Implementing Welfare Reform Requirements for Teenage Parents: Lessons from Experience in Four States . INTRODUCTION


Congress and the President abolished the AFDC program in August 1996. The PRWORA replaced AFDC, which created an entitlement to financial assistance for single-parent families with children, with federal block grants to states for TANF, in which no entitlement exists.(1) States have wide latitude in designing their TANF programs; however, they may not use TANF block grant funds to provide financial assistance to unmarried minor custodial parents who do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent unless they are attending school. Moreover, states may not use TANF funds to provide assistance for unmarried minor custodial parents unless they are living with an adult relative or guardian.

The PRWORA requires that many states implement new procedures for their teenage parents receiving cash assistance. State welfare agencies must identify the minor custodial parents in their caseload, define school attendance requirements, obtain attendance information, and follow up with teenagers who fail to attend school. The requirement that minor parents live with an adult relative or guardian necessitates new procedures for monitoring the living arrangements of minor parents, as well as procedures for determining when exceptions to the requirement serve the well-being of the teenage mother and her baby.

Before Congress enacted federal welfare reform legislation, several states had implemented similar school attendance and living arrangement requirements for teenage parents under waivers to their AFDC programs. To ensure that other states have the benefit of this experience, the office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), contracted with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (MPR) to examine teenage parent programs in four states that have implemented school attendance and living arrangement requirements as part of state welfare reform demonstrations. This report presents the operational lessons gathered from Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and Virginia in implementing school attendance and living arrangement requirements for teenage parents receiving cash assistance.