Vol.2, No. 16                                                                                                                    November 1998

Welfare Reformís Implications for the Child Welfare Systems

by April Kaplan


Though federal welfare reform made few changes directly to child welfare programs, there are several components of the legislation that could have significant direct impacts on the children welfare system. Such components include:

Welfare reform allows states considerable flexibility in designing programs and services for recipients in a way that best meets the needs of children. Additional information can be found in WINís June 1998 Resources for Policy Decisions, "Linking the Systems: The Relationship Between Welfare and Child Welfare Systems," at http://www.welfareinfo.org/linkingchildwelfare.htm. Further information on childrenís issues can be found in "Financial Resources for Child Care," at http://www.welfareinfo.org/Issuechild.htm or WINís child care and child development pages at http://www.welfareinfo.org/child.htm and http://www.welfareinfo.org/childdevelop.htm.

Policy Issues

The child protective system encompasses a broad range of services, including child abuse/neglect reporting, family maintenance and placement prevention services, out-of-home placement, and permanent placement. The linkages between welfare system and child protection are quite complex, and there are several issues states may want to address.

How will states address the multiple needs of children in families facing the reduction or loss of welfare benefits? Federal welfare reforms will result in the loss or reduction of cash assistance to many families. Those reforms include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) related sanctions, time limits and others listed in the background section above. States have significant flexibility in how they will address the loss of benefits. Some disabled children no longer eligible for SSI may still be eligible for TANF benefits, although at a lower level. Specialized child care programs and other services may be needed to allow parents or caretaker relatives to work. Where federal time limits may result in the loss of benefits, states may decide to continue benefits in whole or part by using state maintenance-of-effort funds.

When parents are immigrants, a child may still be eligible for TANF, food stamps or Medicaid, but adults may not apply on their behalf out of concern that they will jeopardize their immigration status. States can address this concern by providing information to immigrant communities in their native languages about provisions that affect them and their children. Eligibility workers can let immigrant parents know that they only need to provide information about those individuals who are trying to get assistance. For additional information, see "Welfare Reform and Immigrants: Recent Developments and a Review of Key State Decisions," by Fredrica D. Kramer, http://www.welfareinfo.org/immigrantissue.htm.

The welfare reform law denies TANF benefits to parents who have been convicted of drug felonies. This provision has child welfare implications, as research has shown that many children in the child welfare system have or have had parents who are substance abusers. However, states are allowed to opt out of this requirement. For information on which states have done so, refer to the National Governorsí Association matrix at http://www.nga.org. States can require parents who are receiving TANF assistance to participate in drug counseling or treatment programs. States may also require drug testing. New Jersey is piloting a substance abuse treatment program in which the entire family is in residence. Such approaches may allow extra time for a family to be rehabilitated and remain together. For more information on linking welfare reform, child protective services and substance abuse, see the Treatment Improvement Exchange at http://www.treatment.org.

In many cases, the state may decide not to continue cash assistance and to focus on other options such as increased reliance on family and community resources, and improved access to non-cash assistance programs such as food stamps, child care and Medicaid. Such services can be combined with efforts to resolve sanctions related issues or to help former recipients find work. Where these non-cash programs are not adequate, states will need to be prepared to use some combination of kinship care and/or foster care to provide the needed support for the affected children.

How can states determine whether children in families whose benefits are reduced or eliminated are at risk of abuse or neglect, and how can this risk be reduced? Not all children in families subject to sanctions or benefit loss due to time limits will be at risk of abuse or neglect. Parents may find jobs quickly or rely on families or friends for necessary assistance. However, the risk of abuse or neglect increases based on the size of the benefit lost and the presence of problems such as drug abuse, chronic illness or domestic violence. States may want to establish screening criteria and schedule potentially high-risk cases for preventive services. For details on methods and costs of preventing child abuse and neglect see, "Prevention Pays: The Cost of Not Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect," by National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect, http://www.calib.com/nccanch/pubs/prevenres/pays.htm. TANF agencies may also want to provide Child Protective Services (CPS) advance notice of TANF actions that may affect active CPS cases.

