Operating TANF: Opportunities and Challenges for Tribes and Tribal Consortia. Deciding Whether to Operate TANF


The tribes in this study made it clear that no single answer is right for every tribe. The lessons noted here will help each tribe arrive at the best solutions for its circumstances. In making the decision, tribes may want to consider the following principles:

  • Consultation with Many Stakeholders. Ongoing consultation with tribal agencies and community members may help to ensure broad community support for the decision on whether to operate a tribal TANF program. Through such consultation, the tribal council, tribal program staff, TANF participants, and tribal members in general can provide input and come to support the decision. Such consultation may be especially valuable to, and challenging for, tribal consortia. Because of the complexity of the decision, the tribe or consortium should expect the process to take six months or longer.
  • Needs Assessment for TANF Planning and Implementation. Because of the size and scope of the TANF program, tribes need to conduct an especially thorough needs assessment; determining the resources that are available and the resources needed to successfully implement and operate the program may be critical to the development of a sound TANF plan. Consultation with the state, DHHS, and tribes operating successful TANF programs can make this task easier.
  • Input and Guidance from Experienced Tribal TANF Grantees. Learning from the experiences of other tribes can help new grantees avoid mistakes and develop solutions to problems in planning, implementing, and operating TANF. Tribal planners can benefit from the advice of experienced tribal TANF grantees. Some of these grantees have formed regional organizations to help other tribes as they decide whether to take over the program, develop a plan, and implement tribal TANF.

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