Operating TANF: Opportunities and Challenges for Tribes and Tribal Consortia. Consensus-Building Activities


The process of deciding whether to operate the TANF program was complex, requiring 6 to 24 months of internal consensus building by the 10 study grantees. Many people were involved, including members of the tribal council, the tribal chairman, and staff of other tribal programs (for example, social services, employment and training, and adult education). Participants in the process met repeatedly and exchanged information, ideas, and opinions in different venues that depended on the tribe's size, organization, and political structure. For example, the Navajo Nation, a large tribe, worked through its Chapter Houses, which are local political entities. Smaller tribes, such as Port Gamble and Winnebago, held general meetings and assemblies.

Most of the grantees in the study established a TANF study team of 2 to 12 people who gathered and presented information to tribal officials, often after consulting with state officials and other tribal TANF grantees, if available. For example, a team of about 10 members of the Hopi tribe planned the tribe's TANF program. The team included representatives of tribal programs, including Human Services (responsible for behavioral health), Education (high school, guidance center, and scholarship program), BIA social services, tribal courts, and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program, as well as the chairman's representative. The Navajo Nation implemented a large task force consisting of representatives of all Nation agencies that would be involved in providing TANF services to clients. Additional meetings were held with state and local TANF officials from Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The Tlingit and Haida tribal TANF team assembled, and distributed to each member of the consortium, information describing how the program would operate and how tribal members would be most affected by tribal operation of the program.

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