Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for teen parents

Read this in: Spanish / Español
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 are under age 18, you have a low income, and you have children or are pregnant.

If you are eligible for it, this government program gives you a small monthly cash grant. 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 with your parents, or another adult relative, or a legal guardian, or 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 are emancipated, have no family living who are willing for you to live with them, or your parent or guardian has abused you.

  • You must be in high school or a GED program, and meeting 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 at washingtonconnection.org. Depending on staffing, you may also be able to apply in person at your local Community Services Office (CSO).

You can find the CSO nearest you using dshs.wa.gov/office-locations. When you get there, ask for a TANF application. They must let you file a written application if that is what you want to do. They should not turn you away at the front desk without letting you file an application.

This also depends. You can only get TANF for yourself and your child for 5 years. But starting July 1, 2023, you can still get TANF just for your child even after your 5 years is up.

You can also get TANF for yourself for longer in some situations, such as if you are experiencing family violence, or if unemployment in the state is high. Read Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): The Basics to learn more.

DSHS should decide within 30 days of you turning in your application if you can get TANF. You can read the state rule about this at WAC 388-406-0035(2).

It depends on how many children you have, and how much income you get from work or other sources.

For example, if you are a single parent with no other income, and one child, your monthly TANF grant will be $528. If you have one child and are 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 do not 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 will not contact your parents if you are married, in the military, or emancipated.

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.

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 to learn more. Call CLEAR at 1-888-201-1014 to get legal help.

You must either fill out a Hearing Request at the DSHS office or Write to the Office of Administrative Hearings at P.O. Box 42489, Olympia, WA 98504.

You must ask for it no later than 90 days after the date DSHS turned down your application (the date DSHS denied you).

Starting July 1, 2023, if circumstances beyond your control, such as medical issues, housing instability, language barriers, or domestic violence, keep you from meeting that deadline, you should still ask for a hearing as soon as you can.

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 (this is called an expedited hearing).

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

If you have 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 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. You can read the state rule about this at WAC 388-486-0005(4).

If DSHS thinks you are in an "inappropriate living situation," you will not 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 he is a certain number of years older than you, DSHS will not give you TANF if you live together. You can read the state rule about this at WAC 388-486-0005(6).

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.

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.

Yes. Your child can still 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 to learn more.

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: Sep 07, 2023
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