Child care can be one of the most expensive costs for American families. According to Care.com’s 2020 Cost of Care Survey, 72% of parents say that they spend at least 10% of their household income on child care. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of programs available to make paying for child care easier.
Here is a list of ways to access affordable child care services near you:
Option 1: Look into child care options provided by the government
State child care assistance programs
State child care assistance programs are funded by the federal government. Each state may have its own name for their programs such as vouchers, fee assistance, or subsidy. If you qualify, you may be able to receive benefits from a program like this in your state. State child care assistance can help put your children in good hands while you go to school or work. Each state program has different eligibility requirements. You can find these requirements on the child care assistance website for your state.
Head Start is a federally funded program for children ages 3-5 that promotes school readiness. Head Start programs are offered in every state, and are accessible to low-income families that qualify. Accommodations are even made for children that may have disabilities, be in foster care, or are part of families experiencing homelessness. There is also an Early Head Start option for children starting at 2 years old.
Similarly to Head Start, Pre-K is also a child care program that promotes early education and school readiness. The difference is that Pre-K is directly funded by the state instead of the federal government. Some states offer Pre-K to low-income families that qualify, while others make it accessible to all families.
Option 2: See if you have any employee benefits that cover child care
Some jobs have employer assisted dependent care options where you can designate a non-taxed portion of each paycheck to be sent to a child care fund. Talk to your employer or a human resources representative at your job to find out if this option if available for you.
In addition to assisted dependent care, some jobs may provide child care on site. If not, check to see if your job has any relationships with local child care providers and offer any discounts.
Option 3: Consider remaining options
Some high schools, colleges, and universities offer on-site child care for students with children. Colleges and universities may also offer discounts, grants, and scholarships to students that are pregnant or have children to alleviate the costs of higher education, so that mothers and fathers can afford child care and attend school.
Options offered by child care providers
Ask your local child care provider if they offer sliding fee scale options. A sliding fee scale is the ability to pay for child care based on your income. If you have more than one child that needs care, inquire about any sibling discounts that your child care provider may offer. Some providers might also offer discounts to military veterans so be sure to look into that as well if it applies to you.
Other types of low-cost child care options include the YMCA or Boys & Girls Club. Even local churches and faith-based organizations may provide low-cost or free child care. Whatever option you choose, make sure that the provider is licensed and that your children will be safe.