Based on its FY2011 budget request for TANF, the Obama Administration continues to link poverty reduction to family structure. The TANF budget request extends TANF funding for one year, including recession-related emergency funds for states that were introduced in last year's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The only proposed change in TANF is the allocation of $500 million for a "Fatherhood, Marriage, and Families Innovation Fund." This represents a huge increase in funds for fatherhood and related family structure programs -- from $150 million each year under the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Father Initiative of the Bush Administration, to $500 million in just one year. According to the HHS narrative (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/olab/budget/2011/TANF.pdf) about the proposed family structure initiative, it is hoped that programs supported by these funds will usher in future changes in the TANF program. So, far from a one-shot deal, this is a shot-in-the-arm to proponents of privatizing poverty reduction through patriarchal family norms. Significantly, despite economic hard times, the budget request does not include increases in cash grants to struggling families, a suspension of time limits on eligibility for assistance, an end to sanctions, or a change in rules so that more families in need of assistance can actually get it.
We need to insist on changes to the structure of TANF, not the structure of families. For starters, FY2011 TANF funding should be conditioned on suspending time limits, sanctions, and diversion practices.