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Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for Teen Parents

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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7122EN - 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.

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You may be able to get help (money) from the state TANF program if you are:

  • under the age of 18 AND

  • low-income AND

  • you have children, or are pregnant

This publication discusses how to get TANF.

Can I get financial help for my children and myself?

In addition to the above, to get the full TANF amount, you must also:

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

  • be in high school or in a GED program, and meeting that program's attendance requirements; OR

  • be looking for work, or otherwise taking part in WorkFirst if you already have your diploma

If you cannot get a full TANF grant because of the living situation rules and/or school attendance rules, you can still get TANF for just your child. You can also get other benefits for your children and yourself, such as food stamps and medical coverage.

How can I find out what kind of medical coverage we are eligible for?  

Online: You can apply at www.wahealthplanfinder.org through Healthplanfinder, a new organization sometimes known by its legal name, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

Phone or other ways: If you do not have internet access or you have trouble with the online application, ask at your DSHS office or call the hotline and ask for help. The phone number is 1-855-923-4633 (1-855-WAFINDER). These places can help you find an In-Person Assister—someone in your community trained to help you with the application process free.

To get TANF, go to your local welfare office (the Department of Social and Health Services, or DSHS). 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.
After you fill out the application, DSHS should decide within 30 days if you can get TANF. If DSHS denies your application, or if over 30 days have passed and you have not heard anything from DSHS, contact legal services for help.

DSHS says I cannot get TANF. Now what?

If DSHS tells you cannot get TANF for yourself and/or your children, you have the right to ask for an administrative hearing. This is a hearing with an administrative law judge. You can tell the judge why you should get TANF.

You may be able to get legal help for the hearing by contacting a legal services program. You may also bring someone to help you. You have the rights to have witnesses and show evidence to the judge. Our publication Representing Yourself at an Administrative Hearing has more information.

To ask for an administrative hearing, fill out a Fair Hearing Request at the welfare office or write to the Office of Administrative Hearings, P.O. Box 42489, Olympia, WA  98504. You must ask for your hearing no later than 90 days after the date DSHS denied you. If it is an emergency, ask to them to hold your hearing as soon as possible (an "expedited" hearing) by calling the Office of Administrative Hearings at (360) 664-8717 or 1-800-583-8271.

I can get TANF. How much 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 $385. If you have one child and are not eligible for TANF yourself because of DSHS's living situation and/or school attendance rules, your child's monthly TANF grant will be $305.  

How will DSHS pay me?

DSHS pays all minors under 18 years old through a "protective payee."  A "protective payee" is an adult or agency that gets your check from DSHS, then pays your bills or gives you money to meet your and your child's needs.

Will they count my parents' income for TANF?

Yes, if you live with your parents. If you do not, DSHS will ask your parents if they will support you.

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

My child is a newborn. Do I have to go to school?

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 the Workfirst program to get TANF. Our publication Questions and Answers about Workfirst has more information.

What if I do not want to live with my parents or legal guardian?

Sometimes living with your parents or legal guardian can be hard or dangerous. If you do not live with your parents because of abuse, or you have another good reason why you cannot live with them, tell your DSHS social worker. DSHS should let you live in a different living situation, such as with a friend or another adult relative.

If DSHS thinks you are in an "inappropriate living situation," they will not give you TANF. If this happens, ask for a fair hearing. Ask the judge to approve your living situation. Contact a legal services program for help. (The box at the end of this publication has contact info.)

May I live with my child's father if he is 18 or older?

It depends on the age difference between you and your child's father. If he is a certain number of years older, DSHS will not let you get TANF benefits if you live with him.

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 rule, talk to legal services.

I am in school. May I get childcare?

Yes. As long as you are meeting the satisfactory attendance requirements of your high school or GED program, DSHS should pay for childcare during your school hours.

If DSHS refuses to pay for your childcare, ask DSHS for an administrative hearing. Then get legal advice.

Can my child and I get help if I do not follow all these rules?

Yes. Even if you do not follow the living situation and school attendance rules, 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. (Our publication called DSHS Support Services for WorkFirst Participants has more information.)

Even if you do not follow the living situation and school attendance rules, you can 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 between 9:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

  • If you live in King County, call the King County Bar Association's Neighborhood Legal Clinics at (206) 267-7070 between 9:00 a.m. and 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 October 2015.

© 2015 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.)

Last Review and Update: Oct 31, 2015