How will TANF changes affect the role and training needs of workers? TANF, child welfare and workforce development staff dealing with families on welfare will need to aim for the early identification and resolution of problems that may lead to abuse or neglect. Staff in all three agencies will need information on non-cash resources like food stamps, subsidies for utilities and counseling services that may be available to a family, and may need training on helping families apply for those resources. Recipients who are approaching the end of their time limits or who are at risk of sanctions will need to be monitored. Child welfare workers should take TANF time limits and requirements into account when developing service plans for family preservation or family reunification.

TANF and workforce development staff will also need assistance in identifying early signs of stress that may lead to abuse, and will need to become familiar with procedures for the referral of these cases to the child welfare system. States may want to initiate cross-training for child welfare, TANF, and workforce development staff so that they can better understand each agencyís involvement with the family. Computerized linkages also may be helpful. Missouri has developed an automated system that holds information on cases in both the child welfare system and the TANF system, thus allowing workers to share information about cases and facilitating unified planning. States also can use informal ways of coordinating and tracking families in both systems, such as holding joint meetings or periodic follow-up by case-workers.

Child welfare workers may also obtain additional responsibilities because of teen parent requirements. Many minor parents live in situations that are considered unsafe to them and their child. While welfare reform required teens to live in adult-supervised setting, child welfare workers may very well be the people who are responsible for identifying unfit situations and finding suitable homes for teens and their children.

When are out-of-home placements appropriate, and what is the role of kinship care? Traditionally, out-of-home placements have been used where a child is a victim of or at risk of abuse and neglect. Increasingly, out-of-home placements are a combination of formal foster care and less formal kinship or relative care. While relatives may be qualified and reimbursed as foster care parents, many states are opting to provide assistance through TANF. This approach may be preferred in some states since TANF grants are generally less costly than foster care payments and because kinship care may not be subject to the review and permanence provisions that govern foster care. In that case, TANF can be provided either for the relative caretaker and the children or for the children alone. If assistance is provided for the caretaker and the children, the caretaker family will be subject to TANF rules, including time limits and work requirements.

Birth parents may choose to place their children with relatives on a voluntary basis. In the case of a teenage parent, assistance may only be available if the parent is living with another adult. Kinship care may be a vehicle for providing assistance to the children of birth parents who would otherwise be ineligible for assistance due to sanctions or other requirements.

Should the state make special provisions regarding the work requirements imposed on kinship care givers or provide them with additional support services? Research has shown that a large portion of relative care givers are grandparents. It is estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau that between 1970 and 1997, the number of children raised in grandparent-headed households increased by 76%. According to a study done by the University of California, Berkeley, one in 10 grandparents are full-time parents to their childrenís children, and nearly 72% of these grandparents raise grandchildren who are infants or in preschool. The study found that many grandparents providing a home for their grandchildren experienced financial hardship, with an estimated 52% not having the resources to meet the needs of caring for their grandchildren.

With this in mind, policies that address kinship care should focus on grandparents, including their ages, physical conditions and medical situations. States can provide child-only grants to kinship care givers and thus exempt the family from TANF time limits and requirements. However, it is important to remember that child-only grants are less then a family TANF grant. As an alternative, states may want to include the caregiver in the grant and use the flexibility in TANF in a way that ensures that grandparents can meet work requirements. Utah allows a grandparent to participate in any activity that increases income, including applying for other forms of assistance. More information on grandparents as kinship caregivers can be found at the Grandparent Information Center at 202-434-2296 or at http://www.aarp.org/getans/grandparents.html.  Also, the Illinois Department on Aging has developed a resource guide, "Starting Points for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren," and can be obtained from the Department on Aging at 217-785-3356.

States may also use maintenance-of-effort dollars to provide assistance to kinship care units where they want to exempt the adult recipient from time limits or work requirements.

