An analysis of the application and assessment processes of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families under the Family Violence Option
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The purpose of the three studies in this dissertation is to better understand how the victims of domestic violence experience the application and the assessment processes used in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Under the Family Violence Option, the victims of domestic violence need to be identified, assessed for their needs, and provided relevant services. The first study conceptualizes domestic violence screening in TANF as an interpersonal, micro-level type of interaction between the TANF applicant and the frontline TANF caseworker. It also illuminates the gap between the intended service outcomes regarding good cause waivers, which occur in an informed disclosure scenario, and the predicted outcomes in an uninformed disclosure scenario, using Bayesian strategic game theoretical models. Without the presence of an ethical caseworker, the processes designed to provide a universal screening of the applicant for domestic violence, as well as the outcomes of those processes, become unavailable to the victims of domestic violence. Using a sample of N=35 victims of domestic violence in Georgia, the second study explores the correlations among 1) the various barriers to complying with the TANF requirements, 2) the frontline TANF workers’ responses in the screening for domestic violence, and 3) the responses from the victims of domestic violence to disclose abuse and apply for good cause waivers. The disclosure rate (65.4%) among the participants in this sample was higher than that in other reviewed studies, as the participants in this current study were experiencing ongoing domestic violence. The screening for domestic violence and the participants’ readiness to work were associated with both their disclosure of domestic violence and their application for at least one waiver, while only the barriers to applying for child support were correlated with the screening for domestic violence. The third study offers a more comprehensive understanding of how victims of domestic violence in Georgia experience the TANF application and assessment processes. It is an understanding based on semi-structured interviews with the victims of domestic violence, local domestic violence advocates, and nationally recognized experts of the Family Violence Option. The TANF requirements and the related penalty were understood as the major barriers to completing the TANF application and/or receiving TANF. The local relationship between a TANF program and a domestic violence agency was found to be the key to improving procedures of the TANF application and assessment for victims of domestic violence.