Children in nonparent child-only cases often have parents with serious personal problems that make it impossible or inappropriate for them to raise their children. Drug addiction is particularly common. In New Jersey, 6 in 10 caregivers reported that the child's mother had a substance abuse problem that made it impossible for her to raise the child (Wood and Strong, 2002). It has also been reported that many children in nonparental TANF child-only cases have been victims of abuse or neglect and are thus also involved with the child welfare system (Edelhoch, 2002; Wood and Strong, 2002; Ehrle, Geen, and Clark, 2001; Farrell et al., 2000; Schofield and Fein, 2000).
Many children entering the TANF system do so through referrals from the child welfare system (Greenberg et al., 1999). Children removed from the home due to abuse or neglect are typically first placed through the child welfare system and then (if the relative caregiver is not a licensed foster parent) referred to TANF for financial assistance. Other traumatic experiences leading to children not living with their parents include parents' criminal activity, lack of money, or mental health problems. In addition, children placed in relative care often have experienced not only one of these circumstances, but have been exposed to multiple traumatic experiences prior to placement out of the home.