How will the ability of the states to provide child protection and child welfare services be affected by changes in the financing of federal programs? States have a variety of options available to them for financing child welfare services. Title IV-B has been a major source of funding for prevention programs. In many cases, it has been supplemented by Emergency Assistance and Title XX (the Social Services Block Grant). The federal welfare reform law combines EA and AFDC into TANF. While TANF money can still be used to support child welfare work, increasing competition for these block grant funds may curtail their availability. Moreover, the use of TANF may, in some cases, impose time limits or work requirements on care-takers. In addition, Title XX funding has been reduced. The FY 1999 appropriation is $1.9 billion, down $390 million from its FY 1998 level of $2.3 billion. Additionally, the TEA-21 legislation cut the authorization level for Title XX to $1.7 billion in FY (2001) and the amount of TANF funds that states can transfer to Title XX was reduced to 4.25%. States may want also to look at other funding sources, like Medicaid, that may provide supplemental resources.

The most difficult issue relates to the allocation of costs between TANF and IV-E, with kinship care being financed from the capped federal TANF grant and foster care being financed from an open-ended entitlement. The issue is complicated by the fact that IV-E eligibility has been tied to a 1996 AFDC standard that is not indexed to inflation or tied to state changes in TANF eligibility criteria.

A recent Urban Institute report, "The Impact of Welfare Reform on Child Welfare Financing," by Rob Geen and Shelley Waters, highlighted the significant changes that may affect the number of children for whom states can collect federal reimbursements, and discussed implications for child-only cases, including barriers to shifting large portions of TANF child-only cases with no parent in the household to the IV-E program. For a copy of this report, refer to http://newfederalism.urban.org or contact the Urban Institute at 202-261-5709.

Work in Progress

As part of the new welfare reform block grant program enacted in 1996, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has proposed a methodology for determining whether an increase in a stateís child poverty rate is the result of the TANF program. If a state experiences an increase in its child poverty rate of 5% or more as a result of its TANF program, the state must submit and implement a corrective action plan. The deadline for comments was November 23, 1998. This proposed rule (45 CFR Part 284) was published in the Federal Register, Sept. 23, 1998, Pages 50837-50848. Information related to this proposal can be found on the ACF web site http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/news/welfare.

John Hopkins University has a four-year project in Boston, Chicago and San Antonio to research the effects of welfare reform on child well-being. The study is looking at programs that cities are using related to employment, schooling/training, residential mobility and fertility of adults, and how these programs affect children. Interviews will begin with the main sample in January 1999. For more information, see http://www.jhu.edu/~welfare/proj.html.

At HHS, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation and ACFís Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation are working with states and other groups to improve the measurement of child outcomes in state welfare evaluations. One of the major themes of the planning phase includes developing state-level indicators that present a picture of how children are faring over time, address welfare entry effects, monitor unintended and intended outcomes, and track initial versus delayed outcomes. The states that received a one-year planning grant from HHS are: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Virginia. For information on this project, see "Examining the Effects of Welfare Reform on Children: The Project on State-Level Child Outcomes," by Alan Yaffe in Poverty News, Vol. 2, No. 1, Winter 1998, http://www.jcpr.org/winter98, or contact Alan Yaffe at 202-401-4537. Related publications can be ordered from Child Trends (202-362-5580, http://www.childtrends.org), which is coordinating research technical assistance.

The Community Monitoring Project is a Childrenís Defense Fund initiative with the support of the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The project is working with service providers, researchers and child advocates on a three-years project to track the impact of welfare changes, as well as other needs of children and families. The Childrenís Defense Fund will assist state and local organizations that monitor child care, employment and training, child support, health and child protection implications. They will also provide training in research methods and help disseminate findings. Efforts will be targeted in the 10 states where the majority of children reside: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. For more information, see http://www.childrensdefense.org.

Research Findings

While it is not yet clear what effects the 1996 welfare reform law will have on children, it is clear from past research that poverty does have a direct impact on child abuse and neglect. Among families with incomes below $7,000 per year, the incidence of abuse and neglect is 10 times higher than in families with incomes of $25,000 or more. If welfare reform is not successful in helping families to move out of poverty, there is an increased risk of abuse and neglect.

