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


The goals of TANF, foster care, and the alternative programs differ to some extent. Some alternative programs are considered alternatives to foster care while others are considered alternatives to TANF. In addition, foster care program goals differ by state, although these state differences are not discussed in this section.

  • TANF was enacted "to increase state flexibility in operating programs designed to:
    1. aid needy families so that children may be cared for in their homes or those of relatives;
    2. end dependence of needy parents upon government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage;
    3. prevent and reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies and establish goals for preventing and reducing their incidence; and
    4. encourage formation and maintenance of two-parent families."(8)
  • The goal of foster care is to provide a protective environment for abused and neglected children until a permanent placement can be made. Reuniting children with their families is the goal for some children in foster care, although not for all, and support services are provided to assist families in reunification. For children who cannot be reunited with their parents, then adoption, permanent custody arrangements, or long-term foster care are considered.
  • California's Kin-GAP Program seeks to move foster care children living with relatives to the Kin-GAP program and create permanency in the children's lives. Given that many children are in long-term, stable placements with relatives, the state Legislature saw "no need for continued governmental intervention in the family life through ongoing, scheduled court and social services supervision of the placement."(9) This gives the relatives the same level of payments as foster care, but allows them to leave the foster care system.
  • The goal of Florida's Relative Caregiver Program is to provide assistance to relatives who would be unable to serve as a caregiver without the payment, putting children at risk of placement in shelter or foster care. The program strives to achieve permanency and stability for the children who are at risk of foster care placement.
  • Missouri's Grandparents as Foster Parents program recognizes that grandparents and relatives age 50 and over need resources, parenting training, and other supportive services to care for their grandchildren. It seeks to provide an alternative to TANF assistance, which pays substantially less than foster care.