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Find Quality Child Care On A Budget

Find Quality Child Care On A Budget


Child care is critically important for low-income children and parents alike. Access to quality care can open up hours for a parent to work, improving the family's standard of living. Education-based care can also play a critical role in educational development, providing academic and social skills and laying a critical foundation for success in future schooling. Unfortunately, quality care is expensive and may be out of reach for low-income families. Studies have suggested that better access to preschool education plays a major role in the superior academic performance of children from more affluent families.[1] That doesn't mean children from low-income families cannot get the services they need. State and federal programs exist to support better access to these services, and these programs are well worth the effort it takes to find them and apply for the help they provide.

Let's review some ways to get help with childcare and preschool education. Links to program websites are listed at the end of the article!

What Is Child Care Subsidy?

State funding can help low-income or unemployed parents pay for childcare services. This monetary help comes in different forms in different states and may be a voucher program, a subsidy, or a fee assistance program. Parents can use Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies for help finding programs in their area. Often, additional resources are available for military or federal employees, children with disabilities, or those affected by disasters like hurricanes. Child Care Aware offers an online resource tool that allows you to search for assistance programs in your area.

Each care program has a different set of eligibility criteria for applicants, but there are some constants across the board. Parents must be low-income, working or attending school, and have children under the age of 13 that are in need of assistance. Applicant families must be at or below the federal poverty level for the number of people within the household at the time of application, except for any child that is homeless, in foster care or receiving public assistance from Social Security or TANF. Care programs also require applicants to participate in an interview, either in person or by phone. They may ask for documents like birth certificates, tax returns, proof of residency, and income sources, and parents who are unemployed or attending school will need to provide documentation of these statuses as well. The application process could take several weeks, but the help that's offered will be well worth the wait.


The Child Care and Development Fund is managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This multibillion-dollar partnership between federal and state governments helps low-income families access services that allow parents to work and improve their family's situation. The websites of the State and Territorial Child Care Subsidies Agencies and the Tribal Child Care Subsidy Agencies have application forms; see the links at the end of this article.

Often, additional resources are available for military or federal employees, children with disabilities, or those affected by disasters like hurricanes.

Many state agencies also give grants and fund supplemental programs for families outside the Child Care and Development Fund coverage. This financial aid is in grant form, so your family won't need to repay any of the costs. State agencies provide the information necessary to get you connected with the right grant providers and apply for assistance. Once your application has been approved, the individual grant-giving body will send the payments directly to your provider. Each State sets its requirements for eligibility, and you will need to contact them directly for information on the subsidies available in your community, as well as their corresponding application processes.

Programs for Child Care Assistance

The Office of Child Care (OCC) provides all 50 states with funding for low-income parents who need to go to work or school but are struggling to provide care for their kids. The OCC gives subsidies to nearly 1.5 million children every month![2] These subsidies also provide access to after-school programs as well as high-quality programs promoting self-sufficiency and education for parents and kids alike.

Head Start is a nationwide education support program. It consists of two components. First, the Early Head Start program works with existing daycare programs and child care centers to offer various services for pregnant women, infants, and toddlers up to age three. Kids can then transition into the Head Start Preschool program for 3-5-year-olds. Head Start also offers an array of additional services, like dental and medical care, access to nutritious meals, and mental health resources. All these services promote physical, mental, and intellectual development.


There are other State-funded Pre-K programs available to 3-5-year-olds. These programs focus on school readiness and early education, which contribute greatly to children's later success. Full-day programs do not suit all children's learning needs, so these Pre-K programs also offer part-day sessions, as well as full-week or part-week scheduling options. Some states offer no-cost programs, and others have a small fee to those who qualify. The Child Care Aware link at the end of this article contains a “Use a Child Care Resource and Referral Agency” option that will help you find the right program for you.

Child Care Aware® of America (CCA) is a program of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. CCA has collaborated with the Office of Child Care to give resources and information to low-income parents. They also offer special Military and DoD fee assistance programs. As an extra benefit, CCA ensures that their staff and their affiliated establishments are licensed and have passed a criminal background check. Unfortunately, background checks are not the standard policy in the childcare sector, potentially jeopardizing children's safety. The CCA background check reinforces their commitment to empowering children and families.

Another handy feature of the CCA website is their live chat option: trained Child Care Specialists are online to give information on how to evaluate a provider and a program, the various types of care to choose from, and questions to ask your child's potential provider. You can click on the same link to chat with an expert today!

Parent Resources

Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies help parents across the United States gain access to high quality, affordable childcare. They put families in touch with local care providers, teach parents what quality services look like, and offer crucial information on childhood growth and development.

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) also helps parents find high-quality providers and financial assistance for daycare. They use local community resources and CCA services to place children into the best program available. Click on the CCA website link below to find out more about the options available to you.

The Help You Need To Pay For Child Care

All parents want the best for their children, and choosing the right program or school is a crucial decision. It can be time-consuming and even overwhelming to sort through all the information available online. Fortunately, the US federal and state governments offer quality resources and financial assistance to low-income families because they believe that all children deserve care, development, and an even playing field, regardless of their economic status. These resources are crucial to your child's future, so you must know what options are available to you and how to take advantage of them.

Resource Links:

Child Care Aware® website
State and Territorial Child Care Subsidy Agencies
Tribal Child Care Subsidy Agencies
Office of Child Care
Head Start