Further research done by the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect shows preventive services, such as home visitation programs, can have positive outcomes on reducing child maltreatment. Additional research was done by the School of Social Work at San Diego State University on the California Safe and Healthy Families Program/ Family Support Home Visiting Model. The program was designed as an inter-organizational collaboration. It has shown positive results in reducing welfare payments, the need for intervention by child welfare workers and reduction in child maltreatment.

Several research projects on welfare reform demonstrations have addressed the impacts of welfare-to-work programs on childrenís development and parent-child relationships, including the effects of maternal employment, time-limited assistance, child support enforcement and paternity establishment. This research forms a basis for examining welfare reformís impact on children. Much of this research can be obtained from the Urban Institute, the National Center for Children in Poverty, Child Trends and other research organizations listed in the resources section of this paper. In addition, many of these studies can be found on WINís web site, http://www.welfareinfo.org, on the child development and child welfare pages.

Innovative Practices

Alabama: State office staff dealing with TANF and child welfare cases have been meeting regularly to deal with issues such as mutual cases and duplication of services. The state has developed groups that work together on linking the two computer systems and developing joint policies that will benefit families. In addition, all JOBS workers and some child welfare workers are trained on domestic violence issues and each county office has provided cross-training on other program areas. For more information, contact Debby Wood, Welfare Reform Division, State Department of Human Resources at 334-242-8153.

Colorado: El Paso County Department of Health and Human Services is trying to improve the connection between TANF and child welfare by co-locating child welfare and TANF workers who specialize in providing supportive services to TANF child-only cases. Their typical child-only case is a child being cared for by his or her grandmother. For the most part, these cases currently are not provided with supportive services or financial support. El Paso intends to use TANF program dollars to pay for social workers or case managers who will be trained in dealing with guardianships, family dynamics and parenting skills. The goal is full integration of services between child welfare and TANF. For more information, contact Barbara Drake, Deputy Director, El Paso County Department of Health and Human Services, at 719-444-5532 or BARBAR_DRAKE@co.el.paso.co.us.

Connecticut: Connecticut has established two programs, WorkSteps and Safety Net, that are designed to help families avoid losing cash assistance benefits by giving them a second chance and to provide needed non-cash aid to families that stand to lose cash benefits. Connecticut provides an extension to families that reach the 21-month time limit and have earnings below the grant level plus a $90 work expense, if they have not been sanctioned more than once. Families that do not appear eligible for an extension are referred to the WorkSteps program. Families who have exhausted their benefits but later reapply and are ineligible also are referred to WorkSteps. WorkSteps is run through the Connecticut Council of Family Service Agencies. Caseworkers assess clientsí barriers to employment as well as their assets that improve their employment prospects and develop an Individual Performance Contract with the client. Successful completion of the contract makes the family eligible for a time limit extension. If families are not successful in the WorkSteps program, they are referred to the Safety Net program, which provides non-cash assistance such as rental vouchers, utility payments, and food assistance as well as case management and services. For more information, contact Kevin Loveland at 860-424-5031.

Delaware: The state has a coordinated interdepartmental system between child welfare and TANF in which an automated computer interface lets child welfare staff determine if a child is part of a TANF family and permits TANF workers to determine if a child is active with the child welfare system. The system helps ensure that duplicative or counterproductive services are not being provided. For more information on Delawareís system, contact Chip Colvin, Department of Social Services, at 302-577-4880 x 232, or ccolvin@state.de.us.Nebraska also has an automated integrated system that serves those providing protective and safety services and those providing economic assistance. Each Economic Assistance Plan must be jointly developed by both systems. For more information on Nebraska, contact Dan Cillessen at 402-471-9270.

