9, No. 3
Between Child Welfare and Work First (TANF)
common sense perspective, the connection between the self-sufficiency
of families and the safety, permanence, and well-being of children
is obvious. It stands to reason that if parents have jobs that enable
them to have a home, transportation, and ample food, they are in
a better position to resist the stresses of life and take better
care of their children.
Its a perspective
supported by research. According to a 1996 study, children living
in families earning less than $15,000 annually are more than 22
times more likely to experience maltreatment than children whose
families earn at least $30,000 (Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1996).
We also know that more than half of all foster children come from
families eligible for economic assistance (Comittee on Ways and
This makes it all the
more puzzling that, historically, there has been a clear separation
in social service agencies between efforts to prevent and address
child abuse and neglect and efforts to promote economic self-sufficiency.
Indeed, the separation has been so complete that families are sometimes
pulled in different directions by the requirements of child welfare
and economic programs, which may not even know of each others
involvement with the family.
When a family is already
struggling, this lack of communication only makes it harder for
them to stay together.
Today social service agencies
across the country are trying to break down the wall between child
welfare and other programs (Andrews, et al., 2002). As part of this
effort, in May 2003 the Childrens Services Section of the
North Carolina Division of Social Services merged with Family Support
Services Section to become the Family Support and Child Welfare
This move is significant:
it represents the coming together within the same administrative
unit of the states Work First (TANF) and child welfare programs.
The name itselfFamily Support and Child Welfare Services
Sectionsignals a desire for greater understanding and
course, an administrative change counts for only so much in a state-administered,
county-run system. Because of the autonomy of county DSSs,
it is really up to the people on the local level to make collaboration
between these two programs a reality.
Fortunately, in many countiesparticularly
those implementing the Multiple Response System (MRS) and FamilyNetthis
is just whats happening. For the sake of the families and
children they serve, line workers, supervisors, and administrators
in child welfare and Work First today are finding better ways to
This process is not always
easy or harmonious. But, as this issue of Practice Notes
will make clear, the struggle is worth it. We are eager to share
with you some of the lessons our counties have learned.
Additional resources related to
- What are the Connections Between Child Welfare and TANF? A handout describing the connection between these two program areas.
Comprehensive, Integrated Social Services to Vulnerable Children and
Families: Are There Legal Barriers at the Federal Level to Moving Forward?
by Rutledge Q. Hutson, Center for Law and Social Policy. February 2004.
in Parents' Economic Hardship, by Sandi Nelson. Urban Institute.
(March 18, 2004).
Data from the 2002 round of the National Survey of America's Families
show that food hardship affected 51 percent of low-income parents in
2002. Housing hardship among single low-income parents increased from
32 percent in 1997 to 35 percent in 2002. <http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=310970
Road Not Taken? Changes in Welfare Entry during the 1990s,
by Gregory Acs , Katherin Ross Phillips , Sandi Nelson. Urban Institute.
(December 23, 2003). This paper uses data from the 1990 and 1996 Survey
of Income and Program Participation to assess whether changes in welfare
policy affected welfare entry rates. It also assesses whether changes
in entry rates are accompanied by improvements in the circumstances
of families that choose not to receive welfare. The authors conclude
that policy shifts and changes in attitudes toward work and welfare
are the most likely explanations for the drop in welfare entry rates.
The bulk of the change came after the implementation of welfare reform.
Declining entry rates are not accompanied by substantial improvements
in the well-being of low-income single mothers who are not on welfare.
Much Do Welfare Recipients Know about Time Limits?
by Sheila R. Zedlewski , Jennifer Holland. Urban Institute. (December
18, 2003). Data from the 2002 round of the National Survey of America's
Families show that 37 percent of welfare recipients lack information
about when their welfare benefits will end. Half of welfare recipients
with two or more barriers to employment lack information about time
limits. Three out of four Spanish-speaking recipients are not aware
of when their welfare benefits will end. <http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=310904