In a 1997 article in Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education, Bushman wrote that when welfare reform was first introduced, he was concerned that it would further imperil Native Americans: “My first thought was that Indian families have been in crisis since 1492.”
But, he wondered, how would maintaining a cycle of dependency on a governmental power structure that had been antagonistic towards Native peoples benefit Indian Country? “Welfare reform,” he wrote, “provides an opportunity for tribal governments to reclaim and exercise sovereignty. Welfare reform provides an opportunity to break away from the status quo of dependency and paternalism. … Indian tribes have been seeking this autonomy for decades.”
That opportunity came with the establishment of Tribal TANF, Bushman’s crowning achievement. Through TTANF, tribes apply for funds independently and administer their own programs. Bushman was named the first director, and traveled to reservations around the country giving trainings. As of 2018, there are 74 approved Tribal TANF programs, which serve 284 federally recognized tribes.
Around this time, Bushman met his second wife, Naomi Goldstein, who now works in the Administration for Children & Families within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.