Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for teen parents

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Authored By: Northwest Justice Project

If you are a teenager under the age of 18, low income, and have children or are pregnant, you may be able to get help (money) from the state TANF program. Read on for answers to your questions about how to get TANF. #7122EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Yes, you should read this if you live in Washington State, you're under age 18, you have a low income, and you have children or are pregnant.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a government program gives you a small monthly cash grant if you're eligible for it. The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is in charge of the TANF program in Washington state.

It depends. To get the full TANF amount, generally these things must be true:

  • You must have someone who can accept TANF payments for you (called a payee) and live in a DSHS-approved living situation. You can read the state rule about this at WAC 388-486-0005. You don't have to live with family if you're emancipated, have no family who will let you live with them, or your parent or guardian has abused you.
  • You must be in high school or a GED program and meet attendance requirements (WAC 388-486-0010), or you must be looking for work, or otherwise taking part in WorkFirst if you already have your diploma.

Yes. You can get TANF for just your child. You can read the state rule about this at WAC 388-486-0010(1).

Yes. You can get food stamps and medical coverage for your child and yourself.

Online: Apply at wahealthplanfinder.org.

Phone or other ways: If you have no internet, or you have trouble with the online application, call 1-855-923-4633 (1-855-WAFINDER) for help. They can help you find a Navigator. This is a volunteer in your community trained to help with the application process.

You can call 877-501-2233 or apply online. Depending on staffing, you may also be able to apply in person at your local Community Services Office (CSO).

Find the CSO nearest you. When you get there, ask for a TANF application. They must let you file a written application if that's what you want to do. They shouldn't turn you away at the front desk without letting you file an application.

Generally, you can get TANF for yourself and your children for 5 years (60 months). But in some situations, you may be able to get it for longer, for example if you're a survivor of domestic violence or starting July 1, 2024, if you have children at home under age 2. You also have the option of getting TANF just for your child even after your 5 years is up.

It depends on how many children you have, and how much income you get from work or other sources. For example, if you're a single parent with no other income, and one child, your monthly TANF grant will be $528. If you have one child and you're not eligible to get TANF yourself because of your living situation and/or school attendance, your child's TANF grant will be $417. You can read the state rule about this at WAC 388-478-0020.

DSHS pays all minors under age 18 through a protective payee. This adult or agency gets your check from DSHS. The payee then pays your bills and/or gives you money to meet your and your child's needs.

Yes, they will count your parents' income for TANF if you live with your parents. You can read the state rules about this at WAC 388-408-015(c) and WAC 388-450-0120.

If you don't live with your parents, DSHS will ask your parents if they will support you. You can read the state rule about this at WAC 388-454-0025.

* DSHS won't contact your parents if you're married, in the military, or emancipated.

Contact legal services for help. See contact info below.

Contact legal services for help. See contact info below.

You can ask for a hearing with an administrative law judge. You can read the state rule about this at WAC 388-406-0060(5). At the hearing, you can tell the judge why you should get TANF. Read I applied for benefits. DSHS said no to learn more.

No, not until your child is 12 weeks old. You can read the state rule about this at WAC 388-486-0010(4)(b). After that, you must be in high school or a GED program and meeting attendance requirements to keep getting a full TANF grant.

Yes. If you'd otherwise be in school, you must stay in school until the baby is born.

If you've graduated from high school or have a GED, you generally must take part in WorkFirst to get TANF. There are exceptions to this. Read Questions and Answers about WorkFirst to learn more.

If you don't live with them because of abuse or another good reason, tell your DSHS social worker. DSHS should let you live with, for example, a friend or another adult relative. You can read the state rule about this at WAC 388-486-0005(4).

If DSHS thinks you're in an "inappropriate living situation," you won't get TANF. If this happens, ask for an administrative hearing. At the hearing, ask the judge to approve your living situation. Contact a legal services program for help.

It depends. If they're a certain number of years older than you, DSHS won't give you TANF if you live together. You can read the state rule about this at WAC 388-486-0005(6).

DSHS won't give you benefits while you live with any adult partner who's a certain number of years older, even if they're not your child's other parent. If you have questions about this, talk to legal services.

Yes. If you're meeting attendance requirements, DSHS should pay for childcare during school hours. If DSHS refuses, ask them for an administrative hearing, then get legal advice.

Yes. Your child can still get TANF.

If you're working with a DSHS social worker, you may be able to get Support Services money to get into school and/or get into a DSHS-approved living situation. You can also still get other benefits for your child and yourself, such as food stamps and Medicaid.

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

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Last Review and Update: May 14, 2024
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