This August marks 25 years of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a key economic support program to help families with children who have very low incomes. Economic security programs like TANF are crucial for children’s healthy well-being; they raise family income, reduce child poverty, and help improve children’s outcomes across the entire span of their lives. Yet TANF’s current reach and impact is limited by a history of policy choices rooted in racism, and the program must be strengthened to fight for racial justice and help families afford essentials like housing, utilities, diapers, cold medication, school supplies, and other necessities.
Finding a path forward to strengthen TANF requires a critical examination of its history and the way this history has set the course of current policy and implementation. A new brief by CDF walks through this past, explores current policies, and discusses proposals to re-envision TANF as a more just and equitable program in service of our children.
The four main purposes describing TANF’s goals is long on ideas like “ending dependence” and short on ideals like dignity, respect, and pursuing economic and racial justice. What would it mean for children if TANF were transformed to guarantee robust investment in children and families, value the dignity of each child, and support families in whatever form they take? Read more to find out.