Q In DCF Custody - Does DCF have to give me any money while I am in DCF custody?

DCF usually does not give you money directly. Instead, DCF gives money to your foster family or your residential program twice a month for daily expenses. It also gives your foster family, guardian, or program money to spend on you for your birthday, holidays, and four times per year for clothes. If you sign into DCF at age 18, you may receive some money for rent or for college room and board up to age 22 as long as you continue with school or job training. For more information about signing in to DCF and continuing to receive money for living and other services, go to Chapter Four Turning 18.

Tip: A good source of help in the basics is through the PAYA (Preparing Adolescents for Young Adulthood) life skills program DCF offers. The first topic presented is about MONEY. You can even earn money by participating! Contact your DCF Adolescent Outreach Worker for more information.

Q In DCF Custody - Does my foster parent, guardian, or residential program have to give me any money while I am in DCF custody?

Your foster parents or guardians or custodians do not have to give you cash while you are in care, but they should be spending money on things for you. The money they get from DCF is meant for you and the things you need while you are living there.

 Tip: As long as you are in DCF custody, DCF has to provide you with enough food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. If you sign on with DCF at age 18, you may continue with this support up to age 22 or until you leave DCF care.

Q In DCF Custody - How do I pay for after school activities?

Speak with your social worker about whether DCF may be able to help with the fees or get you a scholarship (money from somebody else) for the activity.  If DCF can’t or won’t help, ask your lawyer for other ideas.

Q In DCF Custody - Can DCF help me get a copy of my credit report?

YES!. DCF will arrange for youth/young adults age 16 and older who are in DCF care or custody to obtain a copy of their credit report, if one exists, once a year and arrange for assistance in understanding the report.

Q Not in DCF Custody - Is there any money I can get from the state?

If you are over 18, not in DCF custody, and don’t have children, you may be eligible to receive money from a program called Emergency Aid to Elders, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC).  It is usually about $90 to $330 per month. Call you local DTA (Department of Transitional Assistance) office for help.There are rules saying who can receive this money and who cannot. Search the Mass Legal Help website for more information about EAEDC.

If your parents have died, you might be able to receive Social Security benefits if you are a student or have a disability. Talk to your social worker or lawyer about the programs or see Benefits for Children for more information.

Q Not in DCF Custody - Is there any money I can get from the state if I have a child?

If you are a parent, there are sources of money – for food and other things – which you can tap into. See the chapters Relationships or Pregnancy and Parenting for more information.

Q Money for Food - If I am living on my own, is there a way to get free food or money for food?

If you don’t make much money, you might be eligible for food stamps. Usually, you have to have a job or be participating in a job training program to qualify for food stamps. Most communities give out free food through pantries. To find food pantries or free meals in your community, call the Project Bread Food Source Hotline at 1-800-645-8333. They will tell you where to find a food pantry or free meal program, and the specific days and hours of the program.

If you are 18 and sign in to DCF care (see Chapter Four Turning 18) and are responsible, you may be able to receive money each month directly to you, for food and other things you need.

Q Money for Food - How do I use food stamps from SNAP- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program?

If you get food stamps, you will be given an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card that connects to an account where the state puts your food stamp money. It looks like a debit card, and you use it just the same way. You can use the EBT card at food store checkouts to pay for your food and other specific items. Whenever you buy food with your card, your receipt will show the amount of money left in your EBT account.

Q Money for Food - How do I apply for food stamps/SNAP benefits?

You can apply online or download applications to send in by mail at SNAP: Food Assistance. Call the Department of Transitional Assistance SNAP Benefits Hotline at 1-866-950-3663 for more information. You can find a local Department of Transitional Assistance office if you want to apply in person.

You can also call Project Bread’s toll-free FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 for the food stamp locations near you. For general information on food programs offered in Massachusetts, visit Food and Nutrition on Mass.Gov

Q Banking, Credit, & Taxes - How do I get a bank account?

