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United States Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

February 22, 2010: 

The Honorable Jim McDermott:
Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support: 
Committee on Ways and Means:
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Danny K. Davis:
House of Representatives: 

Subject: Support for Low-Income Individuals and Families: A Review of 
Recent GAO Work: 

In response to your request for information on the support provided to 
low-income Americans, and African-Americans in particular, we 
summarized prior GAO reports on programs and policies supporting low- 
income workers and families through (1) income supports, (2) worker 
training, (3) programs involving fathers, and (4) care and protection 
of children. Enclosed are fact sheets that highlight our prior work in 
these four areas. 

To summarize the most relevant reports, we conducted a search of GAO's 
publications database, identified those reports published since 2000 
that were most relevant to your areas of interest, obtained updates on 
agency recommendations, and consulted with cognizant GAO staff. We 
included publicly available funding data on related federal programs, 
but did not independently verify these data with agency officials. We 
identified and included any information related to African-American 
individuals or families contained in these reports. We excluded health-
related programs from our scope to reflect your primary areas of 
interest. We conducted our work from October 2009 to February 2010 in 
accordance with all sections of GAO's Quality Assurance Framework that 
are relevant to our objectives. The framework requires that we plan 
and perform the engagement to obtain sufficient and appropriate 
evidence to meet our stated objectives and to discuss any limitations 
in our work. We believe that the information and data obtained, and 
the analysis conducted, provide a reasonable basis for any findings 
and conclusions in this product. 

We are sending copies of this report to interested congressional 
committees. This report also will be available on the GAO Web site at 
[hyperlink,]. Should you or your staffs have any 
questions, please contact me at (202) 512-7215 or 
Contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public 
Affairs may be found on the last page of this report. Key contributors 
to this report were Janet Mascia, Assistant Director, and Kim Siegal, 
analyst-in-charge. James Bennett assisted with graphics. 

Signed by: 

Kay E. Brown:
Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues: 


[End of letter] 


Support for Low-Income Individuals and Families: A Review of Recent 
GAO Work: 

Why GAO Did This Work: 

With poverty rates and unemployment on the rise, the federal system of 
income, employment, and family supports has become increasingly 
important to a growing number of Americans. Due to their higher rates 
of poverty, certain minority groups are more likely than their 
nonminority counterparts to be represented in these programs and 
ancillary programs that serve low-income workers and families. The 
health of these programs is, therefore, especially important to these 
groups. In addition, because African-American children are more likely 
than other children to be raised in single-parent households, child 
support enforcement and programs that promote greater paternal 
involvement are particularly relevant for African-American families. 

Due to interest in the support provided to low-income individuals, and 
African-Americans in particular, you asked us to summarize GAO reports 
on programs and policies supporting low-income workers and families 
through (1) income supports, (2) worker training, (3) programs 
involving fathers, and (4) care and protection of children. 

For more information, contact Kay Brown at (202) 512-7215 or 


The percent of Americans living in poverty has been on an upward 
trajectory in recent years, with 13.2 percent of Americans living 
below the federal poverty line (e.g., $17,163 for a family of three) 
in 2008 up from 11.3 percent in 2000, according to Census data, and 
rates have been higher for certain minority groups. African-Americans 
and Hispanics both had poverty rates almost twice that of the national 
average at 24.7 and 23.2 percent, respectively. Children also 
experienced high poverty rates. In 2008, 19 percent of children under 
18 lived in poverty, and nearly 30 percent of children living in a 
family headed by a single mother fell under the poverty line. Those 
living in poverty face an increased risk of adverse outcomes, such as 
poor health and low educational attainment. These outcomes, in turn, 
limit individuals' development of the skills, abilities, and knowledge 
necessary to fully participate in the labor force and ultimately 
become self-sufficient. 

Over the past decade and a half, Congress has made significant changes 
to the federal system of support for low-income families and 
individuals. These changes have provided states greater authority and 
flexibility in how they use funds to design program benefits and 
service delivery. The variability in program implementation by state 
and local governments heightens the importance of understanding policy 
choices and practices at these levels, as well as the federal level, 
in order to describe the nation's current support system for low-
income families. GAO has accordingly produced numerous reports on 
issues related to supports for low-income families and individuals. 
The following is a summary of selected findings from GAO reports on 
programs and policies that affect low-income families and individuals. 

Topics of these prior reports include: 

* strategies aimed at increasing the incomes of welfare recipients; 

* how worker training programs are addressing the needs of low-income 

* implementation of the largest-ever federal marriage and fatherhood 
program; and: 

* the availability of subsidized child care for low-income families. 

In some instances, the environment during which the reports were 
written, such the economic climate or the statutory or regulatory 
framework, may have changed; so it is important to read them in that 

Enclosure Structure: 

Income Supports: pp. 2-8: 

Worker Training: pp. 9-10: 

Programs Involving Fathers: pp. 11-13: 

Care and Protection of Children: pp. 14-17: 

Related GAO Products: pp. 18-19: 

[End of Introduction] 

Income Supports: 

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF): 

Needy families striving to achieve self sufficiency can benefit from 
temporary cash assistance and other supports funded by the federal 
TANF program. GAO has, in several reports, examined how this welfare 
program is achieving program goals. We have reported on TANF income-
generating activities, states' spending changes, and special 
provisions for TANF recipients in domestic violence situations. 


Authorized in 1996 and reauthorized in 2006, the Temporary Assistance 
for Needy Families (TANF) program represents a significant departure 
from the welfare entitlement program it replaced--Aid to Families with 
Dependent Children (AFDC)--in funding structure, goals, and program 
requirements. Under the TANF block grant, states receive federal funds 
to design and operate their own welfare programs within federal 
guidelines. The TANF program focuses on ending the dependence of needy 
parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and 
marriage. TANF also places a 5-year lifetime limit on cash assistance 
paid to families with federal funds and requires states to achieve 
minimum participation rates in federally recognized work activities. 

States must spend a specified amount of their own funds on eligible 
low-income families--at least 75 percent of the state funds they spent 
in fiscal year 1994, known as the maintenance-of-effort (MOE) 
requirement. States may use these funds to pay for separate state 

Federal Funding: 

$16.5 billion to the 50 states and District of Columbia. Additionally, 
17 states qualify for supplemental grants that total $319.5 million. 
(FY 2009) 

To help states in the event of an economic downturn, Congress created 
a $2 billion TANF contingency fund. To receive and retain contingency 
funds, states must meet a test of economic need and increase certain 
uses of state spending above historical levels. However, final 
payments were distributed in December of 2009, and this fund is 
currently depleted. 

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) made 
an additional $5 billion available to states for fiscal years 2009 and 
2010 through a new Emergency Contingency Fund. 

