American Public University
Table of Contents
Conceptual Framework……………………………………………………………………………. 6
TANF Structure and its Operations………………………………………………………11
TANF Performance Measurement……………………………………………………….17
Merits and Strengths of TANF…………………………………………………………..19
Weaknesses and Demerits of the TANF Program……………………………………….20
Welfare programs such as TANF have become a necessity in a country like America. The program has varied dynamics revolving around it and these are outlined in this research. Methods used to collect data include review of policy documents, cost/benefit analysis, observation, performance measurement and review of previous researches. The data is collected on various topics including the costs and benefits of TANF, performance measurements of TANF, the merits and strengths of TANF and the weaknesses and demerits of TANF. The program is funded by the federal and state governments and it seeks to ensure needy families are assisted, the needy parents are prepared for jobs, that out of wed-lock pregnancies are prevented and that two-parent families are maintained.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
The American welfare system was created in the 1930`s as a response to the Great Depression. “On August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act to protect ordinary Americas against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age” (Barrack, 2010). One of the programs that emerged as a result of the Great Depression was Aid to Dependent Children.
It was established to provide cash assistance to widows so they would not have to work and could stay home with their children. In the early 1960`s the words “families with” were added to the program name, changing it to “Aid to Families with Dependent Children” (AFDC) partly due to concern that the program`s rules discouraged marriage.
Subsequently, Congress created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, as part of the effort to “end welfare as we know it” (An Introduction to TANF, 2012).
The purpose and intent of TANF was organized and structured to move parents off welfare and into the workforce with basic work-related skills within the program`s federally mandated 5-year lifetime limit (Hildebrandt and Stevens, 2009).
The central question is: how effective is TANF in terms of work readiness and financial independence, particularly for women and children, within the federally mandated 5-year limit? To help address this question the focus of this research will exhibit how the U.S. social welfare system originally proposed and structured in the early 1930`s as temporary relief measures has
evolved into a program as a source of main income and dependency for millions of poor American families. Research suggests single mothers rely on public assistance when their marriages split up, when they experience non-marital birth, or when they undergo some other economic crisis (Harris, 1996).
Furthermore, what are the contributing factors that support dependency rather than independence? This research will further suggest “sanctioning recipients for noncompliance with work requirements contributes to eventual dependency on TANF among former recipients” (Chen, 2005).
Additionally, understanding the issues that prevent self sufficiency but rather promote dependency, the research will recommend program and policy changes that will significantly reduce the current caseload of TANF recipients by encouraging self worth, personal accountability, and break the cyclical generational damage the family endures resulting as life-time welfare participants. In other words, end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting education, job preparation, work, and marriage.
Following this further, research will show the psychological impact dependency has on recipients of TANF compared to a group of individuals/parents who have never enrolled in TANF (Chen, 2007).
Sixty years ago Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was created to enable women to stay at home with their children and remain homemakers (Gilens, 1996). “One of the major changes in the sweeping welfare reform legislation of 1996 was replacing the federal guarantee of cash welfare to all qualified families – AFDC program with block grant that
provides a fixed and guaranteed level of funding to states” (Weaver, 2002). The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 passed. The PRWORA changed the U.S. welfare system dramatically.
This legislation ended AFDC program and replaced it with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is not an entitlement program. When most people think of “welfare,” they are thinking of this program. This means that states are under no obligation to provide cash assistance to eligible families but instead, the federal government gives block grants to states to assist poor families with the emphasis on moving them from welfare to work or deterring them from applying for welfare in the first place.
The major highlights of TANF are:
* Assisting needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes
* Reducing the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage
* Preventing out-of-wedlock pregnancies and
* Encouraging the formation and maintenance to two-parent families.
“Because PRWORA is intended to encourage through incentives and penalties most welfare recipients to work, two key outcomes reviewed are employment and sanctions for noncompliance with program requirements” (Nadel et al. 2003). TANF was created to reduce welfare in two ways. First, by requiring recipients to work in order to receive cash assistance, and secondly, by limiting how long a family can receive welfare. The primary focus of TANF is transition from welfare to the workforce.
