Operating TANF: Opportunities and Challenges for Tribes and Tribal Consortia. Study Methods and Sites


This study focuses on a small but diverse set of tribal TANF programs. We selected a purposeful sample of 10 tribal TANF programs from the 34 approved by DHHS (when the study was being designed) to ensure variation in the following attributes:

  • Region of the country
  • Size of the TANF population
  • Whether the tribal grantee operates a PL 102-477 program, an option that can facilitate coordination and integration of tribal programs, and thus affect how TANF is integrated into overall tribal services(5)
  • Whether the grantee is an individual tribe or a tribal consortium, which can affect the complexity of program design and operations

The 10 tribal TANF grantees are diverse on other dimensions as well, including land area, tribal population, and population living on the reservation (Table I.1).

We collected data between August 2001 and July 2002 through telephone interviews with all 10 tribal grantees, followed by in-depth site visits to three of them. We conducted the telephone interviews with two or three key informants at each of the 10 grantees, generally the director of the tribal TANF program, a member of the TANF staff, and the director of the tribal social services program. The three grantees selected for follow-up visits (Navajo Nation, Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe, Torres Martinez Consortium) had developed innovative approaches to planning, implementing, or operating TANF or had experienced challenging problems. During the site visits, we interviewed tribal TANF staff (for example, the director, case manager, and intake workers), the director of social services, tribal administrators and elected officials (for example, the chairman, governor, or chief and the financial officer), and members of the tribal planning department. We also interviewed state TANF staff members and /or state officials who dealt with tribal TANF programs.(6)

Table I.1
Diversity of the Study Sample on Key Attributes
Grantee Land Area
(Square Miles)
Enrolled Members Residents TANF Incorporated in 477 TANF Assistance Unitsa State
Hopi 2,405 11,156 9,000 No 206 AZ
Lac du Flambeau 69.3 3,165 2,400 no 20 WI
Mille Lacs 94.3 3,340 1,151 yes 130 MN
Navajo Nation 25,000 234,786 178,687 no 9,000 AZ, NM, UT
Port Gamble 2.01 923 500 yes 125 WA
Red Cliff 24 3,879 1,200 no 50 WI
Tlingit and Haida 35,000 24,000 17,000 yes 200 AK
Torres Martinez 37 11,086 6,191 no 5,169 CA
White Mountain Apache 2,569 12,536 4,300 no 633 AZ
Winnebago 42.5 4,031 1,288 yes 87 NE
a TANF "assistance units" can range from one person as a "child only" case, to a single parent with one or more children, to a two-parent family with one or more children.
b Includes lands allocated to Sealaska regional native corporation by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
c Data projected by grantee.


1.  In this report, "tribes" generally refers to federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages; however, no Alaska Native village or tribe in Alaska is eligible to operate TANF  section 419(4)(B) of the Act defines an "Indian tribe," with respect to the State of Alaska, to include only the Metlakatla Indian Community and 12 specified Alaska Native regional nonprofit entities.

2.  This is the third of four reports on tribal welfare to work (WtW) programs, produced as part of the National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program. The first report, prepared for tribal leaders and managers, described preliminary findings of tribal experiences in designing and implementing WtW programs (Hillabrant and Rhoades 2000). The second report, prepared for a wider audience, assessed the implementation and operation of tribal WtW programs, describing social, cultural, economic, programmatic, and other factors that affect their operation (Hillabrant et al. 2001). The current report focuses on the tribal TANF program, the welfare program with the most participants and largest budget in Indian country. The last report will focus on innovative economic development efforts in Indian country and their role in moving tribal members from welfare to work.

3.  PRWORA amended title IV-A of the Social Security Act (Public Law 74-271) which was further amended by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-33). Because this report is intended for a wide audience, we generally refer to "PRWORA" rather than to "Title IV-A of the Social Security Act, as amended," "Title IV-A," or the "Social Security Act."

4.  Title IV-A has been amended since passage of PRWORA by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-33) and the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-169).

5.  Public Law 102-477  the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992  authorizes tribal governments to combine federal funds received under formula grant programs related to employment under one plan, with one budget, and with one set of annual reports (statistical, narrative, financial status, and audit) for the integrated program submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

6.  Some Indian reservations/tribal lands cross state and national borders. In general, reservations that cross state boundaries have large land areas and large tribal populations. One tribe in the study sample, the Navajo Nation, lies within three states: Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah

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