Temporary Assistance For Needy Families: Sanctioning And Child Support Compliance Among Black Families In Illinois

Kathryn Kaplan, Suniya Farooqui, Jamela Clark, Emily Dobson, Rita Jefferson, Niya Kelly, Katherine Buitrago, Kimberly Drew, Aces Lira, Maxica Williams, Taishi Neuman, and Yoojin Kim

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal cash welfare program for low-income, working families with children in the United States that requires participation with child support enforcement, if one parent is noncustodial, to receive the cash benefit. Cash assistance has been linked to improved child health and academic achievement, but sanctions to benefits can increase health risks. Our community-engaged, mixed-methods research project sought to identify barriers to TANF among families with young children in Illinois. In this study we analyzed TANF sanctions related to child support enforcement, using analysis of TANF administrative data and semi-structured interviews with TANF customers. We conducted logistic regression and Fisher’s test to explore demographic differences in sanctioning and sanction types. Black families were 111 percent more likely than White families to receive at least one sanction in 2018–19. Black families who were enrolled in TANF received more sanctions for child support noncompliance (2018: 42 percent; 2019: 50 percent) than White families (2018: 30 percent; 2019: 34 percent). Mothers who were survivors of intimate partner violence voiced particular challenges with child support compliance. Policy recommendations include shifting to alternative cash assistance models and removing pass-through funding so that families receive the full child support benefit.