Teen Parent Rights

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the questions below to get specific answers to your public benefits questions, or scroll down to read through all the answers.

The following questions and answers use the term “parenting teens” to include pregnant teens who are eligible for TAFDC benefits beginning four months before their due date.

For additional resources, please visit:

Contact the Massachusetts Alliance Teen Parent Benefits Access Project by email or phone (1-800-645-3750 x115) if you have additional questions or concerns.

If you were denied aid or treated unfairly, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. may be able to help. Call 1-617-367-8544 to reach them.

Education

  1. What are my rights under Title IX?

    The federal Title IX law protects all students attending schools that receive any federal funding (all public schools receive some federal funding) from discrimination on the basis of your sex or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom.

    If you are a teen and feel you have been discriminated against because of being pregnant or a parent, contact the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy at  1-800-645-3750 x115 .

    Other protections under Title IX include:

    Check out a pamphlet with more examples of your Title IX rights here.

    Also helpful is the fact sheet: How to Keep Pregnant and Parenting Students from Dropping Out: A Primer for Schools.

    • You can continue attending school, playing school sports or participating in other school activities and only need a doctor’s note to say it’s OK for you to keep attending school or participating in school activities if a Dr.’s note is required for all students that have other physical or emotional conditions requiring the attention of a physician.
    • You may participate in a separate program or activity for pregnant students, but your participation must be your choice. The separate program or activity also needs to be comparable to that offered to non-pregnant students.
    • When you return from maternity leave, you must be reinstated to the status which you held when your leave began (for example, if you are on maternity leave, your school can not drop your from their roster).
  2. Can I be given special accommodations if needed so I can be in school?

    If the school allows these things for other students with medical conditions, it has to allow them for you.

  3. Do I have a right to a tutor while pregnant or after giving birth to the baby?

    Yes, if your doctor says it is medically necessary for you to miss school and if the school provides tutoring for other students who must be out of school for medical reasons.

  4. Do I have to follow the rules for attendance and late arrival, even if my being a parent (childcare issues, sick children, and medical appointments) affects my attendance?

    Yes, you have to follow the rules. If the school is very strict about its attendance policy and applies it equally to all students no matter what, you have to follow those policies. If they make exceptions for some students, you should be able to make a case for your needs.

  5. What happens if I am on TAFDC (Welfare) and I miss some days at school?

    DTA will ask you to verify (bring proof of) your attendance at school each month. Whether you are in a public school, private school, or a GED program, you need to be attending 100% of the time. If you are not, you must show good cause or you will be sanctioned and your grant will be cut. If in the following month, your attendance continues to be below 100% you will be terminated (cut off completely) from TAFDC. If you go back to school and meet the 100% attendance requirement for 2 consecutive weeks, then your sanction will be lifted and you will receive cash assistance dating back to the day that you went back to school. (If you have been sanctioned and want to go back to school, tell your DTA worker if you need child care or transportation in order to do so — you do not have to wait 2 weeks to get child care or transportation.)

  6. What if I have a good reason to miss school?

    You should be able to claim “good cause” to miss days of school because of your own illness, the illness of your child, a recent death in the family, or another crisis or emergency. If you have any good reason why you can’t attend school, tell your DTA worker. You should also try to get proof such as doctor’s notes, a note from a counselor, court papers, etc. If DTA refuses to accept your good reason and sanctions you, you have the right to file an appeal.

    If you are afraid to go to school because a boyfriend/girlfriend or former boyfriend/girlfriend is threatening you with violence, you may be eligible for a “domestic violence waiver.” Under DTA’s domestic violence waiver rules you are not required to participate in an educational activity if doing so would put you or your child in danger. If you are in this situation tell your DTA worker that you want to fill out an application for a domestic violence waiver.

