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February 2005Vol. 6, No. 1Child-Only TANF for Children in Relative Care

A recent report examines what is known about children who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and who live with relatives not receiving such assistance. These children in TANF child-only cases who live with relative caregivers occupy a hazy area between the TANF and child welfare service systems. They are exempt from certain TANF requirements, such as work requirements, but these exemptions mean that they are not aligned with the TANF agency's general goal of self-sufficiency. Moreover, because they may not have been identified specifically as victims of maltreatment, they are outside the child welfare system's protection, although they still may require services.

This report examined the demographics, circumstances, and needs of these children, as well as State responses to them. Findings are based on a literature review, analysis of two national surveys, and case studies of five States. Some key findings from this study are:

  • Many children enter informal kinship care as a result of circumstances that could justify child welfare involvement.
  • While relative care is preferable to many other forms of out-of-home care, it requires sacrifices by the caregiver.
  • Many children in TANF child-only cases who live with relative caregivers have extensive unmet needs.
  • Children in TANF child-only cases with relative caregivers fall between the mandates of the child welfare and TANF systems.

Further research is needed to map the overlapping issues of TANF and child welfare, assess the needs of both children and relative caregivers, and evaluate existing initiatives to serve children and relative caregivers.

This report was prepared by RTI International and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is available online: