Understanding the AFDC/TANF Child-Only Caseload: Policies, Composition, and Characteristics in Three States. Child-Only Caseloads


This study defines child-only cases as all TANF cases without an adult in the assistance unit.(8) Some states use the term "child-only" to mean cases that are not required to participate in a work requirement or are not assigned a time limit. The focus of this study is understanding the cases without adults, regardless of whether they are subject to a time limit.(9)

As shown in Exhibit 1.1, Column F above, the proportion of TANF cases that are child-only varies tremendously by state. The proportion ranges from about ten percent in Alaska, Indiana, and Vermont to close to half of all TANF cases in Alabama, Idaho, and Wyoming.

While TANF cases become child-only for a variety of reasons, most child-only cases fall in one of the following categories:

  • The state has sanctioned the parent for a program violation by removing her from the assistance unit.
  • The parent is in the home but is ineligible because she is receiving SSI.
  • The parent is a non-qualified alien.
  • A non-parental caregiver is caring for the child and either chooses not to receive assistance for herself or is ineligible due to income or resource limits.

Note that when TANF recipients begin reaching time limits in states that continue to provide assistance to the children, this will result in additional child-only cases. This has not occurred to a large extent yet.