In case you're wondering, the answer to the question in the title is a simple YES -- day care or child care vouchers are real!
Research shows that most American families spend 20% or more of their monthly earnings on quality child care. This means that for most low income family, the cost of child care can be a real and constant concern that put tremendous pressure on them.
If you are a parent struggling to afford day care for your infant and toddlers, you should continue reading this article. Here we will break down all the day-care assistance options in the U.S., and show you how you can get help and qualify for child care assistance that is best for your family.
What Childcare Crisis Are Parents Facing?
These days we often hear people talking about child care crisis in the U.S., but what exactly do they mean? As it turns out, for most American families, finding good child care is only half the problem. The other challenge is how to pay for it.
Many parents who are unable to find or afford licensed child care turn to informal options, which includes getting help from relatives, friends or neighbors before or after school. But unlicensed providers usually don’t have training in early childhood development and education. They don't have to pass the safety and quality inspections required of licensed caregivers (although non-relatives getting subsidies do have to undergo a background check). That puts children at risk of receiving subpar or even unsafe care.
The good news is that the U.S. government is fully aware of this child care crisis and the difficulties faced by many families. As a result, massive funding and resources have been invested to improve the situation.
What is Day Care Vouchers? And How Do They Work?
Every state in America receives funds from the federal government to support day care voucher programs - i.e. State Child Care Assistance or Child Care Voucher. These programs sometimes go by alternative names in different states, such as child care vouchers, child care financial assistance, subsidized child care services, etc.
In general, the programs provide vouchers for families to obtain care in licensed child care centers, licensed family child care homes, or license-exempt care. These vouchers help offset the costs associated with child care by subsidizing - or paying part of - the tuition at participating day care centers. The family may choose the type of care that their child receives so they can work or go to school.
What Can You Use Child Care Vouchers For?
- Home-based child care or family child care home - usually operated in small groups of children in a residential building. Smaller scale with one or two caregivers who may offer services in non-traditional hours.
- Child care centers - providers often group children by age. Centers are usually larger and enroll more children, and are run by a center director and a good number of staff.
- Pre-school programs - Services typically offered for children aged 3-5 years old. Such as nursery, play groups that are operated through a school, charitable or religious-based organization.
- School-age program - provide child care before or after school hours, during school holidays or summer breaks.
- Family, friends, neighbor care - usually relatives, baby sitters and nannies.
Child Care Financial Assistance Options
Each state's child care system normally includes different programs that address different child care needs.
- PreKindergarten Programs
- School-Age Child Care and Camp Programs
- Child Care Options for Military Families
- Informal In-Home Child Care
To check the local child care resource in your state, go to ChildCare.gov directory for more detailed information. Simply find the state in the scroll-down menu, then explore the Financial Assistance For Families tab. And you will find all the financial assistance programs available in your area.
Are You Qualified For Child Care Assistance?
This depends on the state you live in. To qualify for child care subsidy programs, a family needs to meet both the situational and financial criteria. Below are the basic requirement:
Working/Studying/Looking For Job
Most states require that the parent or guardian is either working, looking for a job (typically for no more than six to eight weeks) or attending school full-time.
Special Developmental Need
Other factors may include whether or not your child has developmental needs and if child care is needed to support welfare services. Some states run "In-Home Supportive Services Program which pays the parent or caregiver to stay home and care for a developmentally disabled child.
The level of household income is crucial in deciding whether or not a family qualifies. Most states require that the parents’ income to be at or below the poverty level. Families are usually required to pay a percentage of their child care costs - also known as "family fee" - based upon their gross monthly income. The percentage is around 10%, if applicable.
How Do You Apply?
In the ChildCare.gov directory, you will be able to find the initial maximum income eligibility limits in your states. You can determine whether or not you meet the financial criteria to receive child care subsidy. If you meet the financial criteria, you can then work out an estimate of your child care subsidy costs.
How Much Do You Qualify For?
Again, the amount of financial assistance you can get varies from state to state. But in general, a certain percentage of child care costs will be paid for, while in some cases it will be the entire amount.
In Michigan, for example, a family of four earning approximately between $5,000 to $5,200 is expected to contribute about $65 a week toward day care. By comparison, Connecticut requires a family to pay anywhere between 2% to 10% of the day care costs depending on how far their income falls below the state’s median income level.
What If You Don’t Qualify?
Don't panic. There are a number of other programs offered by the federal and state government to help low income families with financial need. Here are just a few of them:
Also funded by the federal government, Head Start promotes school readiness for children under the age of 5. To find out if your family qualifies, contact the Head Start center nearest you.
Several states offer fully-funded pre-kindergarten programs to children aged 3 to 5. These programs include half-day and full-day options. Some states have made the option available to all families who are residents, while others require families to meet certain criteria to qualify.
Military Assistance Programs
Through Child Care Aware of America, both military and Department of Defense families may receive help through the Fee Assistance and Respite Child Care Programs.
Sliding Fee Scale
Certain child care providers have sliding fee scale plans available, meaning that they may choose to scale the tuition based on your family finances. Ask your day care or child care provider if they are providing similar options.
Informal Child Care Options And Other Free Resources Online
Many states and county organizations are working closely with children's services network, such as Cradle To Career, to recruit and train new licensed homecare providers. These initiatives aim to improve the supports and care for children's development at all stages, regardless of their races, ethnicity, or family income.
These services networks also offer educational materials and training to people providing child care informally. They also arranged free playgroups for families with young children, where they demonstrate age-appropriate activities that caregivers can do at home. Many parents and caregivers find these offerings and activities meaningful and useful.
Other Free Resources Online
There are also plenty of useful resources online for caregivers of pre-school and kindergarten children. You can easily search online according to the different needs of your children. And many of them are FREE of charge.
Worrying that your limited data plan does not support frequent web surfing and resource downloading? How about claiming your FREE unlimited internet services for your cell phone or for your home through the Federal Government's Affordable Connectivity Program?
You may be eligible for free monthly unlimited internet services. In fact, over 40% of US households qualify for this program through EASY Wireless. When you qualify for this program, you can get FREE Talk, Text and Data every month. It only takes a few minutes to register and check if you qualify for this service.
To see if you qualify, just enter your email and zip code below and click "Enroll Now".
Start Saving Today!