Dependency is one of the greatest issues that form the basis of debates revolving around the TANF program. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2009), many American families opt to rely on assistance from the government through welfare programs such as TANF. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2009) stated that though the highest levels of dependency were recorded when TANF was first legislated because close to 14 million Americans were dependent on it and other welfare programs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2009) went on to note that even though the number of those dependent on TANF and other welfare programs reduced between 1995 and 2001, this trend changed after 2001 because the number of those who are dependent of it started going up.
The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources Hearing (2013) stated that most single mothers who benefit from the TANF program prefer not to leave the program. The reasons for reluctance to leave the program are related to the benefits they get from it and the requirements for employment. The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources Hearing (2013) outlined poor education as one of the main characteristics of most single mothers under the TANF program.
Single teenage mothers may not have gone to high school or may have dropped from high school. This means that they have uncompetitive credentials in the job market. The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources Hearing (2013) noted that far back in 1998 even before the initiation of the TANF program single mothers would have an easier time in getting employment even though unemployment remained an issue. The case is similar for
individuals who are 25 years old and above with no high school degree because their unemployment rate was 7.1% back in the 90s but this rate has increased to 12.4% presently. With the TANF program, single mothers and other beneficiaries of the program find it easier to secure jobs that pay them at least the minimum wage.
The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources Hearing (2013) also noted that the conditions that govern working under TANF are attractive because the program recently had its minimum wages raised. Furthermore, other benefits such as medical care were included in the program. Low-income single mothers, children and other people benefit from the Medicaid program. Through TANF, single mothers stand greater chances of getting employment because it is one of the organization`s priorities. Economic conditions such as the depression made it even more difficult for single mothers to get employment and therefore they feel it is better to stay under the welfare umbrella than struggle on their own (The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources Hearing, 2013).
TANF assists needy families and single mothers by offering them financial assistance, training them on different jobs and availing other benefits that would make their work easier. These steps are usually meant to assist the beneficiaries of TANF to become autonomous eventually. Jackson (2004) claimed that the TANF program makes its beneficiaries, especially single women, dependent on the program. Jackson (2004) outlined that the program seeks to clear case files yet it does not meet all the requirements of women including that of childcare as part of achieving autonomy.
Most single mothers do not have the necessary skills or knowledge to execute the roles of the jobs they are given and moreover, the amount of money they are paid is that which facilitates dependency rather than progress to autonomy Jackson (2004). Jackson (2004) also claims that though there may be some benefits to the TANF program, a comprehensive program such as childcare has been completely ignored yet single mothers need it.
Though the program has its challenges, it is almost indispensable in society. Sociological theories regard family as a social construct and thus, it is important for the family structure to be sustained through all possible means (Dillon, 2009). The structure-functional theory states that families are expected to function in ways that sustain the society`s integrity.
Dillon (2009) stated “whole countries are motivated by values, by commitments to particular understandings of family, commitment to families and to providing for their children.” It is therefore not prudent to have homeless and needy people within the society ignored and not assisted at all by organizations or the government that is responsible for them.
When people are homeless and needy, they are unable for fulfill their duties to themselves and to the society and therefore they are a danger to themselves and to the society. It is necessary for organizations and the government to work hard in ensuring that people they get access to the basic needs and that they are safe from harm that could be easily evaded.
Dillon (2009) claimed family structures, which are existent in society, have a great impact on the whole society by determine the economic status of the economy and the social stratification of the society. Society can have its dignity maintained and restored through upholding the best practices in managing public assistance programs such as TANF. The program tends to the needs of those who need temporary assistance financially. Disregarding objectivity in such programs would lead to the collapse of families and the eventual gradual destruction of society.
The discussion relates to several concepts that relate to the TANF program including poverty and homelessness as issues of national social and economic concern, provisions for eligibility in TANF, the roles of each major stakeholder in TANF, the merits and strengths of TANF, the weaknesses and demerits of TANF, remuneration for people registered under TANF, the number of people sustained by TANF and other issues.
