646 32,113 23,631 -42% 14,064 10,776 9,596 -32%
Missouri 73,635 66,191 60,074 -18% 17,678 13,782 14,134 -20%
Montana 9,442 8,179 7,275 -23% 1,167 1,040 1,069 -8%
Nebraska 13,481 13,900 13,374 -1% 2,233 3,199 3,152 41%
Nevada 12,120 11,311 10,383 -14% 5,467 2,878 3,343 -39%
New Hampshire 8,280 6,820 6,295 -24% 1,337 1,415 1,559 17%
New Jersey 102,034 95,167 81,665 -20% 21,194 19,754 16,782 -21%
New Mexico 29,256 a 21,363 -27% 6,143 a 3,248 -47%
New York 391,000 364,510 336,858 -14% 72,077 74,116 51,145 -29%
North Carolina 101,783 91,364 76,337 -25% 27,066 18,919 27,535 2%
North Dakota 4,331 a 3,275 -24% 568 a 734 29%
Ohio 191,437 165,009 140,286 -27% 43,212 37,623 35,417 -18%
Oklahoma 31,750 27,341 24,135 -24% 9,309 7,580 6,852 -26%
Oregon 25,310 21,297 18,898 -25% 7,259 4,084 4,014 -45%
Pennsylvania 167,933 a 134,995 -20% 26,456 a 25,773 -3%
Puerto Rico 48,143 a 42,201 -12% 6,294 a b --
Rhode Island 19,903 a 19,229 -3% 3,125 a 2,529 -19%
South Carolina 35,895 29,170 25,293 -30% 11,605 9,314 8,673 -25%
South Dakota 5,264 4,629 3,851 -27% 1,921 1,740 1,452 -24%
Tennessee 73,763 61,067 57,185 -22% 19,763 16,038 17,955 -9%
Texas 222,162 169,436 145,232 -35% 56,169 37,965 35,747 -36%
Utah 12,613 -- 10,769 -15% 2,176 b a --
Vermont 8,401 7,969 7,366 -12% 812 914 807 -1%
Virgin Islands 1,298 a 1,184 -9% 79 a a --
Virginia 55,260 48,617 42,718 -23% 17,577 8,926 9,874 -44%
Washington 94,619 87,488 77,762 -18% 18,663 14,342 14,241 -24%
West Virginia 34,747 -- 17,351 -50% 7,830 b a --
Wisconsin 44,345 33,555 14,649 -67% 12,260 10,101 b --
Wyoming 3,084 1,744 1,247 -60% 832 596 579 -30%

Note:  Depending on the timing of their implementation of TANF, not all states were required to report TANF data for July-September, 1997

a:  Data not reported
b:  Data reported, but not reliable

It is important to note that we are relying on AFDC Quality Control Data, which is based on sample data, for FY 1996 and the first three quarters of FY 1997 (October 1996 - June 1997).  For states with small total AFDC populations or small child-only caseloads this data is less reliable.  For FY 1998, we are using the first full year of emergency TANF data.  Although extensive work has been done by ACF to ensure its accuracy, there may be some problems with the reliability of all of the numbers as well as comparability between the two data systems.  Four states and two territories either did not report data on the number of child-only cases during one of these time periods or the data was not determined reliable.

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Why did the number of child-only cases increase during the early 1990s?

As shown in Table E, the child­only caseload grew by almost 150 percent from 367,000 cases in 1988 to 909,000 cases in 1997.  Approximately 28 percent of the increase was due to increases in the number of child-only cases with the parents receiving SSI, and 25 percent was due to increases in the number of no-parent cases, with the other categories accounting for the remainder.

Year Total number of families Child-only cases
No parent Parent Present Total
SSI Non-citizen Sanction Other Total
1988 3,748 206 62 41 14 45 162 367
1991 4,312 263 96 87 36 60 279 543
1994 4,984 321 176 145 62 118 501 822
1997 4,058 341 214 145 75 134 568 909

 

All categories of child-only cases grew during this period, but the greatest percentage growth was in those categories of child­only cases with parents in the household but not in the assistance unit.  While no-parent cases grew by just 66 percent in this period, parent-present child only cases grew by over 250 percent.  As a result, no-parent cases declined as a proportion of child-only cases from 56 percent to 38 percent.

Among the reasons for the increase that have been suggested by State and federal officials are:

  • Changes in federal SSI eligibility, and states encouraging AFDC recipients with disabilities to apply for SSI;
  • Changes in immigration policies leading to more participation by citizen children of ineligible parents;
  • Expansion of mandatory work and other requirements on AFDC recipients, leading to higher sanctioning rates; and
  • AIDS and the use of crack and other drugs leading to more children living in kinship care.

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Why are child only cases declining less quickly than other cases?

It is not surprising that child-only cases are declining less quickly than other cases, because they have not been affected by most of the policy changes that have taken place in recent years.  Child-only cases are not subject to time limits, and in most states, the responsible adults are not required to participate in work activities.  Even if an adult in the household is employed, his or her income will, in most cases, not affect the child's eligibility for TANF benefits.