  7. What if I want to get more education after high school or GED?

    You may be able to attend a DTA-approved education or training program. If you are on TAFDC, current rules require that once you finish high school or GED program and your child is 2 or older, you must work or participate in an approved activity (which can include education or training) between 20–30 hours per week, depending on the age of your child. Education and training can count towards the work requirement for 12 months. If your youngest child on TAFDC is:

    • age 2 through age 6 or school age, you are required to participate for 20 hours per week
    • school age or older, you are required to participate for 30 hours per week.

    If you want more education beyond the 12 months (such as an associate’s degree) you may be eligible to combine school and work. Ask your DTA worker about training and education options.

  8. What if I am on TAFDC (Welfare) and want to go to a four year college?

    DTA does consider 4-year college an “approved activity.” However, education at a four year college still only counts as an approved activity for 12 months. If your youngest child is under 2, however, you are not required to participate in DTA’s work program, and you could begin at a 4-year college. Once your child turns 2, your education activities can count as work for 12 months.

Child Care

  1. How can I get child care?

    If you are on TAFDC and you are going to school or in an approved work activity, you will get a childcare authorization from DTA. You should take that authorization to your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCRR). They will go over the different child care options and help you place your child in a program. DTA will provide child care for employment training, a two year associate programs or four year college programs.

  2. What are the child care options?

    There are three different options to choose from:

    1. You and your baby can enroll in a TPCC program (TPCC stands for Teen Parent Child Care). The TPCC program not only provides childcare for your child but can also teach you parenting skills and provide you with other supports that you may need.You may go directly to the program to enroll. To find out if there is a TPCC program in your area, you can call the Teen Parent Benefits Access Line at 1-800-645-3750 ext.115. 
    2. You can also choose to get a childcare voucher, which you can use at a local child care home or center that takes vouchers.
    3. Finally, if you have a family member or a friend who wants to care for your child for you, DTA will reimburse them at approximately $15.00 for a full day and $8.00 for a half day.
  3. Can I get child care if I am not on TAFDC?

    You can access child care if you are not on TAFDC via option a. listed above. If you are under 18 and ineligible for welfare because your parents make too much money, but need child care care for job training or school, you might be eligible for a DTA voucher. Another option is to go to your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency and ask to be put on the basic voucher wait list. However, these wait lists can be very long. There may be other options for you, depending on your situation, to access child care quickly. Please call us at 1-800-645-3750 x115 if none of the options to access child care above are possible for you.

Medical Care

  1. Do I have a right to free health care?

    Access to free health care in Massachusetts is based on your income level and family size. If you are eligible for welfare, you will also be enrolled in MassHealth, which will cover pretty much all your health care costs and those of your child. If you are not eligible for MassHealth because of income or for other reasons, there are several other options you may be able to access. These include Healthy Start for pregnant women and Children’s Medical Security Plan.

  2. Can I get MassHealth if I am not on TAFDC?

    Yes. If you are under 18 and your parent’s income is under a certain amount, you will be eligible for MassHealth. If your parents refuse to provide medical care for you, then their income is not counted against you. If you are 19 or over or do not live with your parents, then their income cannot count against you.

    If you are pregnant and need health insurance right away you may go to the doctor while your MassHealth application is being processed. MassHealth will pay for your health care starting the date the application is received by them. To get an application for MassHealth, call 1-800-841-2900. If you are pregnant and are ineligible for MassHealth for some reason, you may be eligible for Healthy Start coverage, which provides care during your pregnancy. Call our Teen Parent Benefits Access Line at 1-800-645-3750 ext.115 for the number of the Healthy Start program in your area.

  3. What’s WIC?

    WIC is a food and nutrition program for women, men, infants and children. WIC participants receive checks for nutritious foods such as milk, cheese, fruit juices, cereals, peanut butter, dried beans, eggs and fresh fruits and vegetables. WIC can also help mothers keep their children up-to-date on their shots. You should call WIC as soon as you know you are pregnant to see if you are eligible for their services. The number is 1-800-942-1007.

  4. Can I give consent about my own health care and the health care of my child?

    Yes, if you are pregnant or a parent you can make all decisions regarding your health care and that of your child. This is true for all aspects of your prenatal care, decisions about labor and delivery, breast feeding and any care your baby receives in the hospital after the birth.

