A Study of States' TANF Diversion Programs Final Report

Published: December 8, 2008
Self-Sufficiency, Welfare & Employment
Identifying Promising TANF Diversion Practices, 2006-2008 | Learn more about this project

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) created a new work-oriented framework for providing assistance to low-income families. Within this framework, states were given a block grant and considerable flexibility to create new support systems for families that encouraged work and discouraged long-term reliance on government-provided cash assistance. Responding to concerns that families that turn to the welfare system for support may find it hard to leave, states began implementing “diversion” programs to keep families whose needs could be met through other means from ever coming on to the welfare rolls. In response to higher effective work participation rates that followed the reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in 2005, states have added new policies and programs that divert TANF-eligible families from the TANF system.

This report describes states’ policies on and experiences with diversion programs. To document the states’ diversion strategies, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (MPR) conducted the Identifying Promising TANF Diversion Practices Study for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Data for the study were collected through a state survey, a telephone interview with designated representatives in each state, and visits to two states to learn more about their diversion strategies. Data collection began in December 2007 and ended in March 2008.