TANF Stories: Highlights of Families Facing Challenges on the Path to Employment

This week, the District Dime is running a special series to highlight stories of parents trying to move from welfare to work while also keeping their children safe and well cared for. We have invited colleagues from other organizations to share these stories’about young parents, families with serious health issues, and parents coping with domestic violence. Some have successfully secured employment, and many needed special help along the way.

These stories illustrate that families often face multiple challenges on the path to employment and economic security. And it shows that DC’s TANF program’our main welfare to work program’needs to be flexible to be successful. In particular, the District’s “one size fits all” approach to time limits, which cuts benefits for families regardless of how hard they are trying and regardless of the barriers to employment they face, needs to become more flexible and include sensible time limit exemptions.

Here’s what you can expect this week:

  • Alvin Smith of Grant Associates, a TANF employment services provider, will highlight two parents who have successfully obtained employment.
  • Susan Ruether of the DC Alliance for Youth Advocates will discuss how young parents need time to adjust to their new roles and responsibilities and need time to make sure they can complete school.
  • Judith Sandalow of the Children’s Law Center will discuss how parents of children with disabilities need support and time to complete job training while also making sure that their children’s needs are met
  • Lindsey Bartlett of the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence will discuss why it doesn’t make sense to run the TANF time clock when parents are dealing with domestic violence, and how most states stop the clock in these situations

While all of these stories are different, the common thread is the value of reasonable exemptions to time limits, which most states offer, to give families time to deal with serious issues that interfere with their ability to work such as domestic violence, illness, or caring for a family member with a disability. While the District doesn’t require families to be looking for employment while they are facing serious issues such as these, the TANF time clock continues to run, leaving the family at risk for steep benefit cuts. That doesn’t make sense. 

By ensuring that vulnerable families have time to prepare for work and that all participants have timely access to employment services, we can ensure the TANF redesign is a success. We hope you enjoy the series!

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