  5. Can I make my own decisions about adoption or abortion?

    If you are pregnant and need information on your pregnancy options, the resources below can help you find support and assistance in your community. If your parents or someone else in your family can support you in this; we encourage you to talk to that person.

    If you need a healthcare provider, please check out the list of Massachusetts Family Planning Programs.

    You could also call the Planned Parenthood Counseling and Referral Hotline: 1-617-616-1616 or 1-800-682-9218, available 9 AM to 6 PM Monday through Friday, where you can access unbiased information about your pregnancy options.

    Maria Talks is a Statewide Sexual Helpline: (877)-MA-SEX-ED (877)-627-3933 and website. You can find clinics and services near you by calling or going online. On the website you can email experts with questions about pregnancy options or other sexual health issues. Just click on “Ask Maria” in the bottom left hand corner of the page.

    If you are 18 or over, you can choose adoption or abortion without parental consent. If you are under 18, you can choose adoption for your child without involving your parents. However, we recommend that if your parents or another adult you trust can support you in this, that you talk to them. If you decide you want an abortion, you can obtain an abortion by getting the consent of one of your parents. If you don’t want to ask your parents, or he/she refuses to give permission, you can go before a judge. The judge decides on whether you can go ahead with the abortion without parental consent based on your maturity level, independence, and living circumstances. The earlier in your pregnancy you make this decision, the better. To get more information about accessing an abortion without parental consent, call the Planned Parenthood Counseling and Referral Hotline: 1-617-616-1616 or 1-800-682-9218, available 9 AM to 6 pm Monday through Friday.

  6. How will my situation be dealt with, with school health officials?

    Teen parents have the right to expect confidentiality when talking to or receiving services from school health care professionals. Confidential means no one can be given information about what kind of medical treatment you received or what you told your nurse or Doctor. However, if you are a teen or in school, whether or not your health information will be kept confidential depends on what kind of health professional you are talking to or seeking service from, so be sure to ask if all of your health information will be kept confidential. Also, if it is not a health care professional you are talking to about your pregnancy or parenthood, there are different rules around confidentiality, so be sure to ask or call our Teen Parent Benefits Access Line at 1-800-645-3750 ext.115.

Welfare

  1. Can I get cash assistance to support myself and my baby?

    Low income teens may be eligible for TAFDC (Welfare) to help with their living expenses. If you are eligible, you will receive a monthly cash grant to help you take care of yourself and your baby. TAFDC grants are issued electronically and you will get a bank card to use your benefits.

  2. Can I apply for my own benefits?

    Yes! Even if you are under 18 you have the right to fill out your own application for TAFDC for yourself and your child. You fill out an application at your local Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) office with a worker called a “teen specialist.” The only time you would not be able to fill out your own application is if you are under 18 and living with a parent who already gets TAFDC to help support you. In that case your parent should tell her DTA worker that you have a baby and she will get more money added to her benefits to help support your baby.

  3. Aren’t there special rules I have to follow to get TAFDC?

    Yes. They are: a) the “living arrangement rule” and b) the “school attendance rule.”

    1. The living arrangement rule states that teen parents under the age of 18 must live with their parent(s), another adult relative over the age of twenty (this includes relatives of the father of your baby) or a legal guardian. If you are under 18, you cannot live alone with the father of your baby unless you are married. If you need TAFDC and you do not have anyone to live with or if the place you are living now is not safe or appropriate for you and your baby, you may be eligible to live in one of the Teen Living Programs. Ask your DTA worker about them.
    2. The school attendance rule states that a teen parent (under 20) who does not have a high school diploma or GED must be in school full time, in a Young Parents Program or in a GED program combined with “other activities” (like work, volunteering or parenting classes) that total 20 hours per week. If you don’t attend school full-time for some good reason, including lack of appropriate childcare, you can claim “good cause.”
  4. Will DTA ask about my baby’s father?

