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


Among the TANF, foster care, and state alternative programs outlined above, TANF offers the fewest services and imposes the fewest requirements on non-parental caregivers, while foster care offers the most services and imposes the most stringent requirements. The alternative programs have some requirements, although they are generally not as stringent as foster care. These programs are discussed separately below.


The TANF programs require that non-parental caregivers meet with their eligibility workers for redeterminations of benefits. Generally, redeterminations take place every six to 12 months (depending on the state), or every three months in some states, if the case is receiving food.(10) During the redetermination, they must supply basic information about the household, although are not required to provide information regarding income and resources if they are non-parental caregivers excluded from the grant. Non-parental caregivers not included in the grant are not required to participate in the work activities required of caregivers included in the grant.

2. Foster care

The key difference between foster care and TANF is that children in foster care are in the state's legal custody and not the caregiver's custody. In addition, foster care imposes stringent requirements, requiring the most supervision and oversight from the child welfare agency. In Florida, relative caregivers must be fully licensed as foster parents in the foster care component, while California and Missouri waive specific licensure requirements for relative caregivers. However, even in these states, families must undergo a home study and their cases are reviewed every six or twelve months. Training is often available, and sometimes required, of families. For example, the California DSS provides training to foster parents through community colleges and county-sponsored training programs; Missouri requires 30 hours of foster parent training; and Florida requires that families complete 21 hours of training. California and Missouri require that for relatives to receive foster care, the children must come from a poor family (i.e., were previously eligible for TANF).(11)

3. Alternative State Programs

California's Kin-GAP program will require relative caregivers to have legal guardianship and have cared for the dependent child in foster care for at least 12 months. To receive Kin-GAP, the court must terminate dependency, meaning many of the requirements imposed in foster care are not imposed once families enter Kin-GAP. No services are to be provided to Kin-GAP participants.

Missouri's Grandparents as Foster Parents program provides assistance to grandparents and other relatives age 50 years or older, who are legal guardians or have legal custody of the child. The caretakers receive 30 hours of foster care training, but can forgo the formal foster care licensing procedures or home study.(12) The Grandparents program does not require that children be from TANF-eligible households, as is required for relatives to be eligible for foster care benefits.

Florida's Relative Caregiver Program offers assistance to relatives who are taking care of children under court supervision or who have temporary legal custody. Relatives are not required to be licensed but have to undergo a background check and a home study to ensure the home is safe.