Families First - Applying for Services

Applying for Families First (TANF) in Tennessee

Families First, Tennessee’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, is a federally funded  workforce development and employment program that aims to help qualifying families reach self-sufficiency. The program provides participating families with temporary cash assistance, transportation, child care assistance, educational supports, job training, employment activities, and other support services that empower them to build a foundation for economic stability.

Through Families First, the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) emphasizes work, training, and personal responsibility that leads to financial independence and helps more Tennesseans become stable contributing members of our community and economy.

Who Is Eligible for Families First (TANF)

The Families First program is open to families with children under 18 years of age who meet eligibility standards. Families First participants are certified to receive benefits for a period of one year.

The Families First Application Process

Tennesseans who apply for the Families First program can expect to move through the following steps when applying for and receiving Families First. 

Completing the application is the first step in your journey to receive Families First benefits and achieve self-sufficiency. Applications can be completed online, via the One DHS Customer Portal OR printed and delivered to TDHS. Online applications usually have a shorter processing time.

To Complete the Application Online Using the One DHS Customer Portal: The One DHS Customer Portal is an online account management tool that makes it easy for TDHS customers to complete applications, review case details and upload documents related to required verifications. Customers can also apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP) and Child Care Payment Assistance using the One DHS Customer Portal.

Apply for Services and Upload Related Documents

If you need help creating a One DHS Portal account, visit the One DHS Customer Portal help page or watch a brief video on the @TNHumanServices YouTube channel.  Customers can also download instructions to help create a One DHS account.

To Submit a Printed Application: Customers can download an application using the links below or contact their local TDHS office to receive a printed application.

Applications are available in:  

English Application (HS-0169) English Addendum -  English Instructions - English Instructions Addendum
Spanish Application (HS-0169) - Spanish Addendum Spanish Instructions - Spanish Instructions Addendum
Arabic Application and Addendum (HS-0169) - Arabic Instructions - Arabic Addendum-instructions
Somali Application and Addendum (HS-0169) - Somali Instructions - Somali Addendum-instructions

After completing the Families First Application, customers have three options for submitting the printed application (choose one):

  • Upload your application or documentation on-line using the One DHS Customer Portal.
  • Mail an application and copies of documentation to: Family Assistance Division Department of Human Services P.O. Box 620001 Memphis TN 38181.
  • Submit an application at the local county DHS office. Click Here to locate your local office.

A Note About Submitting Documents:

Uploading documents using the One DHS Customer Portal or resources at a TDHS office can reduce the application processing times. Customers who choose to mail information to TDHS as part of the application, verification or reporting process should send copies of personal records and avoid sending original documents as documents may not be returned.


The second step toward receiving Families First is completing the eligibility interview. This interview helps TDHS learn more about your situation and needs. If you also applied for SNAP, the eligibility interview will be for both programs. A case worker should contact you regarding your interview within 10 days of recieveing your completed application. Interviews can be completed during first contact with your case worker or scheduled for a future date. Your case cannot proceed until the interview is completed.

In this third step, you may be asked to submit documents that verify information provided during the application and eligibility interview. Required verifications include proof of the following:

  • Social security numbers (examples: social security card)
  • Identification (examples: driver’s license, school id with photo, passport, resident alien card, I-94 card, or voter’s registration card)
  • Citizenship (examples: U.S. Passport, Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of U.S. Citizenship, birth certificate, hospital, clinic or doctor records, a report or Certification of Birth Abroad of a U.S. Citizen, U.S. Citizen I.D. card, or adoption papers, or a military record, INS (Immigration) papers for people who were not born in the U.S.)
  • Current residence (examples Current residence (Lease agreement, utility bill, phone bill, or driver’s license with your address on it)
  • Income, resources (examples check stubs, employer statement, award letters, bank accounts, certificates of deposit, savings bonds, property, automobiles, trucks, boats, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles)
  • Household relationships current and new person for whom you want aid (Example: Birth Certificate, Hospital Records, Baptismal Records, and School Records)
  • Proof of age, school attendance, and immunization/health check records for all children in your care.

Note: Other verifications may be requested during your interview.

Similar to an application, verification documents can be submitted via file upload, at a scheduled appointment, or by mail (see “Step 1: Submitting an Application” for details). If submitting documents by mail, it is best to submit copies of documents and keep original documents for your records.

Customers are welcome to submit verification documents at the same time they submit their application. This may save processing times. Verification may be unnecessary if you are enrolled in another TDHS program, but re-verification may be required upon renewal.

