Your Rights Under Welfare Reform
Revised January 2002
If you are
under age 20 and pregnant or a parent, you must be in school
full-time or have graduated from school. If you are under age 18
years, you must also meet special living arrangement rules. You
still have a right to file your own
application for TAFDC benefits without your parents, even
if you live with them.
1. How do the school attendance rules work?
Unless you have graduated, if you are under 20 you must
be in high school, middle or elementary school OR a in a full-time
GED (high school equivalency) program of at leat 20 hours per week.
If your GED program is less than 20 hours a week, you may be asked to
do community service or other training as well. This rule does not
apply if you are within 60 days of turning age 20. You must be in
school or a GED program at least 75% of the time (15 hours out of a
20 hour program) to be eligible for TAFDC benefits. If you need
help getting into school, ask your DTA worker. The worker is
supposed to help you find a program and help you get day care and pay
for transportation costs to school and day care. But,
you cannot be sanctioned if you are not in school because of lack of
child care or if you or because of domestic or teen dating
violence (like where your current or former boyfriend is stalking or
has threatened you).
2. Are there good reasons for absence from
Yes. You can have good cause for absences due to
lack of transportation or child care, bad weather, a health problem,
an emergency or crisis you need to attend to. If you do not
have good cause and you are absent more than 25% of the time, you
will first lose about $92 of you TAFDC grant for 30 days. After 30
days, you will lose the entire TAFDC grant. Your Food Stamps and
MassHealth should continue.
3. How does the living arrangment rule work?
If you are under
age 18 and not married, you must:
with your parents, orLive
with another relative (related to you or your baby) who is age 20 or
with a legal guardian, orBe a
"graduate of a DSS independent living program," or
years old and meet special "waiver" rules (see below).
If you do not meet one of the above, you may be asked to
live in a teen living program — if one is available. If you
are under 18 and married, you must be living with your spouse to be
18- and 19- year old teens (and teens within 60 days of turning age
18) do not need to live with parents, relatives or in group homes.
But you do need to meet the school rules above.
4. Who are the relatives you can live with?
Teens still meet the living arrangement rules if
living with an aunt, uncle, grandparent, older sibling or other
relative who is age 20 or older. You can also live with a former
stepparent—like your father's ex-wife or the paternal
grandparents of your child (but this does not include living with
the child's father if you are unmarried). Your relatives do
not have to get legal guardianship. If you live with an
unrelated adult, that person does need to be legal guardian. Note:
The income of relatives or legal guardians does not count in
calculating your TAFDC grant.
5. What if you can't live with your parents?
If you are under 18 and can't live with your mother or
father, tell DTA. A teen specialist under contract with DSS will
contact you and look at whether you can continue with your parents,
in a teen living program, or on your own. You should
not be forced to live at home if you fear abuse, if your
parent(s) refuse to support you, there is substance abuse in the
home, if the home has code violations, OR if there are any
other "extraordinary circumstances." The teen
specialist’s job is to find out why you cannot live at home
and make a recommendation Be sure to tell her ALL the reasons.
You can also ask your school guidance counselor or other
professionals who know you to call or write the teen specialist.
If the teen specialist agrees you cannot go home, DTA may find you a
teen living program to go or advise you of the waiver rules for 17
Teens who are 17 years old and cannot live with your parents can
request a special "waiver" to live on their own if: a) in
a good living situation, b) in school full-time in good standing, c)
have stable child care and d) are participating in a teen parenting
program. Note: If
you are within 60 days of turning age 18, you do not need a waiver
and are exempt from the rule.
6. How is Parental Income counted?
If you are under age 18 and live at home,
your parents' income above 200% of the poverty level counts
in deciding how much TAFDC you and your baby get. This level is
currently $1,990/month for two persons. If your parents refuse to
tell DTA their income, you may be denied TAFDC but you can still
apply for Food Stamps and MassHealth. Note: Your parent’s
income does not count once you turn age 18. The income of
non-parent relatives you live with does not count —regardless
of your age.
7. Challenging denial of benefits:
If your TAFDC is being cut, you have a the right to an
advance written notice. If you ask for a hearing within 10
days of the date of notice, your benefits should continue during the
You have a right to bring in any new evidence about why
you cannot live at home. If DTA says you missed too much school,
bring to the hearing any information that explains why you missed
classes. You have a right to see your TAFDC case record, including
school attendance records and/or reports from the DSS contracted
teen specialist. You have the right to make copies of any documents
in your file, to ask questions of DTA worker or the teen specialist
at the hearing and to bring a friend or advocate to assist you.
Call your local Legal Services for more advice or legal
representation. You can also contact the Alliance for Young
Families: 1-617- 482-9122 for advice and referrals.
Produced by the Mass. Law Reform Institute: Revised