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Federal welfare law requires minor custodial parents receiving cash assistance to attend school and live with their parents or in an adult-supervised setting. Congress established these requirements as part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which created the program for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and abolished the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. A number of States have also established similar requirements.

Welfare policies that apply specifically to teenage parents pose a special challenge, because many young parents do not head their own cash assistance case. When an assistance case includes an older adult, an adolescent, and a very young child, it is often unclear whether the adolescent or the older adult is the parent of the young child, at least for assistance purposes. States are not supposed to use TANF block grant funds to provide financial assistance to unmarried minor custodial parents who do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent unless they are attending school. To meet this requirement, state welfare agencies must define school attendance requirements, obtain attendance information, and follow up with teenager parents who fail to attend school.

Inside Welfare