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Navigating Childcare Costs: A Guide to Financial Assistance Programs for Families



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As parents, you want the best for your children, including quality childcare that supports their growth and development, however, the cost of childcare can often be a significant financial burden for families. In a Care.com survey, 51% of parents said they spend more than 20% of their household income on child care, and 72% of parents reported spending 10% or more. This is up from 70%, according to data from 2019. In fact, 59% are more concerned about child care costs now than in years prior, which is driving significant changes, such as taking on a second job (31%), reducing hours at work (26%), changing jobs (25%), and leaving the workforce entirely (21%), to help pay for childcare. ​​


Even though it may seem like there is no help, there are various assistance programs available across the United States to help alleviate some of this financial strain for families who qualify. Below we'll explore some of the key childcare assistance programs that families can tap into to make childcare more affordable and accessible.


Child Care Subsidies:

One of the most common forms of childcare assistance is through child care subsidy programs. These programs, available in most states, offer financial assistance to low-income families to help cover the cost of childcare services. Child care subsidies are provided through a federal block grant program called the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). CCDF provides funding to the States, Territories, and Tribes. Eligibility criteria typically include income level, family size, and employment status.  Eligibility requirements are different in each state. Utilize this great resource by www.childcare.gov to see assistance programs in you state: Select your state or territory on the “See Your State’s Resources" page and review the “Financial Assistance for Families” tab to find your local child care financial assistance program.


State-funded Pre-Kindergarten Programs:

For families with young children, state-funded pre-kindergarten programs can be a great option for accessing affordable pre-K programs. These programs, available in some states, serve children between 3 and 5 years of age and focus on helping children get ready for kindergarten. Some states offer these programs to eligible families at low or no cost. Programs may be part-day or full-day. 


Head Start and Early Head Start:

Head Start and Early Head Start are federally funded programs that provide comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and family support services to eligible low-income children and families. These programs, operated by local organizations, offer a holistic approach to childcare that supports children's overall development. By enrolling their children in Head Start or Early Head Start programs, families access free childcare and family support services that promote their children's well-being.


Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF):

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal assistance program that provides financial assistance and support services to low-income families with children. Some states use TANF funds to support childcare assistance programs, helping eligible families cover the cost of childcare while parents work or participate in job training programs. 


Military Financial Assistance Programs:

There are several programs that help military families pay for child care, wherever they are stationed. To learn more about these programs visit the Child Care Financial Assistance for Military Programs section of childcare.gov.


Local Assistance and Scholarships: 

Local nonprofit organizations and individual child care providers may offer fee assistance or scholarships. It is important to ask the programs that you are considering if they offer any child care assistance or scholarships because, hey, you never know! 


Sibling Discount: 

Some child care programs offer a discount to families that enroll siblings. They may take a percentage or a specific dollar amount off of a child’s weekly or monthly fee. They may also waive the registration fee or other fees. If you need care for more than one child, be sure to ask programs whether they offer sibling discounts.


Employer-sponsored Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA): 

Some employers may allow employees to put a portion of each paycheck into a fund called a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account, or “FSA,” to pay for child care services while the employees work. The money you contribute to a Dependent Care FSA is not subject to payroll taxes, so you end up paying less in taxes and taking home more of your paycheck. It can only be used to pay for dependent care, such as child care. Check with your human resources department to see if your employer offers this program.


Tax Credits: 

Tax credits reduce the amount of tax you owe and may result in a tax refund. To claim tax credits, you need to meet certain requirements and file a tax return, even if you have no other filing requirement or owe no income tax.

  • Child and dependent care tax credit: This credit is available to people who had to pay for child care for their children (younger than age 13) so they could work or look for work.

  • Earned income tax credit: This tax credit helps low- to moderate-income workers and families get a tax break. If you qualify, you can use the credit to reduce the taxes you owe and possibly increase your refund.


Navigating the various options for paying for childcare can be overwhelming, but it's important to know that there are resources out there. You also are not alone! We are here to help you navigate through this maze and determine what works best for your family. By exploring these assistance programs and understanding their eligibility criteria, you can make informed decisions about the best childcare options for your family. Schedule a consultation with us to chat about your specific situation and needs! 


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