The connection between long-term TANF receipt and child maltreatment
This study provides a clearer understanding of the connections between longterm receipt of TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) benefits, involvement with the child welfare system and child outcomes. Using an ecological model, the study examines the family and community contexts that make it likely for long-term TANF recipients to be involved with the child welfare system. Post-welfare reform state and local variation in benefit provision have made national comparison difficult. In addition, previous research has not adequately explored whether and how maltreating long-term TANF parents differ from other maltreating parents. The current project was designed to address these gaps in the literature, first, by using a nationally representative sample and secondly, by the use of qualitative interviews focusing on the stressors and life events that may make it more likely for long-term TANF recipient families to be involved with the child welfare system. The first phase of the study consists of a secondary data analysis using Waves I to 4 of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW). NSCAW is the first nationally representative longitudinal survey of children and families involved with the child welfare system. Previous research has examined the involvement of TANF recipient families in the child welfare system. Unlike previous research, this study begins with a child welfare sample and examines the differences between long-term TANF recipient families and non-recipient families in the context of risk, family characteristics and outcomes. Custodial mothers who were long-term TANF recipients (n = 320, representing a population of 196, 375) were compared to custodial mothers who are not current TANF recipients and who had with less than one year of lifetime receipt of public cash assistance benefits (n = 1401, representing a population of 923, 304). Regression analyses were conducted to determine significant differences in demographics, life experience, risk factors and family and child outcomes. Analyses revealed significant differences between groups at study inception and throughout the 36 months of follow up, with poorer outcomes for children and mothers in the long-term TANF group. The second phase of the study consists of qualitative interviews of long-term public assistance recipients in upstate New York. Interviews were conducted with 17 subjects who responded to a flier. The qualitative interviews were designed to obtain descriptive information about the life stressors experienced by study participants and the obstacles that they face in negotiating the TANF and child welfare systems. The qualitative interviews supplement the secondary data analysis and provide detail that cannot be derived from the survey responses. The majority of participants had involvement with the child welfare system. Participants presented with a complex set of chronic problems, including mental illness and experience of domestic violence.
This research was funded by a 2006 summer fellowship from the Cornell University Department of Human Development, and a master?s research grant from the Cornell University Department of Human Development.
child maltreatment; TANF
dissertation or thesis