Data collection for this research was carried out through varied ways one of them being document analysis. This method involves extensive research and reading of vital government and organizational documents linked to TANF that was applicable to this research. There are state policy documents that cover the basic components of TANF. These documents cover aspects such as the features of TANF, the reasons why TANF is necessary and statistics related to TANF. Document analysis was selected because it provided first hand data and information related to the TANF program.
Policy documents form the basis upon which action is taken on the basis of the TANF program. Document analysis also made it possible to conduct program evaluation. Program evaluation involved collecting information about the structures put in place to facilitate the program strengths, its weaknesses and other aspects pertinent to TANF.
Additionally, cost/benefit analysis was used to examine and measure data of the program as it relates to the government and its beneficiaries. The method involved establishing the soundness and stability of the program from the past and in the present. Cost/benefit analysis provides a basis for comparing the TANF program with all the possible benefits that could be experienced by different stakeholders including the government, the direct beneficiaries of TANF and the indirect beneficiaries. The costs and benefits are both monetary/quantitative and qualitative.
Performance measurement was also used for data collection. This method involved collecting and reporting data of the performance levels of TANF. It involved studying the strategies and processes put in place by the organization to achieve its intended objectives and the level to which the objectives have been achieved in the past. This would assist in rating the levels to which beneficiaries have their needs met by the program.
The next method was review of literature previously written on the subject and the analysis of data from primary and secondary researches carried out on the topic. This involved searching for useful research methods that was carried out in the past on the same subject. TANF is a program that has attracted a lot of attention and as a result, various researches have been carried out on it. Review of literature made it possible to collect information on what other researchers have established previously to compare their conclusions on various issues.
TANF Structure and its Operations
TANF benefits people across the U.S. because each state receives federal funding that covers parts of the state expenditures for the program. States also sustain the programs using their own funding. Each state is “required in the aggregate to maintain at least $10.4 billion in spending on specified activities for needy families with children” (Falk, 2012). If a state does not meet this requirement, it is penalized $1 for every $1 that had not been spent in the previous disbursement (Falk, 2012). This is meant to ensure that the states utilize the money they are given for the program`s beneficiaries. Such a rule means that each state ought to ensure it enrolls beneficiaries who would exhaust the given grants.
There are several TANF requirements that must be met by families before assistance is given to them. Families must have dependent children to be eligible and they must be needy due to low income (Falk, 2012). This requirement has been put in place because it is necessary for the program managers to ensure that the grants given to them go to people who are in dire need of assistance and not those who may be capable of sustaining themselves without welfare assistance.
There are people who are not eligible and they include “families that have adults who have been receiving welfare assistance for over 5 years teenagers who have not wedded and are living unsupervised by adults, teenagers who have not completed high school and are not making any effort to do so, noncitizens who have not spend five years in the country, people who have violated their paroles or are felons or fugitives and people who are convicted of drug felonies” (Falk, 2012). These categories of people are excluded from the benefits of TANF because the program cannot be the return point for criminals and people whose conditions seem to be artificially propagated. For example, if teenagers opt to live together yet they cannot support themselves, they cannot qualify for TANF because they still have parents who can take care of them.
People who are enrolled under TANF engage in different work and work-related activities including readiness for jobs, job search, working in different areas of placement, on-the-job training, vocational training, community service and child care for TANF participants among others (Falk, 2013). The named activities target streamlining people`s paths to independence. While taking part in these activities, the people receive monetary benefits and these vary from state to state due to differences in the costs of living for each one of them and the differences in grant allocations.
People who work under TANF have to meet certain participation standards. The states are required to ensure that at least 50% of their caseloads meet the standards of participation in the different activities or work. “States that fail the TANF work participation standards are at risk of being penalized by a reduction in their block grant amounts” (Falk, 2013). This measure targets ensuring that each state pushes people who are enrolled in the program to work before they can receive the benefits promised.
