Between 1996 and 2001, welfare cases declined nationally by 52 percent, while child-only cases declined by much less. Thus, while the number of child-only cases has fluctuated over time, their proportionate share of the TANF caseload has increased. Children in TANF child-only cases with relative caregivers occupy uncertain territory between the TANF and the child welfare service systems. Since these children are exempt from work requirements and not expected to move to self-sufficiency prior to adulthood, they are not well aligned with the TANF agency’s expectations and service offerings. Because they have not been identified as having experienced maltreatment, they are outside the child welfare system’s protective mandate, although they may be in need of supportive services. This report examines the demographics, family circumstances, service system involvement, service needs, and well-being of children in TANF child-only cases with relative caregivers. In addition, the policies and program structures that shape states’ responses to children in TANF child-only cases with relative caregivers and the ways states assess, respond to, and monitor the needs and well-being of children in TANF child-only cases with relative caregivers is examined. The study yielded mixed findings. Secondary analyses of the Survey of Income and Program Participation and the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being found that children in TANF child-only cases with relative caregivers often compare favorably on many indicators of well-being to other TANF children, and to other children in non-parental care. However, they do not compare favorably on certain indicators of mental health, trauma and educational problems. The case studies in five diverse states found that many children in TANF child-only cases with relative caregivers have service needs related to the circumstances that led to their placement in relative care. TANF programs, with an emphasis on employment and self-sufficiency, are not currently structured to respond to such needs. In particular, cases studies revealed a lack of assessment and case management for children in TANF child-only cases with relative caregivers, and little collaboration between the TANF and child welfare agencies. The connection of these children to the TANF programs provides an opportunity to identify potentially vulnerable children, provide services that do not threaten important family bonds, and prevent entry to the child welfare system.
PIC ID: 7907; Agency Sponsor: ASPE-OHSP, Office of Human Services Policy; Federal Contact: Nielsen, David, 202-401-6642; Performer: Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, NC