Family-sized support.

Families First/TANF

What is Families First/TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)? Families First is a temporary assistance program for needy children and their parents, or related caretakers living in Tennessee. Families who qualify for Families First benefits receive monthly cash payments and may receive child care and other supportive assistance to comply with their work/educational requirements.

Families First Highlights and Services:

  • Work, training and personal responsibility – These are the guiding principles of the program. Adult family members and minor parents must work or engage in training and/or educational activities for up to 30 hours a week, unless exempt. A Personal Responsibility Plan is developed for each adult or minor parent. This plan lists the individual's agreements regarding his/her intent to comply with the program requirements. The agreements include, but are not limited to, statements that the individual will cooperate with Child Support, and ensure that their children stay in school, get regular health checks and are current on their required immunizations.
  • Child-only cases – This is a special category of Families First assistance. When a child lives with a relative who is not his or her parent, the adult may choose to be excluded from the case. This means their income will not be considered when determining eligibility for their related children and the individual will not be required to participate in work/educational activities.

Families First benefits are limited to 60 months over your lifetime unless you are a relative caring for related children (see Child Only case above).

Unless you are exempt from the 30-hour work requirement, a work activity contractor will help you develop an individualized career plan (ICP). This plan is based on your needs and skills, and details how you will work toward becoming self-sufficient. The ultimate goal of the ICP is to provide a work and training guide that will result in financial independence for your family.

Applying for Services:
Tennesseans may apply for Families First benefits at their local Department of Human Services county office.

Applications are available in English, Spanish, Arabic and Somali.


A printable application form is also available on the Department of Human Services website. You can print and complete this application and submit it in person or by mail to your local DHS office. After submitting your application, you will receive an appointment for an interview. At this interview, you may also discuss eligibility for SNAP/food stamps and the Child Care Certificate Program. If you are interested in TennCare/Medicaid, you will be assisted in applying at the DHS county office.