I'm pregnant and unemployed. Are there any benefits I'm entitled to?

I'm pregnant and unemployed. Are there any benefits I'm entitled to?
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I’m currently 17, pregnant and will soon move in with my partner’s mother who works part-time but claims benefits. This isn’t permanent and will have to look elsewhere to live, when I have the baby - I will be 18 and so will my partner. I can’t find any advice about what benefits I’m entitled to and stuck as to what to do. I am an unemployed full-time student. My partner is also an unemployed full-time student. And we will be living together, what benefits are we entitled to?


Please contact your county Human Services Agency (depending on where you live, the office may have a slightly different name) to apply for Medicaid. This link should be helpful to you: https://www.healthcare.gov/what-if-im-pregnant-or-plan-to-get-pregnant/
Wishing you the best,
R. Ruth Linden, Ph.D., President, Tree of Life Health Advocates, San Francisco, CA


Hello…I am so glad that you wrote to us. I imagine that you are feeling overwhelmed and nervous, but I hope also that you and partner are excited about the baby who is on his or her way. This may be a difficult time but also hopefully a positive time as you get to know your new little one. I’m glad that you have a place to live for now, and you are doing the right thing in thinking ahead and planning for when you need to find a new place. It may be that once that precious baby arrives that your partner’s family or your family will welcome the three of you to live in one of their homes. I know that at age 18 you are technically “grown up,” but in our difficult world it is so nice when older, more experience adults are there to guide and support you as you move into your 20’s. However, if that is not possible, then you will indeed need to find a place on your own and to figure out how to get all the government and other benefits you are entitled to.
There are a number of places you can go for help and benefits. These are the general categories of help I can think of:
• Immediate family
• Extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.)
• Friends and neighbors (it can be worth asking people you know for help – it can’t hurt to ask and sometimes people who are unrelated to you may be more willing to help than your relatives. People like to help young parents with babies.
• Governmental agencies
• Local charities
• Churches
Because you are young and a baby is involved, you are likely to experience a more positive response when you ask for help. There is no shame in asking for and accepting help. I am a very independent, do-it-myself person who would rather suffer and go without than to ask anyone for help, but once I had children, I put aside my personal pride and determination in order to get them what they needed to grow and thrive. You may need to do that as well for your son or daughter.
Family & Friends – you just have to ask. Steel yourself to hear “no” or to hear “yes” but get a lecture or many lectures on what the giver thinks you’ve done wrong or should do differently. I wish people could give without conditions and comments, but unfortunately, very few people do! However, if you get the help you and the baby need, it’s not going to kill you to listen to a few lectures. You and your partner can “take your lumps” and then joke about it together, and that will be a great comfort and bonding experience!
Government benefits - these vary by the state you live in, and there isn’t one website to go to where you can see what you might be eligible for. The AARP site has a website for benefits for the elderly, a group which you are not a part of, but I recommend that site for older clients, but the site has lots of info for people of all ages: http://www.aarp.org/aarp-foundation/our-work/income/info-2012/public-benefits-guide-senior-assistance1.html.
Your first step to get the right government benefits is to call and/or go to the Department of Social Services in your town. They will be able to help you. I am not an expert on the social service programs that are available, but you should be eligible for assistance like welfare payments, the SNAP program (food stamps), Medicaid, WIC, and many other programs. You can also check with the reference librarian at your local public or college library – he or she may have lots of good advice on where to look. Try not to be disheartened if you get a crabby or judgmental library person….try another time or another library until you get the right person who will help you.
Local Charities and Churches - If you belong to a church, ask for help there. If you don’t belong and share religious beliefs with an established church, consider joining one. The congregation will help you and the baby. Local, non-religious charities may also be a source of help. I wonder if you might be able to go to a crisis pregnancy center…I am not sure how those work but they could maybe be of help.
Other Ideas - one or more of these ideas might help. Your partner, even though in school, may be able to work part time. You can too, but you may find that the cost of daycare is more than you can make. If that’s the case, maybe you could care for a friend’s child with yours to earn some money. Some ideas:
• Sell things you don’t need on eBay or at IWanta, being careful not to get scammed by unscrupulous “buyers.” Family and friends may also want to buy things from you.
• Get a part-time or seasonal job - finding one can be hard, though! You might have better luck during the Christmas season when stores do a lot of extra hiring. Look into this tactic in September or October so you don’t miss out. Be creative about what you can do. My husband and I are 57 and 54 and throughout our careers we have always had at least two jobs – a main job and one or more on the side. You could earn some extra money by baby-sitting, dog-, or house-sitting or food service or lawn work. Having a second job brings in more money each month and reduces what you spend on entertainment because more of your hours are taken up by working.
• Cut unnecessary bills. You probably don’t have any or many to cut, but do a check of what you spend to make sure. Cutting out cable TV or pedicures technically doesn’t generate cash, but it leaves you with more cash at the end of the month. It’s hard to give up your favorite shows or an activity that makes you feel good, but if you console yourself with the idea that the sacrifice is temporary, that will help.
I hope that some of these ideas help. You are likely to qualify for benefits, and I hope that you are able to get them started in preparation for the baby’s arrival. I am hoping that things go so well for you, your partner, and the baby and that you are able to enjoy the many wonderful things that a new baby can bring. As a mother myself, I can say with confidence that being a mom to my two kids has helped me grow and develop as a person and has also been extremely rewarding. The actual childbirth process (which was 25 and 29 years ago for me!!) was also one of the most empowering experiences I’ve ever gone through. Hopefully people aren’t scaring you with horror stories about giving birth…it did hurt to some extent, but to experience creating another person and to meet your child for the first time is beyond amazing. I hope you share the positive experiences I had. Best wishes to you.


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