Understanding the AFDC/TANF Child-Only Caseload: Policies, Composition, and Characteristics in Three States. Composition of Child-Only Cases at the State and County Level


A quick glance at the composition of child-only cases at the state-level (Exhibit 3.1) may help to put the findings at the county-level into context. Data from HHS' quality control (QC) sample reveal that there are notable differences between the make-up of the states' child-only caseloads and those of the counties.

A. State Caseload Composition

As Exhibit 3.1 shows, caseload compositions in Florida and Missouri look moderately similar while that of California is quite different. The highest proportion of the child-only caseload in California (46 percent) is comprised of non-qualified alien cases, whereas non-parental caregiver cases make up the largest portion of child-only cases in both Florida (58 percent) and Missouri (46 percent). The proportion of non-qualified aliens in the Florida caseload is 5 percent; in Missouri it is less than 1 percent. SSI cases comprise less than one-quarter of cases in all three states. In Florida and Missouri, a notable proportion of cases are "other parental"; 15 percent in Florida and 24 percent in Missouri (the reason is unknown according to the QC data).

Exhibit 3.1
Composition of the Child-Only Caseload in Three States

Exhibit 3.1: Composition of the Child-Only Caseload in Three States.

Source: AFDC QC Data, October 1996 - June 1997. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation.

The number of cases that fall into each category across the three states is outlined in Exhibit 3.2.

Exhibit 3.2
Estimated Number of Monthly TANF and Child-Only TANF cases in Three States
Type of Case California Florida Missouri
Total AFDC/TANF families 832,009 179,170 73,635
Child-only families 190,989 50,556 17,678
Non-parental caregiver cases 38,417 28,889 8,015
Child-only units headed by parents 152,572 21,667 9,663
SSI child-only cases 38,296 8,818 4,068
Non-qualified alien child-only cases 88,034 2,773 68
Sanctioned child-only cases 13,121 2,275 1,314
Other/unknown parental cases 13,121 7,800 4,213
Source: AFDC QC Data, October 1996 - June 1997. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation.

B. County Caseload Composition

Exhibit 3.3 presents the composition of child-only cases in the three counties from case file data. The comparison of Exhibits 3.1 and 3.3 suggests that the composition of the child-only caseload in each county is not reflective of its respective state. It is important to note that the state caseload figures reflect the monthly caseload in fiscal year 1997 while the county data reflects the caseload in May 1999. Also, state data are less complete, in some respects. Namely, in Florida and Missouri, there was a greater proportion of "other parental" cases (the reason the parent was not in the assistance unit could not be determined from the data). In conducting the case file review, The Lewin Group had access to more detailed information located in case files, supplemented by information in the administrative data systems.

Non-parental caregiver cases, as well as SSI cases, comprise a greater percentage of the caseload in each county, compared to the states. In Alameda, sanctioned cases comprise 25 percent of the caseload while in the state, only 7 percent of cases are child-only due to sanction. In Jackson, no cases were coded as child-only due to sanction status while 7 percent of the child-only caseload in the state are in sanction status. As discussed in Chapter 2, the sanction policy was revised and sanctioned adults receive reduced benefits but continue to be included in the assistance unit.

While the county caseloads differ from those of the states, comparing the three counties to one another illustrates that in Duval and Jackson Counties the composition of child-only cases is quite similar, while the composition of Alameda County's caseload is very different. This is largely due to demographic differences of the three counties and state policies.(2)

Exhibit 3.3
Composition of the Child-Only Caseload in Three Counties

Composition of the Child-Only Caseload in Three Counties.

Source: Lewin Case File Review, 1999.

Non-parental caregiver cases comprise almost two-thirds of child-only cases in Duval and Jackson, according to the case file review. SSI cases make up the next largest portion of the caseload in these two counties, encompassing 27 percent of the caseload in Duval and 28 percent in Jackson. Six percent of Duval County's caseload is comprised of sanctioned cases and only 1 percent contains non-qualified aliens. Jackson County's caseload, on the other hand, includes no sanctioned cases but contains a greater proportion, 6 percent, of alien cases. The remaining portion of cases, 3 percent and 2 percent in Duval and Jackson, respectively, is made up of other parental cases (a small number of minor parents on aid, and cases which are child-only for unknown reasons).

Alameda County's caseload, unlike that in Duval County and Jackson County, is far more diverse; 28 percent of the cases are non-parental caregiver cases, 23 percent are SSI cases, 25 percent are sanctioned cases, and 16 percent are non-qualified alien cases. The remaining 8 percent fall under other categories or could not be placed in one of the aforementioned categories based on the information present in the case files.