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. Publication #7122EN

Please Note:

  • Read this only if you live in Washington State.

The Basics

Yes, if you:

  • Are under age 18
  • Have a low income
  • Have children or are pregnant

This government program gives you a small monthly cash grant.

In Washington, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is in charge of the TANF program.

It depends.

To get the full TANF amount, you must:

  • Have a someone who can accept TANF payments for you (called a payee) and live with your parents, another adult relative, a legal guardian, or in a DSHS-approved living situation (WAC 388-486-0005); and
  1. Be in high school or a GED program, and meeting attendance requirements (WAC 388-486-0010); or
  2. Be looking for work, or otherwise taking part in WorkFirst if you already have your diploma. There are some exceptions to this.

Yes. You can get TANF for just your children. Read the state regulation about this at WAC 388-486-0010(1).

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

Online: Apply at WA Healthplan Finder.

Phone or other ways: If you have no internet or have trouble with the online application, call 1-855-923-4633 (1-855-WAFINDER) for help. They can help you find an In-Person Assister. 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 the status of COVID-19, you may also be able to apply in person at your local Community Services Office.

Find the CSO nearest you using DSHS. 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. Generally, you can only get TANF for five years.

You can get TANF for longer in some situations, such as:

  1. If you are experiencing family violence, or
  2. Starting June 9, 2022, 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 (WAC 388-406-0035(2)).

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 $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 regulation about this at WAC 388-478-0020.

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.

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. You can read the state regulation about this at WAC 388-454-0025.

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

Potential Issues

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 regulation 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:

  1. Fill out a Hearing Request at the DSHS office or
  2. 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 denied you.

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).

No, not until your child is twelve weeks old (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 some 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 (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. 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 regulation 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 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 DSHS benefits for your children and yourself, such as food stamps and Medicaid.

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Get Legal Help

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

Last Review and Update: Aug 31, 2022
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