TANF and the First Year of Life: Making a Difference at a Pivotal Moment
October 02, 2015 | Elizabeth Lower-Basch and Stephanie Schmit
Americans overwhelmingly agree that children’s fate in life should not be determined by the circumstances in which they are born. But children born into poor families are at great risk of persistent poverty during their childhood, and long-term negative effects on their health, economic success, and overall well-being. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) offers an important, large-scale, high-impact opportunity to achieve two-generational goals for parents and infants. However, state TANF programs often fall short of their potential. Barriers to access, underfunded services, and work requirements that do not take the needs of infants into account hold parents back and make it harder for them to lift themselves and their infants out of poverty. This report suggests a new framework for thinking about TANF in the context of the first year of life, a vision for what a reformed TANF might look like and concrete steps that states can begin taking right now to move their programs in this direction.