The TANF beneficiaries have different working hours depending on the categories in which they fall. Single parents are expected to work for “at least 30 hours per week” and “two-parent families can have higher working hours while those parents who are 20 years or older may need to take part in work-related activities for at least 20 hours per week” (Falk, 2013). All people enrolled under TANF are therefore guided by the rules that require them to deliver on their end of the bargain before they can reap the benefits of the program. People who work under TANF earn about $6.84 per hour according to Fogarty & Kraley (2000). Fogarty & Kraley (2000) stated that as of 1998, the average quarterly wages for TANF participants was $2,585 and this rose by about $200 over the two quarters that followed.
“The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 significantly changed the nature of income support for poor families in the United States with the elimination of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)– the cash public assistance program designed to serve (primarily) poor, single-mother families–by replacing it with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program” (Peterson, 2000). In most instances, the costs and benefits are measured in monetary terms and an analysis of government expenditure and people`s benefits is as outlined below
Falk (2013) stated that as of March 1994, the number of people receiving cash welfare was about 5.1 million. The number dropped to about 1.7 million people in 2007 but this number started rising again so that it was about 2 million in 2011. The government therefore has had to spend a lot of money to support these families. Peterson (2000) stated that the reduction in caseloads was occasioned by reductions in the number of years for which people were eligible to be on TANF and other policy changes. For example, as noted earlier in this research, houses that have adults who have received assistance for over five years are not eligible for assistance. Other groups mentioned earlier are also not eligible. This means that the reduction in case loads is partially occasioned by elimination of some case from the program. This means that cases no longer pile up for extremely long periods of time and they are generally fewer. The strengthening of the economy also led to a decrease in the number of people on welfare according to Peterson (2000).
Bellis, et al (2006) identified funds as a central issue in TANF because it can make or break the program. The greatest costs occasioned by the TANF program are the federal grants and funds allocated to each state. TANF is considered a “block grant, and it has a fairly complicated financing system” (Falk, 2012). Falk (2012) showed that from 2006 to 2013, the U.S. government had its lowest expenditure settling at $17,103 million in 2007 and its highest expenditure settling at $21,639 million in 2010. Most of the expenditures were however just above $17,000 million annually over these years. This is therefore the range of monetary costs incurred by the government.
The money is usually the distributed to the different states using varied formulas depending on aspects mentioned earlier in this research and previous year expenditures. Government expenditures are however not limited to the finds given by the federal government. This is because each state raises its own taxes and it is expected to spend a portion of the collected funds on the TANF program.
The cash used to support TANF beneficiaries is normally collected from the taxes paid by people. There are also other supplemental grants to the different states (Falk, 2012). The cost to the government is largely equated to the benefits accrued to the TANF program. Federal TANF grants benefit people after they are remitted to the states as noted earlier but in other instances, the funds are usually redirected to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The funds can also be redirected to the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). These programs are more or less affiliates of the TANF program and therefore they still assist needy families.
The cost-benefit analysis of TANF makes it clear that the program`s benefits are gradually reducing as witnessed over the years. This is because back in 1996, people receiving cash assistance from the TANF program had better purchasing power than those who were benefiting from the program in 2011 (Finch & Schott, 2011). The benefits for families enrolled under TANF were frozen in most of the states in 2011 and six of the states opted to reduce benefit levels (Finch & Scott, 2011). This action affected over 700,000 families that fall under the low-income category of U.S. families. This number of families makes up just over 33% of low income families that are dependent on welfare. Some of the states that reduced the level of benefits that were given to TANF beneficiaries in 2010 and 2011 include “Delaware, California, New Mexico, South Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin” (Finch & Schott, 2011). This number is said to be the highest since the TANF program was first initiated in 1996 (Finch & Schott, 2011).
Many families that ought to be benefiting from the TANF program are not (Finch & Schott, 2011). The benefits for families have reduced considerably because in 1996 68 out of every 100 poor families received cash assistance yet in 2009 only 27 out of 100 families received cash assistance through TANF (Finch & Schott, 2011). The benefits that families were receiving in the past were low and the diminished purchasing power of families presently means that more of them are living “far below the poverty line” (Finch & Schott, 2011).