If you are under 19, you may be able to get an “18-65 account,” which is a special kind of bank account that has no fees to keep the account, use checks, or make deposits and withdrawals. Choose a bank with a convenient location—just about every bank should offer this type of account—and tell that bank that you are eligible for an 18-65 account. Once they confirm your age, you should be able to get an account. If you are over age 19, you may be able to get a basic banking account. To get the account, the bank will ask for a photo ID, your Social Security number, and a minimum deposit. A minimum deposit is an amount of money that you have to put in your bank account in order to keep it open. Banks have different rules for how much money must be kept in your account. Don’t be afraid to go into the bank, sit down with someone, and ask lots and lots of questions! It’s your money!

Visit Massachusetts Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation for more information on banking and checking accounts.

Q Banking, Credit, & Taxes -  What is credit and why should I care about it?

Credit is borrowed money that you can use to buy things, and then repay at another time.

All adults have a “credit score,” and a bad score can stop you from doing many things like:

  • signing up for a cell phone plan,
  • getting a credit card
  • getting a loan for an important purchase, or
  • renting an apartment.

If you have bad credit (or a low credit score) the bank can also require you to pay a higher interest rate if you want a loan. That means you will have to pay more money to a bank in order to borrow money from them.

Q Banking, Credit, & Taxes - How do I know if I have good or bad credit?

By law you are allowed to get a free credit report, which will tell you what your “credit score” is. The only authorized website for this annual credit report is https://www.annualcreditreport.com. You can also find more information about dealing with bad credit or building good credit. Be careful not to get free credit reports from other web sites, or sign up for services that you don’t need.

Q Banking, Credit, & Taxes - So how do I get a good credit score?

  • The first step to building good credit is to put a small bill in your name and pay it on time month after month. For example, put your cell phone or a utility bill in your name instead of an adult’s, and always pay it before or when it’s due.
  • The next step to building good credit is to get a credit card, which allows you to buy things on credit, or borrowed money. Be sure to pay your credit card bills on time every month. Paying on time is the single most important sign of good credit.

Remember, a debit card lets you buy things with the swipe of a card, but the money is taken directly out of your bank account. With a credit card, you can also buy things with the swipe of a card, but you actually “borrow” the money and pay it back later, which means it doesn’t come out of your bank account when you are buying something—you just have to be ready to repay that amount later.

The bank will send you a monthly bill showing you how much you owe on your credit card. When you repay that amount, there may be an interest charge (the amount of money they charge you for borrowing the money) added onto it. The goal is to repay as much of the total bill as possible to avoid paying a lot of interest.

Just because it’s easy to swipe a credit card, try not to use it too often. Pay your monthly credit card bills on time! It will save you lots of money in the long run to always pay the full amount you owe instead of a much smaller amount with additional interest added each month.

Q Banking, Credit, & Taxes -  What do I do if I cannot rent an apartment because I have bad credit?

Talk to your lawyer. Your lawyer can help you figure out whether there is incorrect information on your credit report and help you clear up anything that may have been a mistake.

Q Banking, Credit, & Taxes - When do I have to pay taxes?

When you make a certain amount of money from working, you have to pay taxes. In Massachusetts, there is a federal tax and a state tax that you might have to pay.

More information on who must file federal taxes can be found at the IRS's Do I have to File a Tax Return?

More information on who must file for Massachusetts state taxes can be found at the Mass. Dept. of Revenue.

  • Even if you don’t make enough money to have to file a federal tax return, you might want to file one if you have a child. You might be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is a program that actually pays you money if you earned some money from working and have a child. Find more information at Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
  • Even if you don’t make enough money to PAY taxes, you might be eligible to GET money back you paid in taxes (taxes are automatically taken out of every paycheck).
  • If you need help with taxes talk to your social worker or lawyer or an adult that you trust.  There are a number of agencies or non-profits that will do your taxes for free if you don’t make very much money. Ask for help in finding one!

Q Banking, Credit, & Taxes -  Are there any more resources to learn about money management?

These can be confusing topics for anybody—ask for help if you need it! A good source of help in the basics is through the PAYA (Preparing Adolescents for Young Adulthood) life skills program DCF offers. The first topic presented is about MONEY! Contact your DCF Outreach Worker for more information.