Agenda, Scope, and Goals
The goal of the Childhood and Family Experiences Study is to understand the perspectives of both low-income children and their parents in order to inform ways in which social safety net programs can better serve families living in poverty. In the last few decades, safety net programs have undergone considerable changes. Consequently, families have had to adapt to shifting processes and bureaucracies, new incentives and constraints, and evolving program goals. Research on the experiences of families living in poverty will shed light on how social programs can help parents achieve self-sufficiency while still providing a safety net for all members of the poorest families.
The study will address the following research questions:
What do children understand about their families’ economic circumstances?
How do families talk about public assistance benefits, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)?
How do parents perceive their economic circumstances and benefit receipt as affecting their families and children?
How do parents and their families interact with public assistance offices and workers? If children interact with these offices, what is it like for them?
The current study is being conducted concurrently with the TANF Office Culture Study (which is being led by MEF Associates). The TANF Office Culture Study will explore how organizational culture, office design, and office procedures contribute to shaping clients’ experiences with TANF, the services provided to them, and, potentially, their outcomes. The two distinct studies will inform one another on questions such as how families experiencing poverty interact with human services offices and the social safety net.