Federally Administered by: 
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the Department 
of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

Strategies to Increase TANF Recipient Incomes: 

With TANF's greater focus on work, many former recipients now rely 
more on their earnings; however, they often work at low-wage jobs with 
limited benefits and advancement opportunities. In a 2005 report, we 
identified four strategies that aimed to increase incomes for 
recipients of TANF.[Footnote 1] These were training, post-secondary 
education, self-employment, and financial asset building. Training 
strategies often targeted services to particular groups or job-market 
needs. Other programs used post-secondary education to position 
clients for higher-wage jobs. Some programs we visited gave 
participants the tools to run their own businesses as a way out of 
poverty. Finally, we found asset building strategies aimed to help 
clients save and invest money to pursue career goals and support their 
families. HHS was supporting these strategies through research, 
targeted grants, and technical assistance; however, not enough was 
known about the effectiveness of specific strategies in increasing 
TANF recipients' earnings capacity. Additionally, it was not clear 
whether service providers understood how to incorporate education and 
training into a work-focused welfare system. 

Figure 1: A Student in the Kentucky River Foothills R.O.U.T.E. 
Training Program in Richmond, Kentucky Trains for a Commercial Truck 
Driver's License: 

[Refer to PDF for image: photograph] 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

We recommended that HHS (1) identify opportunities for additional 
research on increasing TANF recipients' earnings, (2) review its 
existing efforts to better ensure information and implementation 
assistance reaches the wide range of program administrators and 
service providers involved in welfare programs, and (3) seek out new 
opportunities to collaborate with Education and Labor on research and 
technical assistance. At the time of this 2005 report HHS maintained 
that its efforts in these areas were currently sufficient; however, 
the agency has since taken steps to address these recommendations 
including initiating a joint effort with the Department of Labor to 
help welfare and other low-income families move ahead in the labor 

TANF Spending Changes: 

States' increased flexibility under TANF, as well as the budgetary 
stresses they experience after a recession, draw attention to the 
fiscal partnership between the federal government and states. In 2006, 
GAO issued a report providing information on how welfare-related 
spending had evolved over the decade after welfare reform and after 
the short national recession in 2001.[Footnote 2] We are currently 
updating this information for a 2010 report on the factors associated 
with caseload trends. In the 2006 report, we found that welfare-
related spending in the nine states we reviewed (representing 50 
percent of TANF spending) generally increased from 1995 to 2000 and 
from 2000 to 2004. Overall, spending increases reflected changes in 
eligible populations and needs, increasing costs, as well as policy 
changes. Spending priorities shifted away from cash assistance to 
other forms of aid, particularly work supports such as child care, in 
keeping with welfare reform goals. However, reporting and oversight 
mechanisms had not kept pace with the evolving role of TANF funds in 
state budgets, leaving information gaps at the national level related 
to numbers served and how states use funds to meet welfare reform 
goals, hampering oversight. 

We suggested that Congress consider addressing these information gaps, 
and Congress did so as part of the reauthorization of TANF in the 
Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which strengthened work and reporting 
requirements and required HHS to issue new regulations to improve 
accountability for state TANF programs. 

Figure 2: Percentage Change in TANF and MOE Spending for Noncash Aid 
and Services (Percentage Change in Real Spending from 1995 to 2004): 

[Refer to PDF for image: vertical bar graph] 

State: California; 
Percentage change: 164%. 

State: Colorado; 
Percentage change: 5%. 

State: Louisiana; 
Percentage change: 236%. 

State: Maryland; 
Percentage change: 67%. 

State: Michigan; 
Percentage change: 85%. 

State: New York; 
Percentage change: 45%. 

State: Oregon; 
Percentage change: 272%. 

State: Texas; 
Percentage change: 145%. 

State: Wisconsin; 
Percentage change: 474%. 

Source: GAO survey and analysis of state spending data. 

Note: This compares 1995 federal and state AFDC-related funds spent in 
the noncash categories--employment services and training, work and 
other supports, and aid for the at-risk--with the amount of federal 
TANF and state MOE spending in these same categories in 2004. These 
data will not directly correspond to amounts reported by states to HHS 
because of differences in fiscal years and our study methodology. 

[End of figure] 

Domestic Violence Provisions in TANF: 


Domestic violence affects a substantial percentage of low-income 
women, according to existing research. Further, research shows that it 
can, in some cases, pose a barrier to work and financial independence. 
For example, several studies have shown that abusers may feel 
threatened by any steps a woman takes toward financial independence, 
and may thwart a job search or employment by interfering with 
transportation to work, or by making harassing phone calls to a woman 
while she is in the workplace. 

Many victims of domestic violence may be reluctant to disclose such 
personal and intimate details of their lives. TANF clients may be 
particularly reluctant to disclose abuse in the TANF program setting. 
Advocates for victims of domestic violence explain that TANF clients 
worry that government officials may not maintain confidentiality about 
domestic violence disclosures and that any disclosure of domestic 
violence to government officials could result in the loss of custody 
over their children. 

Domestic Violence Provisions in TANF: 

Under TANF, states may adopt an exemption from work requirements and 
time limits for receiving cash assistance for victims of domestic 
violence. In a 2005 report, we found that 48 states had adopted such 
exemptions or a comparable state policy at that time.[Footnote 3] 
However, the terms of these waivers varied from state to state. For 
example, some states required recipients to provide evidence that they 
were victims of domestic violence before the work requirement would be 
waived. Other states required clients to participate in domestic 
violence services. In addition, state officials reported that staff in 
local TANF offices often had limited skills in dealing with domestic 
violence issues and that policies regarding staff training varied. 
Although HHS had disseminated information about domestic violence 
screening, HHS had not issued guidance regarding best practices in 
that area. 

We recommended that HHS (1) examine state domestic violence screening 
practices and determine whether certain practices--such as employing 
and training domestic violence specialists--are particularly 
promising, and (2) provide states with information on the these 
practices and encourage their adoption. In accordance with these 
recommendations, HHS issued a guide in January 2009 which includes 
information on screening practices from programs in several states and 
includes a chapter on screening and enrollment that describes 
promising screening practices and identifies assessment tool 
resources. HHS also now operates a Web site that provides technical 
assistance on domestic violence topics. 

Figure 3: Number of States with Particular Policies Regarding 
Frequency of Domestic Violence Training Based on 2005 GAO Survey: 

[Refer to PDF for image: horizontal bar graph] 

No state requirement: 14; 
At special intervals: 3; 
Once in a career: 6; 
Once in a career, additional optional: 25. 

Source: GAO survey. 

[End of figure] 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly Food Stamps: 

Background; The federal Food Stamp Program, now called the 
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is intended to help 
low-income individuals and families by supplementing their income so 
that they can purchase nutritious food. States administer the program 
by determining whether households meet the program's income and asset 
requirements, calculating monthly benefits for qualified households, 
and issuing benefits to participants on an electronic benefits card. 
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) in the Department of Agriculture 
pays the full cost of food stamp benefits and shares the states' 
administrative costs--with FNS usually paying approximately 50 percent. 

Federal costs: 

$37.7 billion (based on preliminary FY 2008 data). The Recovery Act 
provides nearly $20 billion in additional funds, increasing benefits 
for FY 2009-2010, boosting average household benefits by 20 percent. 

