Youth Justice: Young Parents and Welfare Benefits

What kinds of benefits are available to young parents & pregnant teens?

The programs are: TANF Cash Assistance, SSI, Medical Assistance, SNAP (Food Stamps), and WIC.

Can teens get TANF Cash Assistance if they have children or are pregnant?

Cash welfare (TANF) can include money for child care, funds for books and supplies for education programs and transportation assistance.

If you are a low-income teen parent, you can get cash assistance if:

  • You go to school or a vocational program full time. You may be able to be excused from this if you are disabled or are a victim of domestic violence; and
  • You tell DPW about your child’s father. This is for DPW to get child support. You don’t have to tell them if you have “good cause” because of domestic violence. This means, if you are afraid that the father of your children will hurt you if you give his name, you do not have to; and
  • You live in an “adult supervised living arrangement.” An adult supervised living arrangement includes living with your parents, another adult, or in a program.  However, there are exceptions to this requirement.

What are the exceptions to the “adult supervised living arrangement” requirement?

You do not need to live with your parents to get help! If you cannot live with your parents you may be excused from this requirement.  For example:

  • if your parents are ill, have died, won’t let you live with them or don’t have space for you;
  • if they are unable to take care of you for mental, emotional, physical or financial reasons;
  • if your parents spent your check in an inappropriate way;
  • if they live far away and you have not lived with them for twelve months or more and you are working, in school or in substance abuse treatment where you live;
  • if you or your child’s mental or physical health would be at risk if you lived with them;
  • if there is a history of sexual abuse;
  • or if there are other good reasons why you shouldn’t live there.

How Do I apply for TANF Cash Assistance?

You can apply for TANF Cash Assistance online (www.compass.state.pa.us) or through the welfare office. 

What is “Medical Assistance” (MA) and do I qualify?

The Medical Assistance (MA) program provides free health care coverage. If you have MA, you get a medical card. If you quality for TANF, or SSI, you automatically qualify for MA. However, if you are a low-income teen or young parent, you probably qualify for MA even if you do not qualify for the other programs.

You can apply for MA on the telephone (1-866-550-4355) or online (www.compass.state.pa.us) or through the welfare office.

What is “SNAP” and do I qualify?

SNAP is the new name for Food Stamps. SNAP benefits come in the form of an access card you can use to purchase food. Most low-income people qualify for food stamps.  You can get separate food stamps if you do not live with your parents, are not under the “parental control” of an adult and are buying and cooking food separately.

You can apply for SNAP (Food Stamps) online (www.compass.state.pa.us) or through the welfare office.  The Coalition Against Hunger can help you apply (215-430-0556).

What is WIC (“Women, Infants and Children”) and do I qualify?

WIC is a nutritional program for pregnant women and women with children under five that offers foods (such as milk, eggs, cheese, etc.), nutrition information, immunization screenings and referrals to health providers.

Contact WIC at 1-800-743-3300 to apply.

What is SSI and do I qualify?

SSI is a program for people with serious disabilities.  If you or your baby has a serious disability, you can apply for SSI from the Social Security Administration.  Call 1- 800-772-1213 to apply.

Don’t give up!  If you qualify for benefits you are entitled to them!