Implementing Welfare Reform Requirements for Teenage Parents: Lessons from Experience in Four States . Teenage Parent Requirements under Tanf


Women who give birth before age 18 have lower educational attainment than other women and are more likely to become long-term welfare recipients (Ribar 1996; Klepinger et al. 1995; and Bronars and Grogger 1995). Moreover, their children have lower cognitive abilities, are more likely to drop out of school, and are more likely to become teenage parents themselves than the children of older mothers (Moore et al. 1997; and Havemen et al. 1997). The poor economic and educational outcomes of very young mothers and their children led Congress, when drafting the PRWORA, to identify minor parents as a population requiring special attention.

TANF School Attendance Requirement

Under the PRWORA, a state may not use TANF block grant funds to provide assistance to an unmarried custodial parent under age 18 who does not have a high school diploma or its equivalent unless the parent participates in an appropriate educational activity. Educational activities permitted under this requirement include those "directed toward attainment of a high school diploma or its equivalent" or "an alternative educational or training program that has been approved by the State."(2) States may exclude minor parents with children under 12 weeks of age from the attendance requirement.

TANF Living Arrangement Requirement

The PRWORA also specifies that states may not use TANF block grant funds to provide assistance for unmarried custodial parents under age 18 unless they live with a parent, adult relative, or legal guardian. The legislation allows exceptions to this requirement if (1) no parent, legal guardian, or other appropriate adult relative is living, can be located, or will allow the minor parent and child to live in his or her home; (2) the state welfare agency determines the minor parent or child "is being or has been subjected to serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation" in the home of the parent or legal guardian; or (3) "the state welfare agency otherwise determines it is in the best interest of the minor child to waive the requirement."(3) The legislation does not provide funding for group homes for minor parents. It does, however, direct the state welfare agency to provide or assist minor parents in locating a group home or other alternative adult-supervised setting when they are unable to live with an adult relative or guardian.