The Answer Book: Supporting yourself after you leave DCF

Here is information you need on supporting yourself after you leave foster care.

Table of Contents

Is there any money I can get from the state?

If you are over 18 and not in DCF custody, you may be eligible to receive money from a program called Emergency Aid to Elders, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC). Call your local DTA (Department of Transitional Assistance) office for help.

If I'm on my own, how do I apply for & use food stamps from SNAP?

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 also called the SNAP program. You can apply online or download applications to send in by mail on this website: 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. 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. For general information on food programs offered in Massachusetts, go here:

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.

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 near you—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 19 or over, 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! For more information on banking and checking accounts, go to

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, persons over eighteen years old, 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 cannot rent an apartment because you 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.

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. 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 You can also find more information about dealing with bad credit or building good credit at this website. Be careful not to get free credit reports from other websites, or sign up for services that you don’t need.

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.

When do I have to pay taxes?

When you make a certain amount of money from working, you have to pay taxes to the federal government and the state government and file your tax return every year by April 15th. In Massachusetts, there is a federal tax and a state tax that you might have to pay. Information on who must file federal taxes can be found here:
More information on who must file Massachusetts state taxes can be found here:

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 here:

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!

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