On Their Own Terms: Supporting Kinship Care Outside of TANF and Foster Care. TANF


All kin not receiving foster care payments may receive TANF child-only grants on behalf of their related child, or if poor themselves, may include the related child as part of their assistance unit. States set their own TANF payment levels; state child-only rates vary from $60 to $514 a month with a median rate of $215 (Committee on Ways and Means, 2000).

Data from fiscal year 1999 show that 9.4 percent (499,960) of all children receiving TANF benefits were related to but not the children of the head of the household (U.S. DHHS, 2000c).(8) The large majority of these children (421,599) were supported through child-only grants. While historical data on welfare assistance received by kinship care children is limited, the number of kinship care child-only cases grew from 206,000 in 1988 to 388,000 in 1996 before declining in 1997 to 341,000 following the trend of the entire welfare caseload (U.S. DHHS, 2000d) (see Exhibit 1).(9) In addition, data show that even though all kin who do not receive a foster care payment are eligible to receive at least a TANF child-only payment, most do not receive any TANF assistance. In 1997, only 28 percent of kinship care children lived with a relative who received AFDC (Ehrle et al., 2001). In comparison, in 1997 approximately 69 percent of all TANF eligible persons received benefits (DHHS, 2000b).

Policy makers have been paying much closer attention to the child-only caseload as it represents a growing share of the total welfare caseload

Policy makers have been paying much closer attention to the child-only caseload as it represents a growing share of the total welfare caseload. The number of child-only welfare families increased steadily in the late 1980s and throughout the middle 1990s, reaching a peak of 978,000 such families in 1996. The number of child-only families decreased in 1997 (918,000) and 1998 (743,000), before increasing again in 1999 (770,000) (U.S. DHHS, 2000c). But the child-only share of the total welfare caseload grew in each year between 1988 and 1999, from 10 percent in 1988 to 29 percent in 1999 (see Exhibit 1). The share of the welfare caseload represented by child-only grants varies considerably among states, with child-only grants representing more than 50 percent of the caseload in some states (U.S. DHHS, 2000c).

In general, states do not impose work requirements or time limits on kinship caregivers who receive child-only TANF grants, because they are under no legal obligation to support the relative child. If kinship caregivers themselves receive TANF payments, federal work requirements and time limits do apply. States may exempt relative caregivers from state requirements and may support them using state-only funds (U.S. DHHS 1999).

Exhibit 1.
Changes in Child_Only Caseload, 1988-1999

Exhhibit 1: Changes in Child_Only Caseload, 1988-1999