Tennessee’s Families First (TN) Program

Last Updated on January 15, 2024 by Lori Pace

Families First (TANF) is the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. It offers employment programs and workforce development. Families First TN (in Tennessee) emphasizes work and training. This program is short-term and focuses on self-sufficiency through employment. Families First assists participants in achieving this goal by providing temporary cash assistance, transportation, child care assistance, education support, job training, support services, and cash assistance.

Apply for Families First, and Upload Documents For Your Case

Eligibility Requirements for Families First TN

Families First offers financial assistance to families with children who are in financial difficulty. These benefits are only available for 60 months during a participant’s life. Families First emphasizes personal responsibility, work, and training.

Participants must agree to follow a Personal Responsibility Plan in order to be eligible for this program. Participants agree to follow the Personal Responsibility Plan (PRP) as part of the program.

  • Make sure your children have their immunizations and get regular health checks.
  • Make sure your children go to school every day, even kindergarten.
  • Assist with child support requirements
  • If you are not exempt, agree to work or participate in work preparation activities.

Unless a participant is exempted from the 30-hour work requirement (ECMS), he/she will create a family empowerment program (FEP) with the help of an Employment and Case Management Services provider (ECMS). FEP is a strengths-based, family-centered plan that addresses the family’s strengths throughout the case. Participants must follow the plan they have developed together with the ECMS provider. Participant’s eligibility for cash benefits and program services could be affected if they fail to comply with the plan.

A special exemption is available for “Child-only cases“. The adult can choose to exclude a child who lives with another relative than their parent. The case is also closed if the parents receive SSI. Please note that DHS has instituted COVID-19 precautions to ensure all visitors enter state office lobbies. These rules will affect customers who visit state offices to schedule appointments in person.

Families First TN Guidelines

Families First TN Guidelines

  • You can drop off or pick up documents alone, or participate in scheduled appointments in person.
  • Answering COVID-19 health screening questions.
  • Keep at least 6 feet of distance from others.
  • No COVID-19 symptoms.

Individuals receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) have temporarily been exempted from some interview requirements. Customers who file initial applications or recertifications do not need to visit the office if their identity has been verified.

Current Families First beneficiaries can access information about their Families First cases with CaseConnect in the DHS Customer Portal. To access certain services (e.g., CaseConnect and Families First), you’ll need to create a One DHS account. CaseConnect and Families First applications. For more information on creating an account, click here

Families First cash assistance benefits can be accessed electronically via a Benefit Security Card, or EBT Card. Submit your online application or visit the DHS local office to apply for benefits.


Federal law makes it illegal to use your EBT card in the following places: casinos, liquor stores, adult cabarets, and licensed retail shops that derive their greatest sales from the following:

  • Loose tobacco
  • Cigars, cigarettes, pipes
  • Other accessories for smoking

The Tennessee Department of Human Services has intensified monitoring and enforcement of EBT card use. Additional penalties will be applied to benefits that are misused as of July 1, 2014. Penalties also apply to restricted businesses.

Contact Information

FAQs, Live Chat, and Email

Family Assistance Service Center: 1-866-311-4287 (Toll-free)

The following documents may be required to complete your application for Family First benefits. Besides, there are some FAQs about Tennessee Family First that we provide in advance for you.

You may need papers that show:

  • Social Security Card Number (For all household members, SS5 for newborns).
  • Your identification (Examples: driver’s license, school ID with photo or passport, resident alien card, I-94 card, voter registration card).
  • Citizenship (Examples: Birth Certificate, U.S. Passport Certificate of Naturalization Certificate of U.S Citizenship, U.S. Hospital Records, U.S. Citizenship Certificate, Certificate of U.S Citizenship Certificate, Certificate of U.S Citizenship Certificate, Certificate of U.S Citizenship. S Citizen I.D. S Citizen I.D.
  • Household Relationship (Example: Birth certificate).
  • Age (Example: Birth certificate, hospital records or baptismal records, school record, etc.)
  • Where you live (Examples: utility bill, lease agreement, phone bill, or driver’s license with your address on it).
  • Earned income (Examples: W-2 forms, employer statements, check stubs, and award letters.
  • Unearned Income (Examples include child support, social safety, unemployment, and disability).
  • Resources (Examples: bank accounts and certificates of deposit, savings bonds, property, automobiles, and recreational vehicles).
  • School Attendance/Grades (For any dependent child for whom you would like to receive assistance).
  • Immunizations and health checks (For any dependent child you wish to receive assistance).

During your interview, it’s possible that they will ask for more information about you. The eligibility counselor will help you determine what information you need, how to obtain it, and provide any assistance you may require.

Lori Pace
Lori Pace

Lori Pace is a single mother of three daughters ages 7 and under. As a working mom from home, she balances kids, work and two crazy dogs with humor and love. Follow Lori as she honestly gives tips and advice based on her own experiences as a single mom!