Federally administered by: 
Food and Nutrition Service in the Department of Agriculture. 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly Food Stamps: 

SNAP, formerly known as the federal Food Stamp Program, provides an 
important safety net for low-income families, especially during 
economic downturns. In 2009, an average of 33.7 million people 
received this benefit each month, according to preliminary 
administrative data. GAO has reported on automatic eligibility offered 
through participation in other programs, the number of eligible 
families who receive the benefit, and various waivers states may adopt 
to extend access to certain categories of families. 

Eliminating Food Stamp Categorical Eligibility: 

Current law allows households that receive or are authorized to 
receive TANF noncash services, such as transportation or child care, 
to obtain automatic eligibility for food stamps, also known as 
categorical eligibility. For a 2007 report, we examined the potential 
effects of eliminating this TANF noncash categorical eligibility, an 
option that was being considered at the time.[Footnote 4] Our analysis 
showed that a vast majority of TANF noncash households would remain 
eligible for food stamps without the noncash categorical eligibility 
because their income or asset levels are within the regular food stamp 
limits. However, other households could lose eligibility for food 
stamps because their income or asset levels were too high. Many state 
officials also believed eliminating noncash categorical eligibility 
would decrease Food Stamp Program participation, as well as increase 
the administrative workload and costs related to the Food Stamp 
Program. Categorical eligibility remains a part of this program. 

Food Stamps and Working Families: 

GAO work on the Food Stamp Program (pre-SNAP) found that many federal, 
state, and local officials believed the program was not realizing its 
potential as a component of the nation's work support system. They 
held the opinion that eligible working families participated at a 
lower rate than the eligible population as a whole. In a 2004 report, 
we confirmed this supposition, finding that an estimated 52 percent of 
eligible individuals in working families participated in the Food 
Stamp Program compared with about 70 percent of eligible members of 
nonworking families, based on 2001 data.[Footnote 5] Factors that 
might have impeded an eligible working family's participation in the 
program included whether a family considered the program's 
administrative process--including having to make frequent trips to a 
food stamp office during working hours and providing documentation of 
income--overly burdensome. However, there were some potentially 
significant benefits, including error and fraud prevention, to some of 
the administrative requirements. 

FNS and several states and localities had taken or suggested steps to 
address the impediments to participation in the program for working 
families, while also considering ways to balance easier participation 
with program integrity. These efforts included increasing food stamp 
outreach, adopting new administrative processes to ease participation 
and reduce program error, developing tools to help families estimate 
their food stamp benefit amount, and renaming the program to reduce 
the stigma associated with food stamps. This final effort was 
undertaken by FNS in 2008 by renaming the Food Stamp Program the 
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In addition, in a 
subsequent GAO report, we found that, based on survey results, almost 
all states allowed households to submit applications, report changes, 
and submit recertifications through the mail.[Footnote 6] Also, 26 
states had implemented or were developing systems to allow households 
to perform these tasks online. However, because FNS did not 
systematically track efforts to improve access, the outcomes of their 
use were still largely unknown. 

We recommended that the Secretary of Agriculture direct FNS to 
encourage states to collect and report on the results of their 
outreach and other efforts to increase participation among eligible 
working families. This recommendation was subsequently implemented. In 
addition, a 2009 FNS report found that participation has been growing 
in recent years, reaching 56 percent of the working poor who were 
eligible based on 2007 data. 

Figure 4: Food Stamp Participation from 2000-2009: 

[Refer to PDF for image: line graph] 

Year: 2000; 
Average monthly participation: 17.2 million. 

Year: 2002; 
Average monthly participation: 17.3 million. 

Year: 2002; 
Average monthly participation: 19.1 million. 

Year: 2003; 
Average monthly participation: 21.3 million. 

Year: 2004; 
Average monthly participation: 23.9 million. 

Year: 2005; 
Average monthly participation: 25.7 million. 

Year: 2006; 
Average monthly participation: 26.7 million. 

Year: 2007; 
Average monthly participation: 26.5 million. 

Year: 2008; 
Average monthly participation: 28.4 million. 

Year: 2009; 
Average monthly participation: 33.7 million. 

Source: Food and Nutrition Service. 

[End of figure] 

Food Stamp Access through Waivers: 

To help states administer SNAP, FNS has offered options and waivers 
that states may adopt to their program rules and regulations. For a 
2002 report, we found that at that time, almost all states used one or 
more options or waivers in their food stamp eligibility determination 
or reporting processes.[Footnote 7] For example: 

* More than half of the states had chosen to make households receiving 
TANF services automatically eligible for food stamps. 

* Thirty-three states had exempted the value of some or all vehicles 
in the determination of food stamp eligibility. 

* Twenty states had planned to implement an option providing food 
stamp benefits to families who were leaving TANF, and three states 
were already implementing this option. 

States used these options and waivers to simplify paperwork 
requirements for both the food stamp recipient and worker responsible 
for determining eligibility. No state was implementing or planning to 
implement all aspects of another option, which allowed states to merge 
their TANF and Food Stamp Program eligibility and benefit requirements 
for families receiving both types of assistance because they believed 
it would be too difficult to administer. 

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): 

Background; The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is intended in part to 
offset the burden of the Social Security payroll tax on low-income 
workers and encourage low-income individuals to work. It is a 
refundable federal tax credit available to eligible workers earning 
low to moderate incomes. Refundable means that a person does not need 
to owe taxes to receive benefits. Among other things, the EITC is 
based on earned income and the presence of qualifying children, if any. 

Federal cost: 

23.7 million recipients claimed over $49 billion for tax year 2008. 

Federally administered by: 
Internal Revenue Service. 

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): 

EITC, which provides a refundable tax credit for low-income workers, 
is one of the largest poverty reduction programs in the U.S. GAO has 
examined the rate of participation in the program for those who are 
eligible, as well as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) efforts to address 
overpayments while maintaining program access. 

EITC Participation: 

In a 2001 correspondence to Congress, we found that about 75 percent 
of the 17.2 million eligible households had claimed the EITC.[Footnote 
8] While this estimate is several years old, it continues to be cited 
by researchers. We found that the participation rate varied by the 
number of qualifying children in the household. Participation rates 
for households with one or two qualifying children were 96 percent and 
93 percent, respectively, based on 1999 data. In contrast, the 
participation rate for households with three or more qualifying 
children was 62.5 percent. The participation rate for households 
without qualifying children was 44.7 percent. Of those eligible for 
the tax credit, but not participating, more than half (about 60 
percent) had no qualifying children (see figure 5). 

The relatively low participation rate of households without children 
may be due to the fact that these households receive significantly 
smaller benefits from the credit than do households with qualifying 
children (see table 1). Although qualifying households in 1999 were 
eligible to claim $23.5 billion in EITCs, the Internal Revenue Service 
estimates that participating households actually claimed $20.9 billion. 

Figure 5: Eligible Nonparticipating Households, by Number of 
Qualifying Children, 1999: 

[Refer to PDF for image: horizontal bar graph] 

No Children: 60%; 
One Child: 5%; 
Two Children: 7%; 
Three or more Children: 28%. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from the CPS and IRS. 

