Operating TANF: Opportunities and Challenges for Tribes and Tribal Consortia. Introduction


Operating a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program has major implications for Indian tribes and tribal consortia.(1) The decision to operate TANF is difficult, because though the program is important to tribes, operating it poses complex challenges. This report describes the experiences of 10 tribal grantees in planning, implementing, and operating TANF programs. It was prepared for the use of tribal, federal, and state officials and other stakeholders in welfare reform in Indian country. We present the challenges and problems encountered, as well as the lessons learned from the programs' experiences, to demonstrate how tribes have tailored TANF programs to the needs of their members.(2)The ultimate impact of tribal TANF programs remains a question, however, because this brief study cannot rigorously determine whether tribal operation of TANF improves employment outcomes for clients. It is clear, however, that persistent economic problems in Indian country, especially the lack of unsubsidized employment opportunities, are a continuing challenge to tribal TANF programs, no matter how well such programs are run.

This chapter presents background information about tribal TANF, the study methods, and the sites. Chapter II describes key factors underlying the decision to operate a tribal TANF program. Chapter III discusses the development of a sound TANF plan, Chapter IV addresses tribal experiences in implementing and operating TANF, and Chapter V concludes with lessons learned and policy implications.

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