Operating TANF: Opportunities and Challenges for Tribes and Tribal Consortia. Improvement of Reputation and Image


Comments from tribal staff made it clear that successfully implementing and operating TANF can enhance the way that state and local agencies, employers, and surrounding communities perceive their tribe. Some tribes, despite impressive achievements and successes in overcoming difficult obstacles, have an image problem. Nontribal members may not know the tribe exists, or they may be aware only of negative characteristics generally associated with poverty, such as high levels of unemployment, low levels of educational attainment, and poor health status. Negative stereotypes, stemming from conflict between the tribe and postcolonial immigrants to the tribal lands, can exacerbate the image problem. Tribal TANF offers an opportunity to address this problem. If the tribe successfully implements and operates the TANF program, tribal members, state and federal officials, and others may realize that the tribe shares their values of personal responsibility and the goal of moving people from welfare to work. Recognition of tribal management abilities and the program's ability to improve work skills can have long-lasting, positive effects on the tribe's image and on tribal-state relationships.

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