[End of figure] 

Efforts to Address EITC Overpayments While Maintaining Access: 

While the EITC has helped lift millions of individuals out of poverty, 
the program has also experienced high rates of noncompliance. Unlike 
many benefit programs, EITC recipients generally receive payments 
without advance, formal determinations of eligibility. IRS estimates 
on overpayments have ranged from 24 to 32 percent of dollars claimed 
at a cost of up to $12 billion per year. A joint IRS/Treasury task 
force found that the leading causes of errors resulting in EITC 
overpayments were due to taxpayers (1) claiming children who did not 
meet the definition of a qualifying child, (2) using an incorrect 
filing status, and (3) misreporting their income (see figure 6). GAO 
has examined several of IRS's efforts to reduce these sources of 

The EITC amount increases with a filer's earnings up to a point, then 
remains unchanged for a certain bracket of income, and then beginning 
at the "phase-out income level" gradually decreases to zero as 
earnings continue to increase. The phase-out level is the highest 
income at which a filer can receive the maximum credit. 

Table 1: EITC Parameters for Tax Year 2009: 

No eligible child: 
Maximum tax credit: $457; 
Phase-out income level (single filer/married filing jointly): 

One eligible child: 
Maximum tax credit: $3,043; 
Phase-out income level (single filer/married filing jointly): 

Two eligible children: 
Maximum tax credit; $5,028; 
Phase-out income level (single filer filer/married filing jointly): 

Three or more eligible children[A]: 
Maximum tax credit; $5,657; 
Phase-out income level (single filer/married filing jointly): 

Source: Congressional Research Service. 

[A] The Recovery Act provides a temporary increase in the EITC for 
taxpayers with three or more qualifying children for 2009 and 2010 tax 
returns. The Act also increases the beginning point of the phase-out 
range for the credit for all married couples filing a joint return, 
regardless of the number of children. 

[End of table] 

Figure 6: Leading Sources of EITC Errors Contributing to Overclaims in 
Tax Year 1999: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration] 

Qualifying child test: 
$3 billion; 
Children who do not meet the EITC residency or relationship 

Filing status test: 
$2 billion; 
Taxpayers who use an incorrect filing status. 

Income misreporting test: 
$2 billion; 
Taxpayers who misreport their income. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

In August 2002, the Treasury Secretary approved a recommendation that 
IRS certify the eligibility of taxpayers' qualifying children, the 
largest source of filing errors. In our 2003 review of this effort we 
found that the program was adequately developed to potentially improve 
EITC compliance with consideration for minimizing taxpayer burden. 
[Footnote 9] For example, officials designed the program to include 
only the taxpayers most likely to make the errors that contribute most 
to the overpayments. 

IRS subsequently implemented three tests in 2004 to address leading 
sources of EITC errors: the qualifying child test, mentioned above, 
where selected taxpayers were asked to document that their child lived 
with them for more than half the year in 2003; a filing status test, 
in which selected taxpayers were asked to provide documentation to 
prove the accuracy of their 2003 filing status; and an income 
misreporting test--a new screening process to select EITC returns that 
identify taxpayers likely to have the most significant changes in 
their assessments after underreporting their income. GAO's 2004 review 
found that IRS's implementation of the tests proceeded smoothly and 
largely as planned.[Footnote 10] However, IRS's plans for evaluating 
the 2004 tests generally lacked documentation and detail for many key 
issues, which undermined their value to managers and stakeholders. 

In accordance with one of our report recommendations, the IRS 
published reports in both 2005 and in 2008 on the results of the three 
tests. These reports contain a description of the test designs for the 
three EITC initiatives and applicable shortcomings, considering 
effectiveness in reducing erroneous payments as well as the burden on 
the tax filer. This is important as stakeholders use the report to 
make future decisions about the EITC. 

[End of Income Supports] 

Worker Training: 

WIA currently provides the largest source of federal funds for worker 
training. As such, low-income and unemployed workers can use WIA-
funded programs to prepare for higher paid employment. GAO has 
produced several reports that examine worker training as it pertains 
to low-income workers, including those who are receiving TANF and 
youth who are out of school and unemployed. 


In 1998, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) created a new, 
comprehensive workforce investment system designed to change the way 
that federally funded employment and training services were delivered. 
The act's goal was to unify a fragmented employment and training 
system to better serve both job seekers and employers. WIA replaced 
the Job Training Partnership Act with three new funding streams for 
adults, youth, and dislocated workers and required that these and 
other employment and training programs be delivered through a single 
service system, known as the one-stop system. The amount of money that 
is allocated to the states and local workforce areas depends on a 
specific formula that takes into account certain factors, such as 
local unemployment and the number of low-income individuals in the 
local population. 

Federal funding: 

For FY 2009: 
$924 million: State grants for youth activities; 
$862 million: State grants for adult activities; 
$1.465 billion: State grants for dislocated worker training activities. 

The Recovery Act provides an additional $3.15 billion for these 3 
programs and a national reserve for dislocated workers. 

Federally administered by: 
The Employment and Training Administration in the Department of Labor. 

Worker Training for Low-Wage Workers: 

Low-wage workers who receive training can achieve wage gains leading 
to self-sufficiency; however, they often face a unique set of 
challenges. To better understand how federally funded worker training 
programs are addressing these challenges, we interviewed state and 
local program officials that experts identified as having special 
initiatives focused on some of these challenges for a 2003 report. 
[Footnote 11] These officials noted that many low-wage workers have a 
range of personal challenges--such as limited English and literacy 
skills, childcare and transportation needs, scheduling conflicts, and 
financial constraints--that made participating in training difficult. 
In response, some local programs offered flexible hours and provided 
help with transportation and child care, among other services. 
However, officials reported that challenges to implementing successful 
training still existed. For example, they explained that the WIA 
performance measure used at the time to track the change in adult 
earnings after 6 months could limit training opportunities for 
employed workers. The wage gain for employed workers would not likely 
be as great as that for unemployed job seekers, and this might provide 
a disincentive to enrolling employed workers into training because 
their wage gain may negatively affect program performance. 

We recommended that the Secretary of Labor review a current WIA 
performance measure for change in adult average earnings to ensure 
that this measure does not create a disincentive for serving already- 
employed workers. We suggested that the Department of Labor consider 
having separate average earnings gains measures for employed workers 
and unemployed workers. Labor subsequently implemented this 

Coordination between WIA and TANF: 

WIA requires states to provide most federally funded employment-
related services through a single service system, known as a one-stop 
system. Despite its similar focus on increasing employment for able 
workers, TANF was not required to be part of WIA's one-stop system, 
although states and localities have the option to include TANF 
programs. In response to a 50-state survey we conducted for a 2002 
report, nearly all states reported some coordination of their TANF and 
WIA services at the state or local level, and some of this 
coordination increased between 2000 and 2001.[Footnote 12] For 
example, localities increasingly coordinated the provision of services 
to TANF clients through local one-stop centers--either through 
colocating services at the one-stop or through referring clients to 
providers outside the one-stop. However, at the time of our report, we 
found this coordination could be affected by geographic 
considerations, such as variations in layout of agency service 
districts, physical distance between one-stop centers and welfare 
offices, and the number of TANF clients in a given area. Also, there 
was no clear way for states and localities to easily access 
information on successful approaches to overcome obstacles in 
coordinating services. Several challenges, including program 
differences between TANF and WIA and different information systems 
used by welfare and workforce agencies, inhibited state and local 
coordination efforts. 

