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The District Dime Blog: TANF is a Lifeline for DC’s Most Vulnerable Kids

March 3, 2016

Children’s Law Center knows how important the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) is to program is for children and families in DC who are struggling for poverty. Due to time limits, 6,500 families are poised to lose this critical lifeline on Oct. 1.

Recently, DCFPI featured a moving and informative blog from Children’s Law Center Senior Policy Attorney Kimberly Waller about the urgency of TANF reform. Here’s an excerpt:

The evidence is clear: TANF works and protects kids from the harshest effects of poverty. Conversely, the experiences of families in other jurisdictions tell us that cuts in TANF benefits have resulted in increased hunger and poor health outcomes among children.[i]Additionally, children in families who have lost TANF support do worse in a number of developmental areas and score lower on tests of quantitative and reading skills, resulting in long-ranging effects on these children’s ability to finish school and find meaningful work as adults.[ii]

While the direct impact on a child’s future well-being can be devastating, what is equally alarming is the link shown between cuts to TANF and increased homelessness and involvement in the child abuse and neglect system. Studies in multiple states have shown that TANF cuts correspond to increased housing instability and increased contact with the child welfare system.[iii]

If we are to use other states as a guide, if the TANF cut-off takes effect without transitioning these families to jobs and other support, our child welfare system, homeless services and other human services functions must be prepared to absorb a significant increase in demand. Many of these families will face an increased risk of instability and others will immediately fall into crisis.

The bottom line: eliminating TANF payments to families is the wrong thing to do. It will hurt children and will strain our social safety net.That is why the Children’s Law Center supports the District of Columbia Public Assistance Amendment Act of 2015. This legislation was co-introduced by six councilmembers and is strongly supported by the community. 

Follow the link below read the full blog.