    Yes. Your worker will ask for the father’s name, address and where he works. DTA will use this information to try to collect child support. The law requires you to answer these questions as well as you can. But, if the father might hurt you or your baby if you answer these questions, explain this to the worker, and you should not have to answer.

  5. If I live with a parent or relative, will DTA count their income when I apply for TAFDC?

    If you are under 18, DTA will count your parent’s income if you live with them, but only the amount of their income that is over 200% of the poverty level. DTA should not count your parent’s income if you are over 18 or you do not live with them. If you live with another adult relative, DTA should not count their income either.

  6. If I am pregnant can I start getting TAFDC before I have my baby?

    Yes. If you are eligible for TAFDC, you can start to get aid 120 days (about 4 months) before your due date.

  7. I heard about a rule where, if you are already on TAFDC and you have another baby, you don’t get any more aid. Does this apply to me?

    Yes. This rule is called the “family cap.” If you have another baby who is born more than 10 months after you first applied for benefits, then you will not be able to get TAFDC benefits for that child. The family cap rule also bars benefits to a child who is born within 20 months after your TAFDC stops. If your child was born as a result of rape, incest, sexual assault or other “extraordinary circumstances” then this rule should not apply to you.

    If your child was born as a result of rape, incest, sexual assault, or other “extraordinary circumstances” ask your DTA worker for a form to claim an exception to the family cap rule. If your worker denies your request call the Mass. Alliance Teen Parent Benefits Access Line 1-800-645-3750 ext.115 or legal assistance right away.

    The family cap rule only applies to TAFDC cash aid. You should still be eligible for Food Stamps, WIC, and MassHealth for your new baby. If you are in school you should also get day care.

  8. What about Food Stamps?

    If you are living on your own you can apply for your own Food Stamps. However, if you are under 22 and live with your parents, you are not eligible for your own Food Stamps; you must apply for and receive them with your parents. If you are over 18 and live with other adults, you may be able to get your own Food Stamps if you buy and prepare food separately than the other adults in your house. Like TAFDC, Food Stamps are issued electronically and you will get a card to use when you shop for food.

  9. What are emergency Food Stamps?

    If your income is low enough, you may be eligible to receive Food Stamps within seven days of applying for them at DTA. If you feel like you need Food Stamps right away, ask your DTA worker about emergency Food Stamps. If you have questions about the Food Stamp program, other questions about different food and nutrition programs you may be eligible for or information on where you can get free or low cost food, call Project Bread’s Food Source Hotline at 1-800-645-8333.

  10. I heard about time limits for TAFDC. Does that apply to me?

    Most adults can only get aid from DTA for two years within any 5 year period, but the start of the 2 year period for teen parents does not start until: 1) you graduate from high school and your youngest child on TAFDC is 2 or older or 2) you turn 20 and your youngest child on TAFDC turns 2. If you are under 18 and living with a parent who is on TAFDC and your parent hits the time limit, you may still be eligible for your own TAFDC grant for you and your baby.

  11. Can I get money for transportation?

    Yes. DTA will pay for transportation if you are a TAFDC recipient or former recipient participating in an approved education or training program or working at least 20 hours per week. DTA will limit the total allowable transportation payments based on funding.

  12. What else should I know about my TAFDC?

    If your TAFDC is being cut, you have 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 appeal. However, if you lose the hearing, then you have to pay back the benefits you received while waiting for the hearing.

    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 workers or the adolescent specialist at the hearing and to bring a friend or advocate for assistance and support.

Child Support

  1. What is child support?

    Child support is money paid by the parent who does not live with the child to the parent who does. If you are raising the child you are legally entitled to child support even if you are not married to the other parent.

  2. How do I get child support?

    If you and your child are living apart from your child’s other parent, a judge can decide how much the non-custodial parent has to pay to help raise the child. Massachusetts has a specific formula that judges use to calculate the amount a non-custodial parent should pay, or parents can come to an agreement that the judge approves. If you are on TAFDC, the agreement is between the non-custodial parent and the Child Support Enforcement Division.

