Financial Help for Teen Mothers

By Tammy Quinn Mckillip
A pregnant lady standing outside.
A pregnant lady standing outside.

Parenthood can be an expensive endeavor. Teen moms often need financial support to help their families get by while they work or attend school. Fortunately, federal, state and local programs can provide underage mothers with the funds they need to put their families on track for success.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Approximately half of all teen parents will need some form of welfare assistance within the first 5 years of having a child, and the federal government provides designated funding to each state through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant. Benefit eligibility varies from state to state, and a minor parent may be required to live with a responsible adult and attend school or job training in order to receive funding from TANF. The amount of funding a teenage mother receives will depend upon how many children she has and how much money she earns from other sources. Mothers under the age of 18 will receive their funds through a "protective payee," a responsible adult who will pay the teen's bills and provide her with the cash she needs to pay for her family's necessities. To apply for TANF funds, a teen may visit their local Department of Social and Health Services to request an application and will receive a decision within 30 days.

Modest Needs Grants

A U.S. or Canadian teen who needs short-term financial assistance my apply online for a Modest Needs grant. Founded in 2002, the not-for-profit Modest Needs organization is designed to assist needy families and individuals who are otherwise ineligible for most types of government assistance and are undergoing a temporary financial crisis by directly paying overdue bills to vendors or creditors named in an applicant's documentation.The grants are funded by charitable donors and need never be repaid. Modest Needs only asks that the grantee to thank the individual donors for their help.

Pregnancy Assistance Fund

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health funds Pregnancy Assistance Fund grants to states and tribal entities for teen mothers who need supportive services in order to finish high school or college, receive health and child care, find adequate housing or pay for other important needs. States receiving PAF grants use the funding in a variety of ways to support teen parents, including providing home nursing or childcare, parenting and life skills education, prenatal and reproductive health care, flexible schooling, child-father involvement services, domestic violence and sexual assault programs, community service centers and health care providers. To inquire about receiving benefits funded by the PAF, visit your state Health and Human Services website.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children provides federal grants to states to help low-income women and children under the age of 5 who may be at nutritional risk receive nutrition education, food and health care referrals. A pregnant teen is eligible to receive WIC assistance during her pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after the birth of her baby. A postpartum mother remains eligible up to 6 months after giving birth or up to a year after her baby is born if she is breastfeeding. Children remain eligible until their 5th birthday. The WIC applicant must live in the state or Indian Tribal Organization in which they apply, have been determined to be nutritionally at risk by a physician or clinician, and have an income that falls between 100 to 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines issued each year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Teen mothers eligible for SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF are automatically eligible to receive WIC benefits.

Medicaid Programs

Pregnant teens, teen mothers and their children are eligible for confidential healthcare administered through Medicaid programs, including Prenatal Care Assistance Program and Child Health Plus. Babies born to teen mothers on Medicaid or PCAP are covered under these plans until they are one year old. Mothers are covered by PCAP until 60 days after the birth of their baby. Mothers under the age of 19 who are ineligible for Medicaid may be covered by the CHP B plan, based upon the size of their family, income and age. These benefits are available to U.S. citizens and documented or undocumented immigrants. A pregnant teen applicant does not have to provide information regarding her immigration status when applying for PCAP or Medicaid, though she may be asked to provide the information in order to continue receiving services after her baby is born. Teens under the age of 19 are eligible for CHP regardless of their immigration status.