Families First





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Families First is a program to provide help for children who are in need because of death or physical or mental incapacity of a parent or a parent's absence from home.

The federal government shares the cost of the Families First program with the state and county. Although the federal government has rules which help determine how the program works, each state and county administers Families First using these regulations and guidelines.

The Families First program was established by Congress as part of the Social Security Act. This act provides help to families with children who are in need of additional financial assistance. It requires adult applicants who are able to work either to apply for work or to train for work. The act also assists each family in becoming responsible for its own support.

If a family with unmarried children has only one parent as a source of support, and the family income is below the state established minimum, the family may be eligible for Families First benefits. If the children in the family are from 16 to 18, and are not attending school or in a job training program, they may be required to register for work and accept employment. Benefits can be [paid for a child through the month in which he or she turns 18. To be eligible for Families First, a child must be under 18 years of age or under 19 if a full-time student who is expected to complete his or her secondary education by age 19. Other relatives other than parents may be able to get Families First for care of a child depending on the relationship.

In order to qualify for benefits, a family's income must not exceed the state standard, after certain deductions have been allowed. In addition, the family cannot own non-exempt property or resources worth more than $1,000. Certain resources are exempt or excluded from this limitation. A home and surrounding property which is not separated from the home by the property of others is exempted. A family motor vehicle with an equity value of $1,500 or less is also excluded. Also, certain inaccessible resources which are not currently available to meet the family's needs may be exempted.

Families First is administered by the state. The county office determines eligibility and makes sure that adults who are able to work register for work. The state office in Nashville computes payments and mails checks. The State Employment Security Office assists the client with the job search of those who are looking for work, and may also enroll those who need job training in a training school.

In most of Tennessee, the Families First program is administered by the individual county Department of Human Resources. Don't hesitate to apply for Families First assistance if you think you qualify. You will need to see an eligibility worker and the process of determining your benefits may take a considerable amount of time. Sometimes the red tape involved in the Families First program may seem too much, but stay calm and remember that you are guaranteed certain welfare rights.

If you are applying for Families First because your child's other parent is absent from the home, you will be required to cooperate with child Support Services in helping to obtain support from the other parent unless such cooperation would not be in the best interest of your child. If you feel that your cooperation might result in harm to your child or yourself, you have the right to claim good cause to be excused from providing any information to Child Support Services. If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision by requesting a fair hearing. If your child's other parent pays child support to the state, you may be entitled to additional bonus and supplement payments.

It is important for you to know that you can protest any action taken against you by the county office.

If you feel that you aren't fairly treated by your eligibility worker or by the department, try to discuss the problem with the worker or with the worker's supervisor. If you think you have not been treated with dignity and respect or if you have been denied AFDC, you may request a fair hearing. It is very important to request a fair hearing within 10 days of receiving a termination or reduction decision you feel is unfair in order to keep receiving your benefits pending the hearing. However, you must request a fair hearing no later than 90 days from the date of the letter notifying you about your case. Your case worker should help you fill out the fair hearing request if you ask for help. The county office must then give you the name and address of a Legal Services Office for free legal help.

It is definitely worth applying for Families First, if you feel you are eligible, to make certain that your family is adequately provided for.

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