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March 2004Vol. 5, No. 2HHS Assistant Secretary Addresses Questions About TANF, Child Welfare

Dr. Wade Horn, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, answered questions on the reauthorization of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and other programs for low-income families during a Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) teleconference on February 6. Dr. Horn's interview set a new attendance record for the CLASP series, drawing more than 800 listeners in 200 locations, representing 43 States. Some highlights:


Dr. Horn began by saying he is "very optimistic" that TANF will be reauthorized this year. He expressed the President's desire that this reauthorization move the program to what he called "the next phase of welfare reform," reflecting three primary goals:

  • Help people get out of poverty, not just off welfare caseloads
  • Improve the overall well-being of children, not just increase income levels of parents
  • Facilitate service integration at the State and local levels


Later in the teleconference, Dr. Horn was asked about the recent finding that some adolescents suffered negative educational outcomes when their parents returned from welfare to work. The Assistant Secretary replied that the President is very concerned about this finding and repeated that the "overarching purpose" of the TANF program ought to be to improve the well-being of children, not to increase the earnings of parents.

Dr. Horn also said the Administration embraces the principles of positive youth development, viewing adolescents as human beings with both assets and challenges rather than as a series of problems to be solved. He stressed that the research has shown kids do best when they are positively connected to their parents, their schools, and their communities. By building on their assets, he noted, we can empower youth to make good choices.

Child Welfare

Toward the end of the conference, Dr. Horn responded to questions about the President's Child Welfare Program Option proposal. Dr. Horn said the Administration is very concerned about the recent child deaths and increasing child protective services (CPS) caseloads in States and wants to help by providing State and local CPS agencies with both increased resources and greater flexibility in how they spend those funds.

To create more resources for CPS agencies, the Administration has requested $1 billion more in funding for the Safe and Stable Families program, to provide family support, reunification, and post-adoption services. They have also proposed doubling funding under CAPTA. For flexibility, Dr. Horn cited the President's Child Welfare Program Option proposal, which would allow States to receive a capped Title IV-E entitlement that could be spent on services (such as wraparound, prevention, or post-adoption services) not currently allowed under the IV-E program (which now allows only for maintenance payments and administrative costs).

Dr. Horn also responded to questions about the President's Healthy Marriage initiative, child care funding, and changes to the Head Start program. For more information about the series or to request a tape of this audio conference, visit the CLASP website at (Editor's note: Link no longer active).

Related Items

For more on the President's Child Welfare Program Option proposal, see previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

  • "Flexible Funding Demonstration Projects Show Promise" (September 2003)
  • "HHS Assistant Secretary Testifies Before Congress on the President's Child Welfare Proposal" (August 2003)