Children in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Child-Only Cases with Relative Caregivers. 2.2.1 Definitions and Classifications


A child-only TANF case is one in which no adult is included in the cash grant (Wood and Strong, 2002). A case can come to be classified as a child-only case in a number of ways; however, these classifications can be grouped into two large categories: (1) child-only cases with nonparent caregivers and (2) child-only cases with parent caregivers (Farrell et al., 2000; Duncan, 2002).

A child-only TANF case is one in which no adult is included in the cash grant.

One type of child-only case occurs when a child is living somewhere other than with a parent (i.e., with a relative) and the relative receives benefits on behalf of the child. While the child is residing with the relative, the relative might not have formal, legal custody of the child. Current National Survey of America's Families (NSAF) data indicate increasing numbers of children being cared for by relatives (Ehrle and Geen, 2002). Because they have no legal obligation to raise these children, nonparent caregivers have the option of receiving a child-only TANF grant (Harvard Law Review, 1999). The amount of this grant and the specific eligibility requirements differ by state. Additionally, nonparent caregivers may choose to be included in the assistance unit, if eligible, and receive benefits for both the child and themselves. In this case, the child is no longer considered to be in a child-only case.

There are a number of ways a case can come to be classified as a child-only case. These cases group themselves into two distinct groups:
  • Nonparent Caregivers
  • Parent Caregivers
    • Parents on Sanction
    • SSI Parent
    • Immigrant Parents

There are three situations in which the children can be living with one or both parents, but the parents are not included in the assistance unit:

  • Parents on Sanction. Dependent on the state, a child living with a parent can receive benefits as a child-only case when the parent is sanctioned for failure to comply with work requirements, reaches an adult-only time limit, or fails to comply with child support enforcement procedures. Work requirements are set by each state under federal mandate. Child support enforcement procedures require the caregiver parent to identify the absent parent to establish a child support agreement. Depending on state policies, a caregiver who does not comply with these policies may be sanctioned. A sanctioned parent is still the primary caregiver for the children, but is not considered a part of the assistance unit.
  • SSI Parents. Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a federal program administered by the Social Security Administration, is designed to cover the needs of disabled or elderly individuals who are not eligible for Old Age, Disability, or Survivors Insurance (OADSI) Social Security benefits, or are eligible for a very small OADSI benefit. Individuals receiving SSI may not be eligible for TANF benefits; however, parents can apply for assistance on behalf of children.
  • Immigrant Parents. Many immigrant parents are not eligible for TANF. These parents include illegal immigrants, as well as certain recent legal immigrants who are ineligible for TANF. Ineligible immigrants can receive TANF for their children who are U.S. citizens.

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