If your spouse dies or becomes disabled, and you are taking care of children under the age of 16, you may be entitled to Mother’s and Father’s benefits (commonly called parent’s benefits) under Social Security.
These are separate from the benefits the children may be entitled to based on the death (or disability) of a parent.
20 CFR 404.339 deals sets out the requirements for a parent to receive Mother’s or Father’s benefits:
You may be entitled as the widow or widower to mother’s or father’s benefits on the earnings record of someone who was fully or currently insured when he or she died. You are entitled to these benefits if
(a) You are the widow or widower of the insured and meet the conditions described in §404.335(a);
(b) You apply for these benefits; or you were entitled to wife’s benefits for the month before the insured died;
(c) You are unmarried;
(d) You are not entitled to widow’s or widower’s benefits, or to an old-age benefit that is equal to or larger than the full mother’s or father’s benefit; and
(e) You have in your care the insured’s child who is entitled to child’s benefits and he or she is under 16 years old or is disabled. Sections 404.348 and 404.349 describe when a child is in your care.
You need to keep in mind that unlike benefits paid to children when a parent dies (which are often paid until age 18 or 19), mother’s and father’s benefits stop at age 16. However, there is an exception when the child is also disabled. If the child is disabled, Mother’s or Father’s benefits may continue so long as the child is living with and providing care for the child.