Indiana: The state has contracted with an organization that already trains child welfare staff to apply that training to income maintenance and employment and training workers. Additional efforts have been made to increase case planning and general communication between both divisionís workers. They have also combined funding streams to assist families. For more information on Indiana, contact Kathy Koehler at 317-233-0890. Minnesota also is providing cross-training to child welfare staff to inform them of the state TANF program (Minnesota Family Investment Program). For more information on Minnesota, contact Ila Schneibel at 651-296-6056 or ila.schneibel@state.mn.us

Kentucky: Vision 2000 begun in 1997 in seven counties and has grown to more than 30 counties. It allows communities to blend services to best meet the needs of families, children and vulnerable adults. This is accomplished through several avenues, including cross-training and co-locating TANF, child support and child welfare workers, and matching common cases among those agencies to ensure that quality services are provided to families. The state provides additional services, including food stamps and Medicaid for children if their families have been sanctioned. Within 15 days of case closure, a home visit will be made by child welfare workers to ensure the safety of minor children. Currently, they are in the process of hiring 54 staff to carry at-risk TANF cases, which will address permanency and protection issues. For more information on Vision 2000, contact Tresa Short, Director of the Division of Family Support, at 502-564-3440 or tshort@mail.state.ky.us.

New York: New York allows grandparents to apply for Family Assistance for their grandchildren, when parents are not in the home, without going to court to get custody of guardianship. The state does not count grandparentís income and resources when they apply for Family Assistance for their grandchildren only and not for themselves. A grandparent receiving a child-only grant will receive cash and medical assistance for the child, and the household may be eligible for food stamps. For food stamp purposes, grandparents cannot apply for food stamps for their grandchildren only. For more information, contact Melinda Parez-Porter at the Grandparent Caregiver Law Center at Samuel Sadin Institute of Law, Brookdale Center on Aging at 212-481-4433.

Wisconsin: Wisconsinís welfare policies reflect the belief that relatives caring for a child who is not their legal responsibility, such as a grandchild, nephew or niece, should not be required to meet work requirements. The state created the Kinship Care Program, which is administered by the county and tribal social services agencies. The program has an application process that requires the child welfare agency to complete an assessment to determine there is a need for kinship care, complete a criminal background check of the relative caregiver, and refer the kinship care case over to local the child support agency. Once eligibility is approved, a monthly payment of $215 per child is issued to the caretaker relatives. Eligibility reviews are completed at least once a year. The Kinship Care payment is not considered in determining the childís Medicaid or child care eligibility, thus allowing a caretaker relative to receive assistance additional to the $215. For more information, contact the Wisconsin Division of Economic Support at http://www.dwd.state.wi.us/desw2/kinship.htm.  Several other states, including Alabama, Delaware, Guam, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Utah, Virginia and Texas, are providing TANF assistance as a family or a child-only grant to relative caregivers, in the form of cash, support services or vouchers. For more information on what types of TANF assistance are being provided, contact the Welfare Information Network.

The National Center for Children in Poverty has looked at state investments to promote adequate income for young children and families in the "Map and Track Initiatives for Young Children and Families: 1998 Edition." For information, contact Carol Oshinsky at 212-304-7100 or see http://cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept/nccp. In addition, the Center has an ongoing Issue Brief series that has focused on the implication of welfare laws for child welfare and child protection systems, on informal child care in the context of welfare reform, and on how states can promote responsible fatherhood using the welfare law. See the publications section below, or contact the Center.

For More Information. . .


Administration for Children and Families, Childrenís Bureau, HHS, http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cb

American Public Humans Service Agency, Melissa Baker, 202-682-0100, http://www.aphsa.org

Center for the Future of Children, 415-948-7658, http://www.futureofchildren.org

Child Welfare League of America, 202-682-2952, http://www.cwla.org

Child Welfare Research Institute, 404-876-1934, http://wwww.gocwi.org

Children Now, 510-763-2444, http://www.childrennow.org

Childrenís Defense Fund, Mary Lee Allen, 202-628-8787, http://www.childrensdefense.org

National Center for Children in Poverty, 212-304-7100, http://cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept.nccp

National Conference of State Legislatures, Scott Groginsky, 303-830-2200, http://www.ncsl.org

National Governorsí Association, Helene Stebbins, 202-624-5300, http://www.nga.org

Research Forum on Children, Families and the New Federalism, 212-304-7132, http://www.researchforum.org

