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In the 1990s, devolution of authority from federal to states and local governmental institutions in the administration of social welfare policies, programs, and services is seen as an answer to alleviating poverty among low-income families with children. To this effect, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 has granted an option to tribal governments to administer their own Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) services. In this article we provide findings from early experience of tribes within Arizona in their attempt to self-administer TANF services. We collected and analyzed data from multiple sources, including a review of documents provided by the state and tribal members, in-depth telephone interviews with service providers on 15 of the 21 reservations, and site visits to four reservations at which we conducted group interviews with state and tribal social service providers. We found that under the 1996 welfare legislation, tribal governments have greater authority and flexibility to self-administer welfare policies on their reservations, but they are lacking adequate financial and technical resources to exercise these responsibilities effectively. One unintended positive outcome of this legislation is that communication, coordination, and collaboration among tribes, between tribes and states and tribes and the federal government has increased.

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