State child care assistance programs are funded through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). CCDF is a Federal program that assists low-income families, families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and those transitioning from TANF in getting child care so they can work or attend training/education. Each State has its own eligibility guidelines. You may apply for child care assistance (sometimes called a “subsidy” or “voucher”) at a State or local agency.
You may receive assistance if you show that the following is true:
- You need child care to work, attend school, or receive training;
- Your income is not greater than the income limit set by your State;
- Your child is younger than 13 years; and/or
- Your child has a special need or is under court supervision and is younger than 19 years.
States have different ways to apply for help, including different forms to fill out and steps to follow.
The following are some examples of State requirements:
- Some States require in-person applications, and others offer off-site application services, such as online, telephone, or mail options.
- All States require families to pay a co-payment fee based on their family income. Some States waive the fee under special circumstances.
- Some States require single parents to cooperate with child support enforcement regulations to be eligible for services.
- Some States give assistance to grandparents and other relatives if they meet program requirements.
- All States allow families to chose from a broad range of child care providers, including relatives, friends, or neighbors.
- States require providers to meet basic health and safety requirements, but States vary in exactly what providers must do. Some require all child care providers to be licensed, while others exempt some providers, such as those serving children of relatives or those serving a very small number of children.
- States pay providers based on a set rate that can vary by age of child, type of care, location, and other factors.
- States have different systems for paying providers. Some States use paper checks, others use direct deposit, and others give parents debit cards that can be used to transfer the payment to the provider electronically.
- States may require providers to sign a contract agreement before they can participate in the child care assistance program.
To learn more about your child care assistance program, contact your State child care agency. Child care resource and referral (CCR&R) agencies sometimes have information about child care programs that have scholarships, special funding options, or sliding fee scales that are based on household income.