The states that cut benefits did so differently and their adjustments were as follows California – 8%, New Mexico and Washington – 15%, South Carolina – 20% and Wisconsin reduced 20% per month from people`s benefits. Delaware cut benefits from $416 to $338 per month (Finch & Schott, 2011). The state of Delaware has the difference between current benefits and those offered in 1996 standing at 30% (Finch & Schott, 2011). Similarly, the District of Columbia reduced the benefits by 20% and the benefits dropped down to $342 from a previous $428. Below is a tabular representation of the reductions that took place between 2010 and 2011.
Table Showing Differences in Benefits before and After Reduction
Benefits Before ($)
Benefits After Reduction ($)
The table above shows that the changes were considerably high. A calculation of the differences established that the lowest cut was $20 by Wisconsin and the highest was by D.C. which recorded a difference of $86. They were already low and lowering them further spelled out more problems for people benefiting from TANF. The TANF beneficiaries may not have any immediate feasible option to what they are offered and therefore they opt to stay on the program and depend on it.
Benefits are very low in most of the states because 14 states give benefits that are lower than $300 per month and this means that families receiving such low amounts are living below the poverty line (Finch & Schott, 2011). Most of the TANF benefits have not increased to a level where they can keep up with inflation and to add to that, most families cannot even afford to pay for their houses using the TANF benefits (Finch & Schott, 2011). This is very important because it means that people depending solely on TANF are highly likely to be homeless.
The cost benefit analysis therefore shows that as much as the government seems to be spending large chunks of money on supporting families in need of assistance, the expenditures do not in any way meet the needs of all the people. This means that government expenditure is well below the threshold that would enable families to fully benefit from the program and to live comfortably. People are not reaping the best of benefits from the government`s funds. They still live below the poverty line.
TANF Performance Measurement
In relation to performance, there are three main measures of success that highlight the ability of TANF to achieve its set goals. The first measure is the independence of TANF (Cancian & Meryer, 2004). These scholars claimed that the term “dependence” in this case refers to the extent to which the program uses “any government benefit available only to those with low incomes.” Just about a quarter of the TANF recipients were independent at the time of their research (Cancian & Meryer, 2004). Very few mothers who go through the TANF program become completely independent because they remain highly assisted by welfare programs such as TANF (Cancian & Meryer, 2004).
Similar sentiments are shared by Jackson (2004) whose research established that TANF beneficiaries become more dependent rather than independent. These findings are highly relevant because through the cost-benefit analysis carried out earlier in this research, it became clear that the program does not necessarily usher people into independence. The fact that many people benefiting from TANF still live under the poverty line means they are more likely to stay at that level and continue to depend on what they are given.
The second measure of performance is poverty (Cancian & Meryer, 2004). The official poverty measures also determine the extent to which TANF is successful (Cancian & Meryer, 2004). From the sampled participants, “only one-third of women” seemed to be escaping poverty (Cancian & Meryer, 2004). “Just over half of families in the sample (56 percent) in the research had incomes above the official poverty line, though even by this definition not 25 percent of families had incomes that reached 150 percent of the poverty line”
Medicaid is a vital component in ensuring families live quality lives. The addition of Medicaid to the TANF benefits program increased the incomes of participants so that about 75% of them were enlisted as being out of poverty (Cancian & Meryer, 2004). More light is shed on this by the statistics outlined earlier under the cost-benefit analysis section of this research which show that TANF beneficiaries live below the poverty line. It was noted that some of the TANF beneficiaries are paid amounts that are way below the poverty line.
Economic hardship is the third measure (Cancian & Meryer, 2004). It is difficult to measure economic hardship but some of the issues covered include “food insecurity and hunger, about shelter hardships (homelessness, doubling up, utility cutoffs), and unmet medical needs” (Cancian & Meryer, 2004). Out of the selected sample of participants, 59% had managed to avoid food and shelter hardships but even so, they noted a trend such as relying on food pantries as having a significant effect on this percentage (Cancian & Meryer, 2004). This means that though people manage to avoid shelters, they still struggle to support themselves fully and to live quality lives. With regard to homelessness, TANF benefits are not enough to allow people to pay even for housing (Finch & Schott, 2011). To illustrate this, it is notable that out of the states listed earlier, California has the highest benefits which stand at $694. This cannot be enough to cater for housing, food, clothing and other daily needs.
