While child-only cases are growing in proportion and are becoming more prominent in welfare literature, the approach for addressing these cases is still at the complete discretion of the state. As stated earlier, child-only grants are not considered an entitlement as states are not required to offer the grant or may offer it with limitations such as a waiting list for services. All states are currently offering some type of child-only grant; however, it is important to note that states are not required to offer child-only grants at all and can cap payments to families at any time or implement a waiting list for assistance (AARP Grandparent Information Center, 1997).
To determine the extent to which child-only cases were addressed in annual state TANF plans, study staff reviewed each state plan for reference to child-only cases. Researchers created categories of references to organize these findings, which are summarized in Table 2-6. These categories include
- a definition (state plan defined child-only services);
- administrative reference (explaining eligibility, time limits, etc.);
- cash grant reference (outlining cash grant amount for child-only cases).
- kinship care program (specific reference to a kinship care initiative within the state); and
- no reference (child-only cases not mentioned in state plan).
The study team acquired state TANF plans for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In 13 of these plans, no reference was made to child-only cases. However, the lack of any mention of child-only cases in the state plan does not necessarily indicate a lack of programs in that area. In fact, since all of the states report on the number of their child-only cases, it is clear that they have programs that offer cash grants, with or without additional services. There is currently no federal required format for TANF State Plans. As such, each individual plan varies greatly in the format and the amount of detail included. Among the remaining 35 state plans, administrative references were the most common (in 22 plans), followed by definitions and cash-grant references (16 plans each). Fourteen plans included a specific reference to a program addressing the needs of kinship care families.