To help states more effectively address some of the obstacles to 
coordination, we recommended that Labor and HHS work together to 
jointly develop and distribute information on promising approaches for 
coordinating services for TANF clients through one-stops. We also 
recommended that Labor and HHS promote research that would examine the 
role of coordinated service delivery on outcomes of TANF clients. The 
agencies subsequently implemented these recommendations. 

Figure 7: Staff Working with Youth Participants: 

[Refer to PDF for image: photograph, Project CRAFT/Nashville 
(Nashville, Tennessee). 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

Programs Serving Disconnected Youth: 

Youth who are disconnected from school and employment are more likely 
than others to engage in crime, become incarcerated, and rely on 
public systems of support. While all races and ethnicities are 
represented among this youth population, research studies show that 
African-American males constitute a disproportionate share due to 
their overrepresentation in the child welfare and juvenile justice 
systems. For a 2008 report, we interviewed directors of 39 local 
programs identified by agencies and experts as helping youth meet 
educational and employment goals.[Footnote 13] These directors 
attributed their success to, among other things, effective staff and 
leadership; a holistic approach to serving youth that addresses the 
youth's multiple needs; specific program design components, such as 
experiential learning opportunities and self-paced curricula; and a 
focus on empowering youth. Many of the 39 local program directors 
reported common challenges in operating their programs, particularly 
lack of other services, like housing, mental health care and 
transportation in the community, funding constraints, and management 
of multiple federal grants. Most of the 15 directors that relied on 
Labor's WIA Youth funds reported that meeting performance goals within 
the 1-year time frames workforce investment boards often write into 
contracts hinders their ability to serve youth with great challenges, 
who may need more time to obtain skills. Labor officials reported that 
they intend for workforce investment boards to develop longer-term 
contracts to help programs serve hard-to-employ youth. 

We recommended that Labor work with states and workforce investment 
boards to better ensure they have the information and guidance needed 
to develop and implement contracts that allow local programs to serve 
youth who are in need of more assistance than others, while still 
achieving performance goals. Labor agreed with our recommendation and 
identified several steps it planned to take to implement it, including 
issuing related guidance to the workforce investment system on 
developing contracts. 

[End of Worker Training] 

Programs Involving Fathers: 

In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity 
Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) created TANF and made sweeping changes to 
federal welfare policy, including a new emphasis on marriage as an 
area of societal and governmental concern. Congress cited the negative 
consequences to children of unmarried women, including greater risk 
for child abuse and neglect, higher rates of poverty, and lower 
educational attainment. The legislation reauthorizing TANF, the 
Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA), appropriated $150 million a year 
for 5 years in discretionary grants to promote healthy marriage (to 
encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent households) and 
responsible fatherhood (to strengthen the role of the father in a 
child's life). 

Federal funding: 
$150 million (FY 2009). 

Federally administered by: 
The Administration for Children and Families in the Department of 
Health and Human Services. 

Programs Involving Fathers: 

In recent years, there has been interest among policymakers and 
researchers in promoting family formation with the goal of reducing 
childhood poverty. However, low-income, noncustodial parents, most 
often fathers, continue to face challenges in providing for their 
children. GAO recently reported on the implementation of the largest 
federal marriage and fatherhood program. We have also investigated 
driver's license suspension for nondriving related offenses, including 
nonpayment of child support. Additionally, given that half of all 
incarcerated adults are fathers, it is important to understand what 
programs are available for them upon their release to support their 
self-sufficiency. We have examined the extent of restrictions on 
public benefits for former drug offenders upon their release from 

Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Initiative: 

At $150 million in federal discretionary grants a year, the Healthy 
Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Initiative (Initiative), 
represents an unprecedented federal financial commitment to support 
marriage and fatherhood programs. GAO was accordingly asked to study 
how these programs are being implemented and monitored. In the 
resulting 2008 report, we found that both programs' grantees provide 
similar services, but that healthy marriage programs are more likely 
to target teenaged youth, while responsible fatherhood programs are 
more likely to target incarcerated parents.[Footnote 14] However, amid 
a condensed deadline for awarding the grants, HHS was not able to 
fully examine grantees' programs as described in their applications. 
In addition, HHS's ability to readily identify which grantees were not 
in compliance or not meeting goals was hindered because it lacked 
uniform performance indicators and a computerized management 
information system that would enable HHS to more efficiently track key 
information on individual grantees. 

We recommended that HHS use its planned management information system 
and other information to help identify those grantees at risk of not 
meeting performance goals or not in compliance with grant 
requirements. We also recommended that HHS create clear, consistent 
guidance and policy for monitoring grantees. HHS responded that it is 
in the process of developing a risk-based approach to monitoring, but 
disagreed that the department lacked clear, consistent monitoring 
guidance. We believe the recommendations remain valid. 

Figure 8: Activities Provided by Healthy Marriage and Responsible 
Fatherhood Grantees: 

[Refer to PDF for image: horizontal bar graph] 

Economic stability: 
Healthy marriage: 37; 
Responsible fatherhood: 58. 

Divorce reduction: 
Healthy marriage: 37; 
Responsible fatherhood: 13. 

Marriage/relationship education for high school students: 
Healthy marriage: 45; 
Responsible fatherhood: 18. 

Benefits of marriage education: 
Healthy marriage: 16; 
Responsible fatherhood: 8. 

Marriage and relationship skills: 
Healthy marriage: 94 
Responsible fatherhood: 55. 

Marriage enhancement for married couples: 
Healthy marriage: 69; 
Responsible fatherhood: 27. 

Marital mentoring: 
Healthy marriage: 42; 
Responsible fatherhood: 11. 

Pre-marital education: 
Healthy marriage: 70; 
Responsible fatherhood: 24. 

Responsible parenting: 
Healthy marriage: 47; 
Responsible fatherhood: 92. 

Advertising campaigns: 
Healthy marriage: 59; 
Responsible fatherhood: 25. 

Source: GAO analysis of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood 
grantees' responses to survey. 

[End of figure] 

License Suspensions: 

Although the federal government has a limited role with regard to 
driver's licenses, federal law does promote license suspensions in 
circumstances that involve child support arrearages. 

All states have adopted practices to suspend licenses for some 
nondriving offenses. 

A majority of states have adopted policies to suspend licenses for 
such offenses as: 

* failure to maintain proper insurance; 
* failure to appear in court for a traffic violation; and; 
* failure to pay a motor vehicle fine, surcharge, or fee. 

