About the Department of Children and Families

Welfare programs providing food or cash assistance for low income families and households are under the management of the Department of Children & Families (DCF). DCF oversees various agencies including food assistance programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), WIC and reduced-cost meals in public educational institutions. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, known as Temporary Cash Assistance, is federally-funded but state-run program that helps households during periods of financial strife. Each individual program part of the DCF strives to improve the lives of families. Download our free guide for comprehensive information about the welfare programs available to residents. To learn more about the Department of Children and Families and its cash and food assistance programs, select from the following topics:

  • The SNAP Food Program
  • Temporary Cash Assistance
  • Free or reduced school meals

The SNAP Food Program

The largest food assistance program in is the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP benefits are available to low-income families that otherwise may not have access to adequate and nutritional food sources. The SNAP food program in is often referred to as ‘food stamps’, though paper vouchers have not been used or issued in decades. DCF now provides electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to participating families that operate much like a debit and credit cards. The same food stamp information and restrictions apply to the new method as they did to the paper vouchers.

SNAP benefits are limited to certain kinds of food and participants must know which products are available for purchases with SNAP benefits. For instance, SNAP benefits cannot purchase household items, cosmetics, alcohol or tobacco products. Likewise, only participating grocery stores, farmer’s markets and retail locations may accept the SNAP EBT card. Stores typically place a sign on the premises indicating they accept the EBT card, though SNAP enrollees can find a complete listing of locations online. Additional food stamp information is available at DCF and county health department offices.

Another part of the SNAP food program in is the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program that focuses on offering specific and additional nutritional support to women who are pregnant, post-partum mothers and young children at nutritional risk. DCF evaluates food assistance petitioners based on income and health at the time of application to the program. The department gives special priority to pregnant women and infants considered at-risk of nutritional deficiencies.

Temporary Cash Assistance

Temporary Cash Assistance in is available to families that are having financial difficulties and face losing their home and way of life. The TCA program in offers temporary financial assistance for those families that have experienced an event that caused a significant reduction in income. Cash assistance for low income families is a temporary offer that lasts only for a few months. The cash assistance program provides a means for families to stay in their own homes while assisting adults in the household obtain work and create a better circumstance for themselves. TCA provides needy families multiple state-run programs to procure employment opportunities.

In addition to making households self-sufficient, the TCA program in focuses on keeping marriages together (especially if there are children involved) and reduce the number of children born to unwed mothers. Applicants for the TCA program in must meet specific standards regarding eligibility, including income, citizenship and background.

Free or Reduced School Meals

The DCF manages programs for free or reduced school meals in public schools as well as nutritional programs outside of the academic calendar. The National School Lunch Program is available in every elementary, middle and high school in all counties. However, the Federal School Breakfast Program is subject to different requirements and is only accessible in certain locations. Parents and guardians can discover the requirements for mandated school breakfast programs in our digital guide available here.

Additionally, the DCF offers a Summer Food Service Program in order to continue to offer free nutritious meals when school is not in session. Children must apply for free nutritious school meals in the same manner as other food assistance programs. As with all federal and state programs, participants in the school food assistance program must qualify, with the largest qualifying factor based on the combined income of the family. Children who qualify are able to enjoy the benefits of all the available meals at their school as well as at feeding sites. Currently, a little over a million children benefit from free or reduced school meals.