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Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for Teen Parents

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
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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. Publication #7122EN

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Should I read this this?

Yes, if you

  • Are under age 18

  • Have low income

  • Have children OR are pregnant

Can I get TANF?

It depends.  To get the full TANF amount, you must:

  • have a protective payee and live with your parents, another adult relative, a legal guardian, or in a DSHS-approved living situation (WAC 388-486-0005); AND

  • be in high school or a GED program, and meeting attendance requirements (WAC 388-486-0010); OR

  • looking for work, or otherwise taking part in WorkFirst if you already have your diploma- some exceptions may apply

I cannot get a full TANF grant.  Can I get some TANF? - WAC 388-486-0010(1)

Yes. You can get TANF for just your child.  

Can I get other benefits?

Yes. You can get food assistance and medical coverage for your children and yourself.

How do I apply for medical coverage?  

Online: Apply at wahealthplanfinder.org.

Phone or other ways: If you have no internet or have trouble with the online application, ask at your local welfare office (the

Department of Social and Health Services, or DSHS) office or call 1-855-923-4633 (1-855-WAFINDER) for help.  They can help you find an In-Person Assister—a volunteer in your community trained to help with the application process.

How do I apply for TANF?

Go to your local DSHS office.  Ask for a TANF application. You have the right to file a written application.  They should not turn you away at the front desk without letting you file an application.

When will they make a decision on my application? – WAC 388-406-0035(2)

DSHS should decide within 30 days of you turning in your application if you can get TANF.  

It has been more than 30 days. What if I have not heard anything?

Contact legal services for help.

DSHS says I cannot get TANF.  Now what? - WAC 388-406-0060(5)

You can ask for a hearing with an administrative law judge.  At the hearing, you can tell the judge why you should get TANF.  

You may be able to get legal help for the hearing. You can bring someone to help you.  You can have witnesses and show the judge evidence.  Read Representing Yourself at an Administrative Hearing.  Call CLEAR at 1-888-201-1014.

How do I ask for an administrative hearing?

Fill out a Hearing Request at the DSHS office or write the Office of Administrative Hearings, P.O. Box 42489, Olympia, WA  98504.  

When should I ask for an administrative hearing?

You must ask for it no later than 90 days after the date DSHS denied you.

What if I need the hearing right away?

If it is an emergency, call the Office of Administrative Hearings at (360) 664-8717 or 1-800-583-8271.  Ask them to hold the hearing as soon as possible (an expedited hearing).

How much TANF will I get?

It depends on: 

  • How many children you have.

  • How much income you get from work or other sources.

If you are a single parent with no other income, and one child, your monthly TANF grant will be $459.  If you have one child and are not eligible for TANF yourself because of your living situation and/or school attendance, your child’s TANF grant will be $363.  WAC 388-478-0020.

How will DSHS pay me?

DSHS pays all minors under 18 through a protective payee.  This adult or agency gets your check from DSHS. They then pay your bills and/or give you money to meet your and your child’s needs.

Will DSHS count my parents’ income for TANF?

Yes, if you live with them.  WAC 388-408-015(c); WAC 388-450-0120.  If you do not, DSHS will ask your parents if they will support you.  WAC 388-454-0025.

*DSHS will not contact your parents if you are married, in the military, or emancipated.

I have a newborn. Do I have to go to school? - WAC 388-486-0010(4)(b)

No, not until your child is twelve weeks old.  After that, you must be in high school or a GED program and meeting attendance requirements to keep getting a full TANF grant.

I am pregnant. Do I have to go to school?

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

What if I already have my diploma?

If you have graduated from high school or have a GED, you must take part in Workfirst to get TANF.  Read Questions and Answers about Workfirst.

What if I do not live with my parents or legal guardian? – WAC 388-486-0005(4)

If you do not 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.

If DSHS thinks you are in an “inappropriate living situation,” you will not get TANF. If this happens, ask for an administrative hearing. Ask the judge to approve your living situation. Contact a legal services program for help.

My child’s father is 18 or older. Can I live with him? -  WAC 388-486-0005(6)

It depends.  If he is a certain number of years older than you, DSHS will not give you TANF if you live together.

DSHS will not give you benefits while you live with any adult boyfriend who is a certain number of years older, even if he is not your child’s father.  If you have questions about this, talk to legal services.

I am in school. Can I get childcare?

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

Can we get any help if I do not follow all these rules?

Yes. Your child can get TANF.

If you are 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.  Read DSHS Support Services for WorkFirst Participants.

You can also still get other DSHS benefits for your children and yourself, such as food stamps and Medicaid.

How can I get legal help?

  • If you live outside King County, call CLEAR at 1-888-201-1014 weekdays, 9:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

  • If you live in King County, call the King County Bar Association’s Neighborhood Legal Clinics at (206) 267-7070, 9:00 a.m. - noon, Monday – Thursday, to schedule a free half-hour of legal advice.

This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of February 2019.

© 2019 Northwest Justice Project. 1-888-201-1014.
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and individuals for non-commercial use only.)

7122EN

Last Review and Update: Feb 25, 2019
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