Times are tight and the average cost of daycare is expensive, but fortunately, if you are a parent, you may be able to get government help paying for daycare. Despite the often high price tag associated with child care, your little ones are precious, so you want to ensure that they are in a high-quality, caring environment during those times when you cannot be with them. The United States government understands that, sometimes, you need assistance in providing the best care for your children, so they have several programs available that may be of interest to you.
Finding Government Help Paying for Daycare
The first step to finding government help paying for daycare is to learn about affordable child care and early education programs, such as Head Start, that are available in your area. The government offers a free service, Child Care Aware, that helps you find your local child care resource and referral agency (CCR&R).
The CCR&R will help you determine whether your family qualifies for completely free childcare or partially subsidized childcare. You can find local CCR&R agencies at Child Care Aware.org, or you can call Child Care Aware at (800) 424-2246 to get connected to your CCR&R agency. The CCR&R agency has information about funding options or price scales for child care programs. Child Care Aware's brochures are also available on the Web in both English and Spanish versions.
Selecting a Childcare Option
After you determine that you qualify for assistance, you need to select a child care environment for your child or children. While there are variations on how states regulate child care, you can generally choose to can send your children to:
- A daycare center, which is a location where staff provides care for seven or more children
- A group daycare home where the staff provides care for no more than 12 children
- A family daycare home where one person provides care for four to six children in a family residence
- A minimally certified daycare home where one person provides care for no more than three children in an environment not regulated by the state government
Choose a child care arrangement that fits your family. Also be an active participant in your child's care arrangement. Visit the center or home, and engage in events sponsored by your child's care provider.
Keep in mind that there are options other than federally-funded child care options. States offer child care assistance, as do local governments. For example, you can consider Early Head Start or Head Start. Early Head Start serves infants and toddlers, and Head Start serves children ages three to five. In general, Head Start serves children whose family income is at or below the federal poverty level. To find an Early Head Start program in your area, visit the EHS Program Locator Web site. To find a Head Start program in your area, use the online Head Start Program Search Tool.
There are also tax-related incentives which can provide assistance to help defray some of the cost of child care. For example, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is available to working people, both full- and part-time, who meet specific income guidelines. You do not have to owe taxes to be able to receive the EITC. A second credit, the Federal Child Tax Credit (FCTC), works much like EITC, but the income limits are different. Like the EITC, you do not have to owe taxes to receive the FCTC. In addition to the federal EITC and FCTC, states also offer EITC and FCTC.
A child care resource and referral agency (CCR&R) in your local area may be your best option for finding information about child care programs that have special funding options or sliding fee scales. Links to State CCR&R agencies are available on the NCCIC website.
Like every parent, your family is your first concern. You understand the importance of choosing the child care arrangements that best suit your family's needs and your career. If you can get government help paying for daycare, your range of child care options widens. Your child can learn and grow in a nurturing, caring environment, and you can rest assured that the good care you need not be a financial strain on your family.