Tag Archives: TANF

HHS Refines TANF Reporting on Child Welfare Spending

On July 31, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in HHS issued new standards for how Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds are spent with a refinement in regard to child welfare spending. Beginning with the FY 2015 first quarter report (report quarter ending December 31, 2014, due February 14, 2015), TANF-ACF-PI-2014-02 (OMB approved Form ACF-196R State TANF Financial Report Form) should eventually lead to greater detail in regard to TANF funds used for foster care, adoption assistance and guardianship payments as well as other spending on child welfare services.

States have a great deal of flexibility in how they spend their federal TANF funds on families and on child welfare services. National surveys by Child Trends and others have indicated that, nationally, over 20 percent of federal funding for child welfare services comes from the TANF block grant. States vary in their utilization of TANF funding with some not allocating any TANF funds for child welfare services to some states such as Texas usually drawing more than 40 percent of their child welfare funding from the TANF block grant.
When AFDC was eliminated in 1996 and converted into a block grant some states had already been using it as a partial source of funding for child welfare services. AFDC was the sole funder of foster care in the 1960s and 1970s until Title IV-E was created in 1980.

When AFDC was converted into the fixed TANF block grant to states in 1996, each state’s permanent allocation of federal TANF funds was based on an average of what states had been spending in AFDC in the previous years. For states that were operating an Emergency Assistance or “EA” program as part of AFDC, that spending was incorporated into the state’s TANF grant. States are allowed to use federal TANF funds for the same services they had funded under AFDC and EA. That is significant because many of the approximate 30 states that had an EA program used some of the short-term EA funding for non-IV-E eligible foster care, adoption assistance and juvenile justice. That meant that under the new TANF spending requirements states could spend the flexible TANF funds on any program or services that fit the four purposes of the act (including purpose one, “provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives.”) as well as services authorized under the AFDC law.

Although the Child Trends surveys show states getting more than 20 percent of child welfare funds from TANF, those numbers are not verified under current annual TANF spending reports. Yearly reports by state TANF agencies show states spending TANF funds under the categories of: cash assistance and non-assistance and within these two large categories are spending on child care, transportation and a few other categories including “other.” Child welfare is not specifically reported and may fall into various categories such as other, assistance and non-assistance.
In recent years Congress has been seeking more detail especially as some states reduce their support for families more historically typical of welfare: families headed by a parent and a child or children. Under the new reporting requirements states will begin to break out TANF spending by:

Relative Foster Care Maintenance Payments and Adoption and Guardianship Subsidies: basic assistance provided for a child or children that the child welfare agency has legal responsibility and is living with a caretaker relative; or children living with legal guardians. This category includes ongoing adoption subsidies. All expenditures are for cases not eligible for IV-E foster care assistance or subsidies.

Assistance Authorized Solely Under Prior Law: activities that are not consistent with the four purposes of TANF but are an allowable use of federal TANF funds but are activities which the state was allowed to spend on under the AFDC. These include foster care assistance, Juvenile Justice Payments, and Emergency Assistance Authorized under section a state’s AFDC or Emergency Assistance state plan.

States will also report in a separate category Child Welfare Services which include:
• Family Support/Family Preservation/Reunification Services, (community-based services, provided to families involved in the child welfare system that are designed to increase the strength and stability of families so children may remain in or return to their homes. Services include respite care for parents and relative caregivers; individual, group, and family counseling; parenting skills classes; case management),
• Adoption Services (services and activities designed to promote and support successful adoptions including pre- and post-adoptive services to support adoptive families, as well as adoptive parent training and recruitment), and
• Additional Child Welfare Services (other services provided to children and families at risk of being in the child welfare system, or who are involved in the child welfare system. This includes independent living services, service coordination costs, legal action, developing case plans, assessment/evaluation of family circumstances, and transportation to or from any of the services or activities described above.

Talk of the Hill: TANF Safety Net and Work Program Are Both Inadequate

The Center for American Progress hosted a briefing yesterday on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ LaDonna Pavetti opened the event with a data-informed overview of TANF’s performance since its creation in 1996 welfare reform. She was followed by a panel moderated by Georgetown University Law Center’s Peter Edelman and including Drexel University’s Mariana Chilton, Witnesses to Hungers’ Shearine McGhee, Minnesota Department of Human Services’ Deborah Schlick, and University of Michigan’s Kristin Seefeldt.

Pavetti’s introduction revealed that TANF cash assistance is currently accessed by far fewer families in poverty than before welfare reform. Not only does it reach fewer families in need, but the amount is insufficient for the few families who do receive it. Additionally, funding for TANF’s work program is crowded out by competing programs of work supports and other social services. From various perspectives ranging from direct personal experience to program administration and quantitative and qualitative research, the panelists discussed how TANF is used and restricted for people needing the program. It is well worth watching to understand the current challenges of providing welfare from both a systems and service delivery perspective. Concluding statements called for fixing the federal work participation process measure that drives state behavior, creating more access to on the job training like the recent Emergency Fund under the stimulus, and reorienting TANF as both an unemployment safety net and an assistance program that is responsive to people with extensive service needs.

TANF to be Extended, House to Express Disapproval of TANF Waivers

The continuing resolution on the federal budget being considered in Congress this week includes a six month extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Congress has debated a longer term reauthorization of TANF for a number of years now but has not been able to reach agreement and has been passing short term extensions in the interim. This extension will keep the program intact under current rules for six months with the hope that the next Congress, convening in January, will reach agreement for the longer term.

In a related development, the House of Representatives will likely pass a resolution on Thursday expressing disapproval of the new TANF waiver rules announced by the Obama Administration in July. This has become an increasingly partisan issue in the Presidential election over the past few weeks. Several Republicans including Mitt Romney have criticized the new rules claiming they limit the work requirements to be eligible for cash assistance, which President Obama and fellow Democrats deny. The House leadership resolution is critical of the waiver rules but is not expected to have any real effect since the Senate is not going to take up the resolution.