Urban Institute, Assessing the New Federalism Project, 202-833-7200, http://newfederalism.urban.org


Anticipating the Effects of Federal and State Welfare Changes on Systems that Serve Children, Issue Brief 2, by Anne Collins, National Center for Children in Poverty, 1997. http://cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept/nccp/cwrb2.html

Assessing the Consequences of Welfare Reform for Child Welfare, by Kristen Shook in Poverty News, Vol. 2, No. 1, Joint Center on Poverty, Winter 1998, 847-491-4145. http://www.jcpr.org/winter98

Child Welfare in the Context of Welfare "Reform," by Sheila B. Kamerman and Alfred J. Kahn, Columbia University School of Social Work, 1997. Contact the Cross-National Studies Research Program at the Columbia University School of Social Work, 212-854-5444.

How Welfare Reform Can Help or Hurt Children, Issue Brief 1, by A. Collins and J. L. Aber, National Center for Children in Poverty, 1997. http://cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept/nccp/cwrb1.htm

Informal and Formal Kinship Care, by Rebecca Clark, Allen Harden and Karen Maguire, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, HHS, June 1997. http://aspe.os.dhhs.gov/hsp/cyp/xskincar.htm

One in Ten: Protecting Childrenís Access to Federal Public Benefits Under the New Welfare and Immigration Laws, by Sheri A. Brady, J.D., Issue Brief, April 1998, National Association of Child Advocates. http://www.childadvocacy.org/immigrate.htm

Sizing Up Welfare Reformís Impact on Child Protection, by Mark Hardin, ABA Child Law Practice, Vol. 15, American Bar Association, 1996, 1-800-285-2221.

The Effects of Welfare on Child Outcomes: What We Know and What We Need to Know, by Janet Currie, UCLA, March 1997. Contact Janet Currie at 310-206-8380 or see http://www.jcpr.org/effectonchild.html.

The Impact of Welfare Reform on Child Welfare Financing, Number A-16 in the Series, "New Federalism: Issues and Options for States," by Rob Geen and Shelley Waters, November 1997, 202-833-7200. http://newfederalism.urban.org/html/anf16.html

The New Welfare Law and Vulnerable Families: Implications for Child Welfare/Child Protection Systems, Issue Brief 3, by Jane Knitzer and Stanley Bernard, National Center for Children in Poverty, 1997. http://cpmcnet.colubmia.edu/dept/nccp/cwrb3.html

The New Welfare Law: One Year Late, The Good, The Bad and the Unknown, Childrenís Defense Fund, October 14, 1997. http://www.childrensdefense.org/fairstart_oneyr.html

Welfare Reform Impacts on Child Welfare Caseloads: A Research Agenda, by Dennis E. Zeller, Ph.D., Hornby Zeller Associates, Inc., Troy, New York, haz@wsg.net. Contact Debra A. Shiell at 501-682-1554, Debbie.Shiell@State.AR.US, or see http://www.state.ar.us/dhs/chilnfam/nawrs/wriocwc.html.

Welfare Reform and Children: Potential Implications, Number A-23 in the Series, "New Federalism: Issues and Options for States," by Martha Zaslow, Kathryn Tout, Christopher Bostsko, and Kristen Moore, Child Trends Inc., 1998. Contact the Urban Institute at 202-833-7200 or see http://newfederalism.urban.org/html/anf23.html.

Young Children and Families Affected by Mental Illness, Substance Abuse and Violence in the Context of Welfare Reform: Addressing a National Challenge, a Project of the Children and Welfare Reform Leadership Network, National Center for Children in Poverty, August 1998.

The author wishes to thank Jane Knitzer, Sheila Kamerman, Mary Lee Allen and all of those whose work on this issue helped make this paper possible. A special thanks to the ongoing work of the National Center for Children in Poverty, the Urban Institute and the many states who added valuable information to this paper.

The Welfare Information Network is supported by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation,
the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation,
the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the Ford Foundation,
the Foundation for Child Development, the McKnight Foundation, and the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.