  3. I cannot pay child support; can I still see my child?

    In Massachusetts the order for child support is separate from the visitation order. Even if you have little or no income, you may still have visitation rights, although a judge may order you to increase your income if you are able. A child benefits from knowing both parents and being loved and supported emotionally. Difficulties over money should not mean an end to the parent-child relationship.

  4. What if cooperating with the court concerning child support will put me in harms way?

    You have the right to provide any information you may have as to why it would harm you and or the child to cooperate with the court regarding Child Support. If you receive a written notice saying you have failed to cooperate with the child support rules, you can request a hearing. You have the right to argue “good cause” if you wish not to cooperate with the court regarding child support.

  5. What if I choose not to comply with the court?

    You cannot your lose benefits if you do not have complete information about the father. If you do have information about the father you can lose your benefits, unless you feel that providing information about the father will put you or your child(ren) in danger.

  6. Am I allowed to look at my court records?

    You have the right to see the records from your child support file and get copies of any documents about you.

  7. What can I do if the court denies or reduces my benefits?

    You have the right to appeal any denial or reduction of benefits. If your benefits are being reduced due to child support issues and you appeal within 10 days of the date of the notice or at least 24 hours before the reduction is due to take effect, your benefits will continue until the hearing.

    You have the right to see your case record and make copies of any documents in your file. The teen parent also has the right to bring a friend or advocate with him or her to the hearing.

Housing

  1. What if I do not have a place to live?

    Shelter

    If you are a teen mother between 13 and 19 years old (or pregnant and 120 days from your due date — about 4 months) and if you are eligible for Welfare, you are eligible for a Teen Living Shelter Program (TLP). You need a referral from The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) to access TLP. You can find your local DTA office where you can apply here. Plug your city into the dropdown menu and look for the office listed next to “Emergency Shelter Assistance”. Once you get to the office, the teen specialist will ask you to provide certain information. If you are in an emergency situation and have no place to go that night, DTA will try to get you into a Teen Living Program (TLP) “emergency bed” or your permanent placement may not be in a program near your community. The typical TLP placement can take anywhere from 1–6 weeks.

    If you are 18 or 19, we recommend you first try to access a Teen Living Shelter Program (described in the last paragraph). However, you are also eligible for placement in an adult family shelter. All pregnant females or families with adults 18 or older can apply for Emergency Assistance adult family shelter. Find your local office here. Plug your city into the dropdown menu and look for the office listed next to “Emergency Shelter Assistance.”

    If you are ineligible for TLP or adult family shelter, you can try to access a type of shelter called Family Shelter Community Rooms, which you can find a list of by area of the state here.

    If you are a woman fleeing domestic violence, you can find a local battered women’s shelter here.

    For more information and help for battered women, call the Safelink, a 24 hour multi-lingual statewide hotline 1-877-785-2020.

    Housing

    There are various types of rental assistance and homelessness prevention programs. You can also find out about public housing and other housing assistance for which you may be eligible by calling your local Housing Consumer Education Center and Local Housing Authorty, which you can find contact information for here, when you plug in your city or call 1-800-224-5124. You can also call the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless at: 781-585-7570 and search their website for housing and shelter resources at http://www.mahomeless.org/.

  2. Can a landlord refuse to rent an apartment to me because I have a child? Because I am young? Or because I have a section 8 voucher?

    It is against the law for a landlord or rental agent to discriminate against you because of your race, religion, because you have children, you are single, you receive welfare, you have a disability or because you have rental assistance. Age should not be a factor if you are 18 or over; if you are under 18, you have less protection.

The answers to the above questions are based on:

  • The Massachusetts state welfare reform law, Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1995 codified in Chapter 118 of the Mass. General Laws
  • The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) regulations codified at 106 CMR sec. 203.600-640 and various other sections
  • DTA’s TAFDC Procedural Guide
  • DTA’s TAFDC Updates, which include Q and A policy instructions to DTA workers
Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy
105 Chauncy Street, 8th Floor Boston, MA 02111
617.482.9122 Main 617.482.9129 Fax