The increased strictness of sanction policies may affect child-only cases, but it is not clear whether it should cause them to increase or decrease.  Under AFDC/JOBS, the basic sanction was the removal of the noncomplying adult from the case, resulting in a child-only case.  To the extent that the same sanction is imposed under TANF, but more often, the number of child-only cases may increase.  To the extent that this sanction has been replaced by full­family sanctions, the number of child-only cases may decrease.

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Why are child-only cases treated differently than other TANF cases?

In general, states do not impose work requirements or time limits on relative caregivers who do not receive benefits themselves, because they are under no legal obligation to support the child.  (If relative caregivers are included in the assistance units, however, and thus the case is not child-only, federal work requirements and time limits do apply.  States may use their broad flexibility under TANF to exempt relative caregivers from state requirements and may support them using State­only funds.) If work requirements are imposed on such caregivers, they may choose not to house and support the children.  In general, it would be much more expensive for states to care for these children through the formal foster care system.  Some observers have expressed concern, however, that these policies may have the unwanted effect of encouraging parents to walk away from their children, leaving them in the care of grandparents or other relatives.

Other kinds of child-only cases are not expected to work for other reasons.  SSI recipients, by definition, have a disability that is severe enough that they are not expected to be able to support themselves through work.  Undocumented aliens can not legally be employed.

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How is kinship care different from foster care?

There are a growing number of U.S. families in which both of a child's parents are absent and the child is being raised instead by a grandparent or other non­parent caregiver.  In 1994 there were 2.15 million U.S. children (3% of all children under age 18) living in the care of relatives without a parent present, a proportion that varies substantially among the States.  Such living arrangements are known as kinship care.  Kinship care is more prevalent among African American children than among white children or Hispanic children of either race, and is more prevalent in the South than in other parts of the U.S.  Relatives providing kinship care may receive assistance through TANF or through Federal or State foster care programs.  Most children living with a relative caregiver, without a parent present, do not receive any cash assistance, even though many of them may be eligible.

In most states, relative caregivers may apply for TANF benefits on behalf of the child while they themselves are not part of the assistance unit.  These families make up the largest category of child­only cases.  Relative caregivers may also apply for assistance themselves.  (Under AFDC, only specified relatives could apply for benefits on behalf of a dependent child;  under TANF, there is no federal requirement to this effect, although many states are continuing the former policy.)

Those caring for children in foster care may be receiving benefits to support the child either through TANF or the Federal title IV-E foster care program, but not both.  Payments through title IV-E are generally much higher than those available through TANF, but in order to receive such payments:  (a) the child must be in foster care (i.e. the State rather than the relative or the parent(s) have legal custody of the child); (b) the home must be licensed or approved according to the State's foster care licensing criteria; and (c) the family from which the child was removed must have been welfare­eligible according to the AFDC eligibility criteria in place as of July, 1996.  In some cases the homes fail to meet licensing criteria (e.g. requirements regarding physical space in the home) or the child was placed in State custody long after the caregiver had already begun caring for the child informally, in which case the child would not have been "removed" from an eligible household.  In these cases, Federal foster care reimbursements would not be available and the State may elect to provide either foster care reimbursement without Federal match or to support families through TANF instead.  Additionally, some states are establishing separate TANF programs for kinship providers with benefit levels higher than the standard child-only allotments.

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What does the TANF Final Rule say about child-only cases?

In keeping with the overall TANF policy of state flexibility, the Final Rule, published on April 12, 1999, does not regulate on the definition of a family or on which household members must be included in an assistance unit.  States have broad freedom to define these terms.

Reflecting concerns that States might undermine the federal work participation rates and time limits by excluding adults (particularly parents) from their eligible cases, the TANF Data Report includes an element that will identify the specific cases in the disaggregated sample that have become child-only cases.  This will allow HHS and other interested parties to examine the circumstances causing cases to become child-only and to determine whether this issue requires further attention.

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What is HHS doing to understand child-only cases?

HHS routinely tabulates and analyzes the administrative data reported by states on the characteristics of their caseloads.  At present, under the Emergency TANF Data Report, States are only required to report a limited set of data, which does not include information about household members who are not part of the assistance unit.  Starting in FY 2000, when the data reporting requirements under the Final Rule take effect, much more detailed information will be available.

In order to understand trends in child-only cases in more detail than is possible using administrative data, ASPE has funded a study this caseload in three states.  Researchers will conduct case file reviews and discussions with officials and staff in order to understand the current makeup, the trends of growth in this caseload and changes in policy or demographics which may have precipitated the growth.  While this project will give us information only relevant to three states, we believe that this in-depth on-site review is necessary to thoroughly understand the composition, growth and the policies regarding these TANF cases and that three states, prudently selected, will give us valuable information about a substantial portion of this caseload. The states included in the study are California, Missouri, and Florida.  This study is being conducted by the Lewin Group and a final report should be completed by November 1999.

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