Report on Alternative Outcome Measures: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant . Conclusions

The Department of Health and Human Services is fully committed to the concept of outcome-based performance measures. Measuring accomplishments rather than activities or processes is an important step toward ensuring that both federal agencies and our state and local partners maintain focus on the goals of the programs and are accountable for producing results. An emphasis on outcomes is particularly appropriate for a decentralized program such as TANF, where the federal government does not prescribe detailed program parameters.

This commitment is reflected in the Department's overall strategic planning process that links all activities to the goals established under the GPRA plan. In addition, states have been given outcome-based incentives under TANF through the High Performance Bonus and the Bonus for Reductions in Out-of-Wedlock Births. Although these bonus systems provide only financial incentives for positive outcomes without penalizing negative outcomes, and the GPRA plan has neither bonuses nor penalties attached to it, these systems are, nonetheless, important components of outcome-based performance measurement and lay the groundwork upon which future enhancements will be based.

The question is no longer whether outcome-based performance measurement is a valuable tool, but rather how to incorporate outcome-based measures into an overall accountability system. The following observations are offered to help guide this development process. We hope that these observations will prove useful during upcoming discussions on evaluating states' success under TANF as the program is considered for reauthorization.