Understanding the AFDC/TANF Child-Only Caseload: Policies, Composition, and Characteristics in Three States. TANF Policies Regarding Non-Parental Caregivers


Relative caretakers of TANF cases must have a specified degree of relationship to the child. Generally, this means a relative who is immediate family or a stepparent, uncle or aunt, first cousin, first cousin of parent, nephew or niece, persons of preceding generations such as a great-grandmother, or the spouse to one of these persons.

In California and Florida, caretakers who are not related to the children are not able to receive TANF benefits for children under their care. In Missouri, exceptions are allowed for non-relative caretakers who have legal custody or legal guardianship of the children. Legal custody can be obtained via family court after it has been determined that the child should be placed outside of the home. Legal guardianship is obtained through probate court after family court has relinquished its jurisdiction over the child and his or her caretaker.

In all three states, relative caregivers must cooperate with the state by supplying information on each parent absent from the home, which is forwarded to the state child support agency. In addition, the states require that relative caregivers also assign child support benefits over to the state. The child support agency pursues the absent parent to establish a support order, if none is in place, or to enforce an existing order.

The TANF programs in the three counties offer no services targeting non-parental caregivers, although non-parental caregivers who are in the assistance group are eligible for the same services available to parental caregivers, including job search assistance, child care, transportation, and other ancillary services. Non-parental caregivers not in the assistance group are generally not eligible for these services, although states often have non-TANF programs that offer services, such as child care and transportation, for which they can apply.