Beyond Child Support - Public Assistance
Whether or not you currently receive child support payments from your child's other parent, you may need additional assistance with the economic and healthcare aspects of raising a child. If you still need help covering basic household costs and already receive child support, public assistance options may be helpful. The following is a brief overview of public assistance options for families as well as the eligibility requirements for receiving public assistance.
Child Support Public Assistance at the Federal and State Level
The federal government and all state governments offer some form of public assistance to low-income and transitional families. At the state level, public assistance is usually provided by a state department or agency typically called "human services," "social services," or "health and welfare."
At the federal level, the department that handles government benefits will depend on the type of assistance that's being provided. For example, disability and supplemental security income are provided by the Social Security Administration. Programs to provide help with food and nutrition, on the other hand, are run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Beyond Child Support: Public Assistance Options
Many public assistance resources are available to the whole family -- children and adults -- including economic assistance, healthcare, and abuse prevention. Other assistance services are only for children -- such as child care and foster services. For example, the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides block grants to states so they can help families in need achieve self-sufficiency.
Although each state will have its own specific family and child-related public assistance services, generally they fall into the category of financial assistance, health care, and housing.
- Health Care: Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which may have different names depending on the state. States may also offer prescription medication discounts.
- Financial Assistance: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the special supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provide money for nutrition assistance. For more general financial assistance, there are unemployment benefits, which are available to those who lose their job through no fault of their own.
- Housing: public housing, shelter/homeless assistance programs, and rental assistance.
In addition to financial assistance, states may offer services at little or no cost. These programs can include:
- Quality Health Care and Medical Assistance
- Child Care Services
- Child Support Enforcement and Parent Locator Services
- Abuse and Neglect Prevention
- Behavioral Health Services
- Adoption and Foster Care Services
- Employment and Training
- Legal Services
The federal government offers a helpful Benefit Finder Tool to help determine which benefits are right for each particular situation.
Eligibility Requirements for Public Assistance
Most states require that persons seeking certain forms of public assistance meet specific eligibility criteria. Although each state will have its own standards to qualify for public assistance, some common requirements for eligibility include:
- A household income below a specified threshold;
- Having a minor child in a person care; and
- Family size.
Most programs also require that an applicant is a U.S. citizen or a qualifying non-citizen. Many state public assistance programs and agencies have eligibility information and application procedures online.
Have Questions About Child Support Public Assistance? Talk to a Lawyer
There are instances when child support isn't enough to cover all of a child's expenses. In such cases, public assistance may be possible. If you have questions about child support public assistance - or child support in general - it's a good idea to contact a skilled child support lawyer near you.