In 2010, over 40 percent of families receiving cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program were "child-only," meaning the adults in the household were not included in the benefit calculation, and aid was provided only for the children. TANF and child welfare programs provide cash assistance and other services that support children living with nonparent caregivers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) oversees TANF and child welfare programs, which are administered by states. GAO was asked to examine the (1) trends and composition of the child-only caseload, (2) characteristics of caregivers and children in nonparent child-only cases, (3) factors influencing the level of benefits and services for children with non-parent caregivers, and (4) coordination efforts between state TANF and child welfare programs. GAO analyzed federal TANF and child welfare data; surveyed states; interviewed HHS officials and researchers; and conducted site visits in Tennessee, Texas, and Washington, selected for variation in TANF caseload characteristics and implementation of programs to support relative caregivers.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Health and Human Services||1. To help states share data between TANF and child welfare information systems operating within states, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct ACF to clarify its guidance and provide additional technical assistance to states on data sharing opportunities. For example, the HHS-funded National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data and Technology could collect information from states that are successfully sharing data, including how they addressed concerns about client confidentiality, and disseminate that information to all states.|