Public Assistance For Minors Living Alone

Can I receive public assistance if I am under 21 and don’t live with my parents?
Possibly. Minors 16 and older who don’t live with their parents (including minors living alone) might be eligible to receive welfare on their own. But there are strict guidelines which you must meet. Minors under 16 will not be granted welfare in their name; they must live with a responsible adult.

Can I be denied public assistance because I refuse to return home?
If you are 18 or older and have a child or are at least six months pregnant, you cannot be denied welfare because you refuse to return home.

However, if you are under 18 and have a child or are at least six months pregnant, you must live with a parent, legal guardian, other responsible adult relative, or in an adult-supervised living situation in order to receive public assistance UNLESS you have good cause. Good cause means that:

  1. you are married or have been married;
  2. you have lived away from your parent or legal guardian for at least one year;
  3. you have no living parent or guardian, or they are living but their whereabouts are unknown;
  4. your parent or legal guardian refuses to allow you and your child to live at home;
  5. living at home would be harmful to you or your child;
  6. your parent or guardian will allow you to live at home but not your child.

If you tell the Department of Social Services (DSS) that you cannot return home because the health of you or your child would be jeopardized, DSS is required to investigate your claim.

If you do not have good cause, and you will not return home to live with your parent or legal guardian, you may still qualify for public assistance as long as you live with an adult relative or in an adult-supervised supportive living situation. An example of an adult supportive living situation is a family setting where an adult assumes responsibility for your care and supervision the way that a parent would. Another example is a maternity home where counseling, guidance or supervision is offered.

If you do not have a child, the Department of Social Services (DSS) can deny you assistance if your parent(s) agree(s) that you can return home to a good environment. However, even if your parents say you can return home DSS must check to see if the home environment is safe if you have told them it is unsafe.

If your home environment is not good, DSS cannot force you to return home. If there is overcrowding, or your parents have been abusive, or there is another good reason for not returning, you should not be denied assistance because you refuse to return home.

Can DSS sue my parents for support if I am given public assistance?
Yes. Because your parents are financially responsible for you until age 21, DSS can sue them in Family Court for support if you are given assistance. DSS does not file a suit in every case.

If DSS decides to sue your parents, you must cooperate unless you fear for your safety. If you fear for your safety, you must tell DSS why. You cannot be denied assistance while DSS sues your parents.

Do I have to take part in an employment or education program if I am given assistance?
Yes, unless you are exempt. The list of exemptions is quite long; so if you have questions about whether you are exempt, call us.

What if I am under 20 and have not graduated from high school?
Unless you are exempt, you may have to return to school or enter a GED (General Equivalency Diploma) program.

As a minor, how much public assistance will I receive?
You will receive the same benefits an adult receives. Depending on your circumstances, this could include a shelter allowance, a cash grant, Medicaid, and Food Stamps.

√   If you are at least 16 years old you may be eligible to receive a public assistance grant in your own right but only if you have “good cause” for not returning home.

√   Social Services may sue your parents for support in return for the assistance you receive.

√   Social Services must check to see if your home is safe to return to if you have told them that it is unsafe.