In 1996, Congress explicitly envisioned Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) as a critical support for kinship families or grandfamilies -- families in which children are being raised by kin who are extended family members and close family friends. Almost two decades later, kin continue to rely on TANF as often the only source of financial support for helping them keep the families they raise together and out of the formal foster care system. Although TANF policy explicitly states that children cared for by relatives can receive TANF assistance, many kin families do not access it to meet the needs of children they are unexpectedly raising. Only about 12 percent of kinship families receive any TANF assistance, even though the majority of children being raised by kin live in poverty and qualify for the program.
This brief highlights states and counties that improve access for kinship families by making these types of exceptions and by creating other policies, practices, and programs that address the challenges the existing TANF framework poses. The May 2012 Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count essay, "Stepping Up For Kids", urges states and communities to ensure that kinship families have access to benefits to which they are eligible. In this brief, we provide state and community policymakers and advocates with a Kinship TANF Model that outlines ways in which they can help ensure that kinship families have access to TANF. (author introduction)