Understanding the AFDC/TANF Child-Only Caseload: Policies, Composition, and Characteristics in Three States. Implications for Future Research


Future research is still needed to answer the following questions:

  • How are states implementing alternative programs for relatives?
    All three states visited had either recently initiated or were planning implementation of alternative programs.  Future studies could document the extent to which such programs are either in place or in process around the country and collect information on their structures and characteristics.  Case studies could examine practices as well as the characteristics of the children and the caregivers.
  • How will time-limited cash assistance affect the child-only caseloads?
    Full-family time limits have the potential to lead to the creation of either protective payee child-only cases or to non-parental caregiver cases.  Future research can examine more carefully what happens to the children in families that use up their TANF benefits.  Do they stay with their natural family?  Do their families receive benefits through protective payees?  Do the children move in with relatives and return to TANF as child-only cases?  How are these children faring?
  • Do children on child-only cases move from caregiver to caregiver or tend to stay on one case until they age out of the program (i.e., turn 18 years old)?
    Since most child-only cases are not subject to time limits (with the exception of sanctioned cases in some states), future research could track a group of focal children over time to document whether they reside with the same caregivers and whether they continue to receive TANF until they age out of the program.  One could examine these questions for children in both parental and non-parental cases.
  • What proportion of child-only cases is comprised of recent immigrants due to PRWORA restrictions?
    The child-only cases examined in Alameda, Duval, and Jackson did not include any qualified aliens who entered the country after August 1996 who were ineligible for TANF benefits (California is providing benefits to these individuals using state money; the Duval and Jackson TANF caseloads have relatively few immigrants).  Further studies could examine this group of immigrants to assess what services they are receiving and how they are managing compared to qualified aliens who entered the country prior to the enactment of PRWORA.
  • How is child support enforcement handled for non-parental child-only cases?
    Non-parental caregivers are required to supply information to help the state locate the children's parents, unless the non-parental caregiver has good cause for not cooperating.  Then states can seek child support from both or either parent in non-parental child-only cases.  Additional research is needed to assess the extent to which non-parental caregivers are supplying information regarding the absent parents, are unable to supply this information (i.e., they have no knowledge of the whereabouts of the parents), or have good cause for not cooperating.

    Also of interest is understanding whether state child support agencies are vigorously pursuing these cases.  When the caregiver assigns child support payments as a condition of eligibility, the federal and state governments retain all or nearly all child support payments from current TANF cases.  As the child-only caseload continues to increase as a proportion of the overall TANF caseload, and if collections lag for child-only cases, both the federal and state governments may experience a drop in retained TANF collections.