Implementing Welfare Reform Requirements for Teenage Parents: Lessons from Experience in Four States . Tanf and the Identification of Minor Parents


The new federal TANF regulations may require some states to develop the capacity to identify minor parents. A state that imposed the most narrow mandatory attendance policy allowed under TANF, one that applied only to unmarried minor custodial parents, would need the capability to identify minor parents (including those on someone else's case) from among its cash assistance caseload.

Attendance policies covering all school-age minors allow TANF compliance without identifying minor parents.

A substantial number of states, however, have chosen attendance policies for young cash assistance recipients that are consistent with this TANF requirement and that do not require identification of minor parents on someone else's case. For example, Virginia's state welfare reform initiative, implemented in 1995, meets the TANF requirement by mandating that all school-age minors (not just minor parents) attend school. Those who do not attend regularly can have their needs removed from the cash grant. By requiring all school-ageminors (including those who are parents) to attend school regularly as a condition for cash assistance receipt, the state can deny cash assistance to minor parents who do not attend school (as required under TANF) without being able to distinguish minor parents from other school-age minors on their caseload.

The new federal TANF regulations also require that states deny cash assistance to minor parents who do not live with an adult guardian unless certain limited exceptions apply. However, states do not need to identify minor parents on someone else's case to enforce this requirement, since, presumably, these minors are already living with an adult guardian (the case head). Therefore, states such as Virginia, which impose attendance requirements covering all school-age minors, will not need to be able to identify minor parents on someone else's case to comply with TANF.

However, a state that cannot identify teenage parents cannot target services to this population.

Teenage parents are very likely to become long-term welfare recipients. For this reason, welfare agencies may want to target limited resources for special programs and services to this high-risk population. If the agency does not have the capability to identify teenage parents, however, it will be unable to target this population for special services.


1. The identification of teenage parents who head their own cases is typically done by simply searching the data system for case heads who are under age 20.

2. Both before and after this policy change in Arizona, 16- to 19-year-old dropouts on cash assistance were required to participate in JOBS, regardless of their parent status.