After significant growth in the early 1990s, the child-only caseload has leveled off nationally; however, due to continued reductions in the regular TANF caseload, the proportion of child-only cases continues to grow. While all states have experienced growth in the numbers and relative proportion of their child-only caseloads since the early 1990s, recent changes vary significantly among states.
Nationally, the composition of child-only cases has changed since 1988; parent-headed cases due to sanction, SSI receipt, and alien status have grown more rapidly than non-parental caregiver cases.
State TANF policies affect the number and composition of child-only cases in each state. The main policies are as follows:
- Time limits. Application of time limits to the entire family is less likely to lead directly to child-only cases than when applied only to the case head; however, over time whole family time limits may create child-only cases under the auspices of either protective payees or non-parental caregivers.
- Sanctions. Sanctions that remove the adult from the assistance unit create child-only cases; sanctions that reduce the grant, but keep the adult in the assistance unit do not. Whole family sanctions may create child-only cases if protective payees are utilized to provide resources for the child(ren).
- Alien status. State policies on qualified aliens who entered the country before or after August 1996 determine whether adults in those families may be included in the TANF case; children born in the United States to ineligible aliens will be child-only cases.
- Referral to SSI. Policies to actively refer TANF case heads with disabilities to SSI may increase the number of child-only cases. On the other hand, the few states that include SSI benefits in the TANF grant determination, should see a reduction in the number of child-only cases.
- Non-parental caregivers. States have the flexibility to develop their own definition of family; some states allow non-relatives who have guardianship or legal custody to apply for TANF benefits and others limit benefits to relative caregivers or parents. A state's definition of "family" and the requirements imposed on non-parental caregiver cases should affect the number of child-only cases.
- Alternate state programs. Creation of alternate relative caregiver programs may result in a shift of cases from TANF into the alternative programs; depending on state financing choices these cases may or may not be counted as TANF child-only cases.