Out of the three measures, the ability to avoid “dependence” scored lowest because only 26% of the sample was independent. 56% managed to secure incomes, which “were above the poverty threshold”, and 59% avoided hardships (Cancian & Meryer, 2004). This shows that there is room for improvement in TANF. These percentages are illustrative of the extent to which people receive assistance through TANF.
Work participation rate is another measure. In 2009 the average actual work participation rates recorded nationwide was 29.4% (Falk, 2013). This is much lower than the expected threshold of 50% that was mentioned earlier on in this research. “The participation rate within TANF achieved nationwide for the two-parent portion of the caseload was 28.3%” (Falk, 2013). This is also much lower than the standard target of 50%. This shows that there may be a steady reduction in the level of fund allocation for TANF. This is because as noted earlier, there are penalties for not reaching the set work participation standards. In case the trend carries on this way, it will translate to a massive reduction of funds and worse times for TANF beneficiaries brought about by further benefits reductions. There are pushes to have some of the penalties waived due to low work participation rates (Falk, 2013).
Merits and Strengths of TANF
There are several merits of the TANF program. Fogarty & Kraley (2000) claimed the TANF program “increases the eligibility of participants” when they seek employment. Employment is a crucial aspect in people`s lives because it determines the quality of life that they live. Improving people`s employability means that the program is empowering them and acting as a stepping-stone to better futures for them. This means the program actually helps people to live improved lives presently and in future as noted by Bellis & Edmodson (2001). People`s lives are bound to improve because of the assistance they receive from the state. Focus on improving people`s current states of living is also viewed as strength because it assists in maintaining the much desired social order. Functional families translate to better societies in general and higher productivity.
The program is clearly planned out so that each state benefits from federal grants. It therefore puts equity into consideration. As stated earlier on, the federal government disburses grants allocated to states basing on varied formulas that put performance into consideration. There are also elaborate policies that govern the program as noted earlier under the structure and functioning section outlined earlier on in this research and this is meant to ensure that its effects are positive.
Weaknesses and Demerits of the TANF Program
From the data collected above one of the overt weaknesses lies in the inability of TANF to lead to total independence. The program leads to dependence rather than independence (Jackson, 2004). This is supported by Cancian & Meryer (2004) whose findings made it clear that a great population of those who benefited from TANF did not move above the poverty line and remained dependent. Without enabling people to move above the poverty line and to become independent, the program may be perceived as being a futile effort by the government to assist people in securing better futures. This is because it is likely that there may be more people seeking assistance and yet those who were initially in the program have not yet become independent. This means that attention may easily shift from actually assisting families attain independence to clearing their cases without concrete conclusions and solutions to them.
Many people who leave the TANF program do not end up becoming 100% economically self-sufficient (Fogarty & Kraley, 2000). There are those who remained reliant on food stamps and Medicaid even after leaving TANF and after getting jobs that pay them above the federal poverty line level (Fogarty & Kraley, 2000). Low employment and low exit levels from TANF are higher among people with impairments or disabilities (United States Accounting Office, 2002).
Another weakness lies in the strong relationship between politics and the functionality of state welfare programs (Fellowes & Rowe, 2004). An issue such as race has defined how resources are managed and the way polices are formulated (Fellowes & Rowe, 2004). Politics may influence TANF negatively in some instances. Lack of objectivity therefore stands out as a problem in the management of TANF. There may be bias in the programs allocation of benefits and this means that instead of being used as a tool for promoting equity in the society, it may be used to promote further inequity and favoritism. This is dangerous because dissatisfaction with the program`s management pushes more people away from it and reduces its credibility.
