Local Implementation of TANF in Five Sites: Final Report

Published: January 12, 2007
Self-Sufficiency, Welfare & Employment
Local Implementation of TANF: A Description of Current Practices / Later Changes Following the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, 2005-2006 | Learn more about this project

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) funded a study to determine how local management of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs has adapted practices to address changing needs and improve program results. To understand these local adaptations, the research team—which included staff from the Lewin Group and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government—visited five local TANF offices to interview staff and collect data. The sites selected were among locations where field research was conducted several years ago in order to gauge changes since the early years of TANF implementation. The five sites were in Phoenix, Arizona; Macon, Georgia; Kansas City, Missouri; Newark, New Jersey; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Site visits were conducted between February and July 2006.

This report presents major findings from the site visits. Several cross-cutting findings emerged from the study: TANF programs continue to evolve. Although many of the large-scale policy changes were adopted in the years immediately following welfare reform, states and local areas continue to adapt their programs. The research team observed changes in organizational structures (e.g., separating the eligibility and employment functions at the state and local levels), pre-eligibility requirements (e.g., upfront job search, meetings with child support staff), program activities (e.g., new employment programs), and case flow (e.g., new intake procedures).

Program goals and philosophies varied considerably from site to site. Goals and philosophies were typically similar to those found at the sites in previous field research studies, though incremental changes have occurred. For example, promoting rapid employment and thus minimizing dependency on cash assistance was a stated goal among staff in Macon and Milwaukee, while supporting poor families with barriers to self-sufficiency was a much more salient goal in Newark. By contrast, Kansas City and Phoenix revealed less agreement on TANF goals in part because different agencies administer the program at the state and local levels.