The Interaction of Child Support and TANF

Evidence from Samples of Current and Former Welfare Recipients

| Cynthia Miller, Mary Farrell

Child support can represent an important income source for many low-income families, and the receipt of support may be most critical for women as they transition off welfare. In fact, in the post-welfare reform era emphasizing work and self-sufficiency, child support is seen by many policymakers as a key income support.

Administrators at all levels of government are increasingly recognizing the importance of collaboration between various social service agencies, and the agencies administering welfare (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF) and child support are no exception. In the effort to support self-sufficiency, for example, it is important to make sure that women receive all child support to which they may be entitled while receiving benefits but also after leaving welfare, and that they understand the rules of child support and how much they should receive while on and off welfare.

This report examines the interaction of child support and welfare receipt by addressing several questions concerning child support receipt for samples of current and former welfare recipients. We use several data sources, covering different samples, time periods, and geographic areas, to address these questions in an effort to understand current and former recipients’ status in the child support system, such as their rates of receipt before and after leaving welfare, and the effects of child support on self-sufficiency. This report is the second and final in a series for this project. The first report provided an extensive literature review addressing each of the key research questions.

Key Research Questions

  1. What is the child support status of current and former welfare recipients?
  2. What are the patterns of child support receipt around the welfare exit?
  3. What are the effects of child support receipt on self-sufficiency?
  4. Do families understand the rules of the child support system?
  5. What are the effects of pass-through and disregard policies on child support receipt?
  6. What are the effects of welfare reform policies on child support receipt?