This is really helpful! I think I’m going to try the MagicJack since that will probably go over better than the cell phone with the social worker. But I’ll keep this in mind if that doesn’t work. The only issue with the MagicJack is that it depends on the internet being up, and when it goes out, it sometimes stays down for days.I'm a little late to this discussion, but will add a bit of info about Tracfone in specific. I've had one for years. I'm no longer a big phone person.
You can get a "dumb" phone for as little as $10 or $20 and then you need to add days and minutes once a quarter. If you don't use the phone a lot, a $20 card with another 3 months service time is the sweet spot for good value. With taxes, you can keep the phone alive for around $7/ month.
However, some of the dumb phone are capable of doing things like checking email. They deduct minutes for being online instead of having a separate Data amount. So you would need to check that angle before committing.
The Tracphone is called that because tracks how many minutes you have left and how many days you have left and conveniently displays it. I use it because it's the lowest maintenance, best value kind of thing for my needs that's readily available at many stores (I have done some research and there are some other options out there that would theoretically be cheaper, but you can't walk into your nearest Walmart, Target, or grocery store and re-up).
I looked at other prepay phones and they often have a really short 30 day leash where you need to pay more every thirty days and if you are late, you can lose your phone service and phone number entirely. Paying once a quarter works vastly better for managing cash flow when money is tight.