Click Here for a verification checklist.

Once your application, interview, and verification are completed, your information will be reviewed to determine if you meet all Families First eligibility criteria. If all eligibility criteria are met, your case worker will contact you within five days regarding the creation of your Personal Responsibility Plan.

What is the Personal Responsibility Plan?

The Personal Responsibility Plan is an agreement that outlines work and/or training requirements (or exemptions) and how you will use TDHS administered benefits and resources to move your family toward economic stability. The plan includes guidelines related to cooperating with child support, immunizations/health checks and school attendance (including kindergarten) requirements.

How is the Personal Responsibility Plan Formed?

Your Personal Responsibility Plan and associated requirements are unique to your family and situation. A TDHS representative will speak with you about your plan and help you become oriented to ensure you understand expectations. If your plan includes work requirements, you may be asked to form an Individual Opportunity Plan that further details timelines associated with work or training requirements.

How is the Personal Responsibility Plan Submitted?

Following the formation of your plan, you have 10 days to sign and submit the Personal Responsibility Plan and Individual Opportunity Plan. Similar to applications and verification documents, plans may be submitted though the One DHS Customer Portal, via mail or dropped off at a local office (see “Step 1: Submitting an Application” for details). Although the Individual Opportunity Plan may not be a requirement for some families who are exempt from work requirements, all families must sign and follow their Personal Responsibility Plan to continue receiving benefits.

Once the application, interview, verification, and Personal Responsibility Plan are completed, your application will be processed, and you will be notified of approval or denial of benefits. If all eligibility criteria are met and a signed Personal Responsibility Plan is received, your application will be approved. The application processing time for Families First is 45 days, and you may check the status of your application by visiting the One DHS Consumer Portal .  Families First cash assistance benefits are issued and accessed electronically using a Benefit Security Card or EBT Cards. Cards are mailed to participants using information from their application.

If you do not meet Families First eligibility requirements, do not provide required verifications, or do not sign your Personal Responsibility Plan, your application will be denied. If you are denied and feel the denial was unmerited, you may file an appeal. Click Here for information regarding appeals.

While receiving benefits, Families First participants are required to report all changes to TDHS within 10 days of the occurrence. Reportable changes include but are not limited to changes in income, residency, household composition, resources, and work or education status.

Tennesseans may visit the One DHS Customer Portal at OneDhs.Tn.Gov to submit changes online OR submit changes using a printed Change Form. Similiar to applications and verification documents, printed change forms may be 1) Delivered to a local TDHS office or 2) Mailed to: Family Assistance Division Department of Human Services, P.O. Box 620001 Memphis TN 38181.

Visit Tn.Gov/HumanServices/Information-and-Resources/ to download and print the Change Form or contact your local TDHS office to receive a form or assistance.

Families First participants are certified to receive benefits for 12 months. If your family has not yet reached economic stability at the end of your certification period, you may choose to renew benefits. Renewal will require an application, interview, and reverification of eligibility factors. You will be notified of your renewal date and the associated submission requirements two months prior to the expiration of your Families First benefits.

The Families First program is meant to offer temporary support to families who are reaching toward financial independence and benefits are time-limited to sixty months of a participant’s lifetime.

Have Questions About Families First?

If you have questions, answers about Families First, answers are just a click or a call away.

Visit Our Family Assistance Question Page
Find many of the answers you’re looking for when you Click Here.

Use the One DHS Customer Portal

The One DHS Customer Portal offers customers an opportunity to use keywords to search for answers about many TDHS programs and customers can log into their account to find details about their case. Click Here to visit the portal.


Chat With Us
Ava, the Tennessee Department of Human Services Virtual Assistant, can direct you to the answers for many of your questions and provide points of contact to speak to TDHS workers regarding your case. Look for the “Chat with Ava” image on the lower right side of this page to chat and find the answers you need.

Call the Family Assistance Service Center
Phone: 866-311-4287

Find Us on Social @TNHumanServices
Many updates are shared via our social media pages and messaging. Find us on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter to discover updates on TDHS programs, or visit our YouTube page for informative videos about TDHS programs.

Contact Your Local Office 
TDHS has offices to serve all 95 Tennessee counties and can be reached via phone or scheduled in-person appointment. Click Here for a list of TDHS office locations.

Family Assistance Website and Call Center Graphic

Need Help Beyond Families First?

You may qualify for other support programs administered by TDHS. Click Here for a list of TDHS programs.

Help may also be available through Community Service Block Grant Community Action Agency organizations or TANF Opportunity Act Community Partners.