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May 2004Vol. 5, No. 4Relationship Between TANF Time Limits and Child Welfare Involvement

Results from a study published in the Social Policy Journal indicate a relationship between TANF time limits and involvement in the child welfare system. Findings point to a need for family-centered services for families approaching their TANF time limits, as well as a need for greater coordination between the TANF and child welfare systems.

The research examined case records of more than 1,800 TANF families in Nevada who had at least one child removed from the home. Nevada imposes a 24-month time limit on receipt of TANF benefits before a family is required to "sit out" from receiving benefits for a 12-month period. Families are allowed two sit-out periods and can receive welfare benefits for a total of 60 months. Some families are exempted, either temporarily or permanently, from the sit-out periods. These families are designated as hardship cases due to a parent's physical or emotional disability, substance abuse, or other issues.

Among the study's major findings:

  • Families with more months counted toward their 24-month TANF time limit were more likely to have at least one child removed from the home and placed in foster care than families with fewer months toward their time limit.
  • Families for whom TANF time limits were waived due to hardship were no more likely than non-hardship families to have a child removed from the home.
  • Families with multiple welfare episodes were more likely to have a child removed than those with a single welfare episode.

Findings were generally similar for families in urban and rural areas.

Although more research is needed to fully explain these findings, the authors recommend that families who are approaching their TANF time limit receive family-centered casework services designed to prevent parent-child separation. Moreover, the results from this study point to a need to strengthen the relationship between the TANF and child welfare systems in order to better coordinate services for these families.

A copy of this article, "Facing Time Limits: Its Consequences for Foster Care Placements," is available in the Social Policy Journal, Volume 3(1), or may be obtained online for a fee from the Haworth Press at (Editor's Note: Link no longer active)