States may suspend driver's licenses for various reasons other than 
driving offenses, including failure to meet child support obligations, 
among other things, and these suspensions can then make it difficult 
for some low-income individuals to maintain or find work. We recently 
examined the practices being used in four states to mitigate the 
financial impact of these suspensions on low-income individuals. 
[Footnote 15] We identified three types of practices--payment 
assistance, license reinstatement support, and suspension exemptions--
that may ease the financial impact of suspensions on low-income 
individuals. Payment assistance includes payment plans; payment 
alternatives, such as performing community service; and fine 
reductions. License reinstatement support helps drivers take the 
sometimes complicated steps to obtain a valid license through 
personalized guidance, ongoing case management, or legal advice and 
representation. States may authorize exemptions from license 
suspension in certain circumstances. For example, all four states we 
reviewed permitted exemptions in cases of child support arrearages, 
and officials in those states noted that they viewed license 
suspension as an option of last resort. However, the need to garner 
support from multiple organizations, difficulty in crossing 
jurisdictional boundaries, and sustaining program funding were all 
identified as challenges to implementing practices intended to 
mitigate the financial impact of driver's license suspensions. 

The limited information on the prevalence and impact of nondriving 
suspensions, as well as on the effectiveness of the types of practices 
we found, may make it difficult for other localities and states to 
readily assess the need for these practices and to identify the most 
effective approaches. Also, while driver licensure is generally within 
the domain of state governments, some federal efforts exist that could 
facilitate information gathering and dissemination. The Department of 
Transportation participates in a national working group that has 
brought together federal, state, and local officials to facilitate 
research, identify effective alternatives to suspension, and share 
information with state policymakers. In addition, HHS disseminates 
"best practices" for child support enforcement, including those 
related to driver's license suspensions, which provides a mechanism 
for information-sharing among states. 

Drug Offenders and Denial of Benefits: 

Federal Benefits That May Be Denied to Drug Offenders: 

* TANF: Temporary cash assistance designed to meet a needy family's 
ongoing basic needs; 

* Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Food assistance payments 
to low-income households; 

* Postsecondary education: Federal Pell Grants, Stafford loans, and 
work-study assistance; 

* Federally assisted housing: Public housing primarily for low-income 
families with children and vouchers for private-market assistance for 
very low-income families; 

* Other federal benefits: Federal licenses (e.g., for physicians, 
pilots, and others) and procurement contracts, among others. 

More than half of male drug offenders in federal and state prisons 
have minor children who could benefit from their support, material and 
otherwise, when they are released from prison. However, these fathers 
are often lacking in the skills, experience, and education necessary 
for gainful employment and may be restricted from obtaining assistance 
from some federal support programs. For example, several provisions of 
federal law allow for or require certain federal benefits to be denied 
to individuals convicted in federal or state courts of drug offenses, 
as well as members of their households or families. These benefits 
include TANF, SNAP, federally assisted housing, postsecondary 
education assistance, and some federal contracts and licenses. Given 
the sizable population of drug offenders in the United States, the 
number and the impacts of federal denial of benefit provisions may be 
particularly important if the operations of these provisions work at 
cross purposes with recent federal initiatives intended to ease 
prisoner re-entry and foster prisoner reintegration into society. 

In a 2005 report, we estimated that thousands of men and women, albeit 
a small proportion of applicants, were denied postsecondary education 
benefits, federally assisted housing, or selected licenses and 
contracts as a result of federal laws that allow denial of benefits to 
drug offenders.[Footnote 16] During academic year 2003-2004, about 
41,000 applicants (0.3 percent of all applicants) were disqualified 
from receiving postsecondary education loans and grants because of 
drug convictions. Federal law mandates that convicted drug felons face 
a lifetime ban on receipt of TANF and food stamps unless states pass 
laws to exempt some or all convicted drug felons in their state from 
the ban. At the time of our review, 32 states had laws exempting some 
or all convicted drug felons from the ban on TANF, and 35 states had 
laws modifying the federal ban on the then Food Stamp program. Because 
of the eligibility requirements associated with receiving these 
benefits, only those convicted drug felons who, but for their 
conviction, would have been eligible to receive the benefits could be 
affected by the federal bans. For example, TANF eligibility criteria 
include requirements that an applicant have custodial care of a child 
and that income be below state-determined eligibility thresholds. 
Available data for 14 of 18 states that fully implemented the ban on 
TANF indicate that about 15 percent of drug offenders released from 
prison in 2001 met key eligibility requirements and constitute the 
pool of potentially affected drug felons. 

[End of Programs Involving Fathers] 

Care and Protection of Children: 


Child Care: 
Since the passage of welfare reform in 1996, child care assistance has 
become a principal tool for supporting work efforts among TANF 
recipients and other low-income families. Under programs funded by the 
Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), TANF, and state resources, 
states have the flexibility to serve three groups of families: (1) 
TANF families participating in work activities, (2) families that 
recently transitioned off TANF (transitioning families), and (3) other 
low-income families. States may transfer up to 30 percent of TANF 
funds to CCDF or spend TANF funds directly for child care assistance. 
States may make changes to child care policies that affect program 
access or the amount of assistance (i.e., subsidies) provided to 
families who can enter the program. 

Federal funding: 
CCDF: $7 billion in FY 2009, including $2 billion provided under the 
Recovery Act. States also transferred a net total of $1.7 billion from 
federal TANF funds to CCDF in FY2008. 

Federally administered by: 
The Administration for Children and Families in the Department of 
Health and Human Services. 


Head Start: 
Head Start, created in 1965, is the largest federal early childhood 
program designed to prepare low-income preschool children for school 
by providing a comprehensive set of early child development services. 
Head Start operates through federal-to-local grants primarily provided 
to community-based organizations, and has expanded substantially over 
the last two decades. From fiscal years 1990 to 2008, appropriations 
for Head Start more than quadrupled. 

Federal funding: 
$7.1 billion appropriated in FY 2009. The Recovery Act provides an 
additional $2.1 billion. 

Federally administered by: 
The Administration for Children and Families in the Department of 
Health and Human Services. 

Child Care/Head Start: 

For low-income working families, the availability of affordable 
quality child care, including through a Head Start program, can be 
critical to keeping parents employed while safeguarding their 
children's health and intellectual development. GAO has reported on 
the availability of child care assistance for low-income families, as 
well as various aspects of the Head Start program, including 
enrollment and oversight. 

Child Care Availability: 

States have flexibility in determining which low-income families are 
provided child care subsidies funded by CCDF, TANF, and related state 
resources. States must balance the funds available for subsidies with 
the number of families who want subsidized child care. For a 2005 
report, we found that when they could not serve all families, most 
states reported giving higher priority to TANF families than those 
transitioning off of TANF or other low-income working families. 
[Footnote 17] In addition, from 2001 to 2005, 35 states made the 
following eligibility and enrollment changes: 

* 19 states made changes tending to decrease access to assistance. 

* 8 made changes tending to increase access to assistance. 

