For families that need help paying for child care, some government programs come in handy. What are they, and what do they entail? Let's find out.
Note: The online child care search in your state or territory may reveal if a service participates in a government financial help program or offers its own financial aid or discounts. Visit the "Find Child Care" on ChildCare.gov to find your state or territory's online child care details.
In the US, government programs to support child care include:
Families without sufficient income can use these programs to help pay for child care to go to work or to school. Each state has its own set of eligibility standards. To explore your local child assistance aid program, click on "See Your State's Resources" website and look where it says "Financial Assistance for Families."
These programs assist children from the time they’re born until they are age five to get ready for school and assist with their early education, development, mental health, and overall physical health.
Head Start and Early Head Start are free to families with low incomes that qualify. To discover Head Start and Early Head Start programs in your state/territory, click on "See Your State's Resources" website and look under "Child Development and Early Learning."
Prekindergarten programs financed by the state serve children aged 3 to 5 years old and are intended to prepare them for early education. In some states, families can get these services for free or at reduced costs if they qualify. Part- and full-day programs are available.
To find out if public prekindergarten is offered in your state or territory, check "See Your State's Resources" and look under "Child Development and Early Learning."
Several programs exist to assist military families meet childcare costs, regardless of where they are posted. Click on Child Care Financial Assistance for Military Families to get additional information.
The government funds several Tribes and Tribal organizations to help Tribal families afford child care. American Indian and Alaska Native children can access in excess of 150 Head Start and Early Head Start initiatives.
If you are lost, check out Head Start Center Locator to find these programs.
Hawaii has programs that help the natives of Hawai'i and the Pacific Islands with the expense of child care and kindergarten.
Families can get in touch with PATCH for more information.
To be eligible for the child care programs, you must be a parent or primary caregiver for kids under the age of 13 or under the age of 19 if unable of self-care or under court supervision. You must also describe your financial status as low or very low income. To be eligible, you must be working or enrolled in a training or education program in some states.
NOTE: We recommend checking your eligibility and application in online resources (see links included in the descriptions above).
You can apply using paper or do it online. The paper application is about nine pages long, including instructions and asking questions to prove identity, residence, etc. You can mail, fax, or deliver the paper application in person.
The online format is a combined application where you can choose the program you would like to apply for and answer questions (they vary depending on the program selected).
Depending on the state or territory, the requirements and documentation could vary slightly from one place to the next. However, the most common required documents fall into the following categories:
You will get feedback 4 to 6 weeks after submitting your application. The information you are given tells you how long you must wait to get the benefits. In some states, you may find a waiting list for some counties, which could impact how long you have to wait.
CCAP is not free. Just about all parents are required to pay a portion of the monthly child care costs, called a co-payment or co-pay. CCAP operates on a sliding price scale, implying that better-income families pay a greater co-pay than lower-income families.
The county in which you live also contributes to the expense of your child's care. Payments will be delivered to you if the child care is provided in your home. Payments will be issued to your provider when the child care is provided at home or a center.
Your monthly payments (parent co-pay) are determined based on income and household size. Some families with meager incomes are not required to co-pay, while others pay anywhere from $10 to several hundred dollars a month.
You will usually be approved for 3, 6, or 12 months at a time, depending on where you reside. To continue receiving help, you must renew your child care case before your approval term expires. This is done via completing a "Redetermination" form. This form will be mailed to you one month before the expiration of your eligible term.