Those who receive welfare are stigmatized and this may affect them negatively (Hartzell, 2007). The people who receive welfare constitute a special minority group who may not be readily accommodated in society. People who receive welfare assistance are seen as being equivalent to other people who live on the streets. There are many perceptions about them one of them being that they may commit social ills (Hartzell, 2007). Stigmatization comes as a result of many differences in society and people would wish to be at a comfort zone where they do not experience its negative repercussions. This means that people shy away from the program as much as they may be eligible to apply for assistance (Hartzell, 2007). People may opt to look for other ways of getting themselves out of financial problems because they do not wish to be stigmatized by being part of TANF beneficiaries. Most perceptions about welfare services such as those offered by TANF have been negative to a great extent and people are not supportive of those getting assistance from such services (Hartzell, 2007). This means that the TANF program is not helping all the people it should be helping and that it is causing psychological problems for people benefiting from it. These are secondary challenges that cannot be ignored because they are related to people`s well being.
Welfare workers may also end up being stigmatized because of working with the program (Hartzell, 2007). People in society do not wish to be associated with the problems of the poor and the people benefiting from welfare services and this makes it difficult for welfare workers to speak about what they see, what they experience and to interact freely with other members of the society (Hartzell, 2007). As much as social workers are stirred emotionally by what they see, they cannot express their thoughts because they too are largely shunned by society (Hartzell, 2007). The children of social workers also experience the challenge of being stigmatized due to the work their parents do (Hartzell, 2007). This shows that whilst the TANF program seeks to assist people who are financially needy, it has a negative impact on social workers and their families to a considerable extent. This is detrimental to its development and the level of service delivery by TANF welfare workers.
This paper sought to present findings from research carried out on the TANF program. TANF was first conceived in 1996 and its main targets were assisting needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes reducing the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage preventing out-of-wedlock pregnancies and encouraging the formation and maintenance to two-parent families.
The research drew from sociological theories. One of them outlined the concepts of the theory of dependency and the other one outlined the concepts of the structure-functional theory. The former theory was used to establish the links between TANF and continued dependency on welfare while the latter discusses poverty and its effects on families. The structure-functional theory also outlines the role of ensuring the family structure does not disintegrate in the society. These theories laid the foundation for the findings. In order to collect information, several methods were used including document analysis which involved analyzing government and organizational documents to establish facts about the TANF program cost/benefit analysis which involved juxtaposing the monetary costs incurred by the government and the benefits given to TANF beneficiaries performance measurement which involved evaluating performance basing on four measures and literature review which involved drawing information from previous research.
Through cost/benefit analysis it was recorded that the government does not spend as much as it should be spending on families that need assistance through TANF. The benefits given to families through TANF are miniature compared to the current cost of living and the steady rise in inflation rates over the years as discussed in the research. The benefits have in fact been reduced in several states in the recent past and this has cut down people`s purchasing powers and has made people`s abilities to move above the poverty line more difficult.
The performance measures also put TANF on a very low rank. Four measures of performance were discussed and these include independence, poverty, economic hardship and work participation. All the findings based on these measures show that TANF is operating way below what may be termed as acceptable levels. It is not achieving its goals to the expectations of its beneficiaries and even to the levels the organization has set for itself in the forms of policies, rules and regulations.
The research outlined several merits and strengths of TANF and these include increase in beneficiary employability, clear planning and feasible policies. The program is well structured and has clearly set goals. It has outlined the ways through which its objectives will be achieved. On a different note, the program has several weaknesses and demerits and these include the fact that it seems to give rise to greater dependence rather than self-sufficiency, it is also outlined as being prone to interferences from political quarters and this leads to subjectivity in its management. TANF also increases participant stigmatization and opens up an avenue for stigmatization against its workers and their families. This may call for other secondary services such as counseling and this means costs to the government increase indirectly.
The above discussions make it clear that though TANF has been in existence for a long time, the program has numerous milestones to overcome before it can be ranked as one of the best performing welfare programs in the country. These findings call for a reevaluation of the program and its improvement. It is clear that it could definitely use better strategic planning and management to assist its planners and implementers with the attainment of its set goals and objectives.
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Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Fabienne Corcoran
American Public University
American Public University