* 8 made a mix of changes. 

We found that many states had been making changes that could decrease 
program access, such as changing income eligibility criteria, but may 
have provided larger subsidies to those who receive services. States 
might have been providing larger subsidies in an effort to keep pace 
with increasing child care fees or to provide families with a broader 
array of options among providers. We are updating this information for 
an upcoming report in order to provide information on state child care 
policies amid changes in federal law, as well as the current economic 

At the time of the 2005 report, HHS reported that since 2001, the 
number of children and families receiving child care assistance under 
CCDF had remained relatively constant. Specifically, approximately 
1.75 million children and over 1 million families had been served 
through CCDF (including TANF dollars transferred to CCDF) on an 
average monthly basis since fiscal year 2001. However, HHS officials 
did not have information on working families receiving child care 
assistance directly through TANF funds, although most ($1.4 billion of 
$1.7 billion) of the federal TANF funds directly spent on child care 
was directed to these families. We suggested that Congress consider 
requiring that ACF find cost-effective ways to collect data on the 
numbers of children and families receiving these subsidies. To date, 
no action has been taken based on this matter for Congressional 

Head Start Enrollment: 

From the mid-1990s through 2003, there were a number of changes in 
Head Start's operating environment, including a decrease in the number 
of poor children; an increase in the number, size, and scope of other 
federal and state early childhood programs; and an expansion in Head 
Start spending and enrollment. In a 2003 report, we found that the 
extent to which Head Start programs had enrolled fewer children than 
they were funded to serve was unknown because ACF did not collect 
accurate national data and did not monitor underenrollment in a 
uniform or timely manner.[Footnote 18] ACF regional officials and 
officials of underenrolled Head Start grantees cited a mixture of 
factors that made it difficult to achieve full enrollment, such as 
increased parental demand for full-day child care, a decrease in the 
number of eligible children, facilities-related problems, and more 
parents seeking openings with other sponsors of early education and 
care. ACF national and regional offices and grantees all reported 
taking action to address underenrollment; however, guidance issued by 
ACF lacked clear criteria for prioritizing grantees for corrective 

We recommended that the Secretary of HHS direct ACF to (1) ensure the 
accuracy of national enrollment data, (2) develop a standard criterion 
for regional offices to use in identifying grantees whose 
underenrollment merited action, (3) develop an additional enrollment 
measure that takes into consideration the different levels of service 
provided by full-day and part-day programs, and (4) develop a more 
systematic process for regional offices to collect reliable enrollment 
data during the program year. All four recommendations were 
subsequently implemented. 

Head Start Risk Management: 

Because reports of financial improprieties at a number of Head Start 
programs around the country raised questions about the effectiveness 
of HHS's program oversight, we were asked to provide information on 
this issue. In a 2008 report, we found that ACF had not undertaken a 
comprehensive assessment of risks that might have limited Head Start's 
ability to meet federal program objectives.[Footnote 19] ACF needed to 
identify external and internal risks, estimate their significance, and 
decide how to best manage them. While ACF said it was working to 
establish two systems to address programwide risk, our analysis 
suggested that these systems fell short of that goal. Both initiatives 
depended, in part, on data from the annual Program Information Report 
(PIR) survey of grantees, which had been found to be unreliable. ACF 
had taken steps to improve oversight of Head Start grantees by 
implementing a more rigorous process for certifying reviewers who 
conduct on-site monitoring visits, among other actions. However, ACF 
did not have clear criteria for determining which grantees needed 
additional oversight as part of its refunding analysis. Such decisions 
were made on an ad-hoc basis, and grantees with similar problems may 
have received different levels of oversight. 

We recommended that ACF (1) develop a more strategic approach to 
assessing risks to the Head Start program, (2) expand its efforts to 
collect data on and estimate improper payments, (3) improve the 
accuracy of data from its annual PIR survey, and (4) develop clear 
criteria for providing additional assistance for high-risk grantees. 
ACF agreed with the latter two recommendations and emphasized that 
progress has been made toward the first two. 

Child Welfare: 

State and local governments are the primary administrators of child 
welfare programs designed to protect children from abuse or neglect. 
However, federal laws and regulations establish a framework within 
which states make their programmatic and fiscal decisions. 

Federal funds account for approximately half of states' total reported 
spending for child welfare services, with the rest of funding coming 
from states and localities, according to 2004 data. Titles IV-E and IV-
B of the Social Security Act are the principal sources of federal 
funds dedicated for child welfare activities. Title IV-E provides the 
majority of dedicated federal funds for support payments to foster 
families, adoption assistance, and related administrative costs. Title 
IV-B authorizes a significantly smaller amount of funds to states for 
broad child welfare purposes, including child protection, family 
preservation, and adoption services. 

Federal cost: 
In FY 2009, $4.7 billion was appropriated for foster care payments and 
related costs and $2.4 billion for adoption assistance under Title IV-
E. $738 million was provided under Title IV-B. The Recovery Act 
includes a temporary increase in federal Title IV-E funding (from Oct. 
1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2010) totaling an estimated $823 million. 

Federally administered by: 
The Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. 
Department of Health and Human Services. 

Child Welfare: 

The child welfare system aims to ensure the safety, permanency, and 
well-being of children. If a child is not safe at home, the child 
welfare agency may place the child in a foster care or an alternative 
setting or provide services to stabilize and strengthen a child's own 
home. Federal funding reimburses states for some of their foster care 
payments for children from low-income families--who also comprise many 
of the children in the welfare system. GAO has conducted several 
related studies including some that focus on the challenges of the 
child welfare system, the over-representation of African-American 
children in foster care and the adoption of hard to place foster care 

Child Welfare Challenges: 

States have struggled to meet established federal child welfare 
standards for ensuring the safety and well-being of children in their 
care. In response to a 2006 GAO survey, state child welfare agencies 
identified as their most important challenges providing an adequate 
level of services for children and families, recruiting and retaining 
caseworkers, and finding appropriate homes for certain children. They 
also identified three challenges of increasing concern over the next 5 
years: children's growing exposure to illegal drugs, increased demand 
to provide services for children with special needs, and changing 
demographic trends or cultural sensitivities in providing services for 
some groups of children in the states' child welfare systems.[Footnote 
20] For example, child welfare officials in several states reported 
that the current protocols for investigating and removing children 
from their homes do not necessarily reflect the cultural norms of some 
immigrant and other minority families. These differences included 
limitations in family functioning that may be caused by poverty, the 
environment, or culture, as opposed to those that may be due to 
unhealthy family conditions or behaviors. States we visited reported 
that HHS's training, technical assistance and reviews of their child 
welfare systems helped them improve their child welfare programs. 

Figure 9: Child Welfare Challenges Reported by States, in Fiscal Year 
2006, as the Top Three Most Important Challenges to Resolve: 

[Refer to PDF for image: horizontal bar graph] 

Challenge: Services for children/families; 
Number of states: 39. 

Challenge: Recruiting and training caseworkers; 
Number of states: 35. 

Challenge: Placement issues; 
Number of states: 29. 

Challenge: Distribution of federal funding; 
Number of states: 22. 

Challenge: Collaboration and coordination of services; 
Number of states: 11. 

Challenge: Performance and procedures issues; 
Number of states: 10. 

Challenge: Research, evaluation, and planning issues; 
Number of states: 4. 

Source: GAO analysis of child welfare survey responses. 

[End of figure] 

African American Children in Foster Care: 

While children of all races are equally as likely to suffer from abuse 
and neglect, a significantly greater proportion of African-American 
children enter and remain in foster care than children of other races 
and ethnicities. In a 2007 report, we found that the higher rates of 
African-American children in foster care were partly a result of 
higher rates of poverty and a greater reliance on relatives to provide 
foster care, among other factors.[Footnote 21] For example, families 
living in poverty have greater difficulty obtaining housing, mental 
health, and other services needed to keep families stable and children 
safely at home. African-American children also stay in foster care 
longer because of difficulties in recruiting adoptive parents and also 
a greater reliance on relatives to provide foster care. These 
relatives may be unwilling to terminate the parental rights of the 
child's parent, as required in adoption, or they may need the 
financial subsidy they receive while the child is in foster care. 
However, state child welfare officials we surveyed expressed concerns 
about the inability to use federal child welfare funds to provide 
subsidies to legal guardians, considered a promising strategy for 
reducing the disproportionate number of African-American children in 
foster care. 

We suggested that Congress consider amending current law to allow 
subsidies for legal guardianships, and Congress subsequently did so as 
part of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions 
Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-351). 

Background: Child protection process: 

Generally, once an allegation of child maltreatment comes to the 
attention of child welfare staff: 

1. Staff screen and investigate reports of child maltreatment, and 
make decisions about whether a child can remain safely at home with or 
without family support services, or must be immediately removed and 
placed in foster care. 

2. The decision to place a child in foster care is subsequently 
presented before a judge who evaluates the evidence and either 
corroborates or overturns the decision. 

3. After entering a child in foster care, child welfare staff develop 
case plans that are approved by the courts outlining steps parents 
must take before a child can return home or, for children the courts 
decide cannot safely be returned home, establishing other permanency 
goals for them, such as adoption or legal guardianship. 

Adoption of Hard to Place Children: 

A significant portion of children waiting for adoption have one or 
more "special needs," or factors that discourage or delay their 
adoption. They can include a child's age, minority status, or 
membership in a sibling group. According to state child welfare 
officials we interviewed and surveyed for a 2005 report, limited 
resources, court processes, and delays in completing interstate 
placements hindered recruitment of adoptive families and delayed the 
adoption process for children with special needs.[Footnote 22] For 
example, officials said that interstate placements were often hampered 
by delays in completing home studies of prospective families, but data 
to track and credit states for collaborating on interstate placements 
were not available. States and HHS have implemented strategies and 
programs, such as post-adoption resource centers, to promote special 
needs adoptions, but few evaluations measured their effectiveness. 
HHS's Adoption Assistance program provided support for special needs 
adoptions but used an income eligibility threshold that was more 
restrictive than the standard of need used by other cash assistance 

We recommended that HHS help states collect and report data related to 
the interstate placement processes. This recommendation was addressed 
in the July 2006 enactment of the Safe and Timely Interstate Placement 
of Foster Children Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-239). This act requires that 
a state receiving a request to place a child for adoption or foster 
care complete a home study within 60 days and that state plans for 
child welfare services include reference to state efforts to 
facilitate orderly and timely in-state and interstate placements. 

[End of Care and Protection of Children] 

Related GAO Products: 

License Suspensions for Nondriving Offenses: Practices in Four States 
That May Ease the Financial Impact on Low-Income Individuals. 
[hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: 
February 18, 2010. 

Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Initiative: Further 
Progress Is Needed in Developing a Risk-Based Monitoring Approach to 
Help HHS Improve Program Oversight. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: September 
26, 2008. 

Disconnected Youth: Federal Action Could Address Some of the 
Challenges Faced by Local Programs That Reconnect Youth to Education 
and Employment. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington, D.C.: February 28, 2008. 

Head Start: A More Comprehensive Risk Management Strategy and Data 
Improvements Could Further Strengthen Program Oversight. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: February 
12, 2008. 

African American Children In Foster Care: Additional HHS Assistance 
Needed to Help States Reduce the Proportion in Care. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: July 11, 

Food Stamp Program: Use of Alternative Methods to Apply for and 
Maintain Benefits Could Be Enhanced by Additional Evaluation and 
Information on Promising Practices. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: May 3, 2007. 

Food Stamp Program: FNS Could Improve Guidance and Monitoring to Help 
Ensure Appropriate Use of Noncash Categorical Eligibility. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C. March 28, 

Child Welfare: Improving Social Service Program, Training, and 
Technical Assistance Information Would Help Address Long-standing 
Service-Level and Workforce Challenges. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: October 6, 

Welfare Reform: Better Information Needed to Understand Trends in 
States' Uses of the TANF Block Grant. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: March 3, 

Welfare Reform: More Information Needed to Assess Promising Strategies 
to Increase Parents’ Incomes. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: December 2, 

Drug Offenders: Various Factors May Limit the Impacts of Federal Laws 
That Provide for Denial of Selected Benefits. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: September 
26, 2005. 

TANF: State Approaches to Screening for Domestic Violence Could 
Benefit from HHS Guidance. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: August 16, 

Child Care: Additional Information Is Needed on Working Families 
Receiving Subsidies. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: June 29, 

Child Welfare: Better Data and Evaluations Could Improve Processes and 
Programs for Adopting Children with Special Needs. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: June 13, 

Earned Income Tax Credit: Implementation of Three New Tests Proceeded 
Smoothly, But Tests and Evaluation Plans Were Not Fully Documented. 
[hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: 
December 30, 2004. 

Food Stamp Program: Steps Have Been Taken to Increase Participation of 
Working Families, but Better Tracking of Efforts Is Needed. 
[hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: 
March 5, 2004. 

Head Start: Better Data and Processes Needed to Monitor 
Underenrollment. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington, D.C.: December 4, 2003. 

Earned Income Credit: Qualifying Child Certification Test Appears 
Justified, but Evaluation Plan Is Incomplete. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: September 
30, 2003. 

Workforce Training: Employed Worker Programs Focus on Business Needs, 
but Revised Performance Measures Could Improve Access for Some 
Workers. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington, D.C.: February 14, 2003. 

Workforce Investment Act: States and Localities Increasingly 
Coordinate Services for TANF Clients, but Better Information Needed on 
Effective Approaches. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: July 3, 

Food Stamp Program: States’ Use of Options and Waivers to Improve 
Program Administration and Promote Access. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: February 
22, 2002. 

Earned Income Tax Credit Eligibility and Participation. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: December 
14, 2001. 

[End of section] 


[1] [hyperlink,]. (For full 
report citations, see Related GAO Products.) 

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[End of section] 

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