8 Ways To Get Help With Childcare
For Families with Low Income or Financial Struggles
With rising costs and a record number of people looking for new jobs, it can be exceedingly difficult for working families to pay for childcare. Unable to pay for traditional daycares or babysitters, many families are forced to choose between caring for their child and maintaining a steady job. However, there are a number of resources available to struggling families who are looking for ways to provide care for their children when the parents are away. Here are 8 ways for low-income or financially struggling families to get help with their childcare.
1. State Assistance
Federal funding is allotted to every state in the US to help low-income families pay for childcare. Because the subsidies are handled by the state’s economic services department, the requirements for eligibility varies from state to state. However, low-income families who are struggling financially will often be eligible to receive some form of assistance. In particular, low-income families where one or both parents are working could be eligible to receive free childcare through these services. Along with funding through the state’s social services, some states distribute their funds to independent childcare services such as the Children’s Cabinet in Nevada and Smart Start in North Carolina. These organizations can assist families in finding childcare providers and applying for funding.
In addition to individual childcare for families, many states implement federally funded childcare programs that are designed to provide quality care for children and are free to enroll in. Children between the ages of 3 – 5 years old can be enrolled in state-run pre-kindergarten classes. Children can attend pre-k classes for half-day sessions or full-day sessions, which will provide your child with basic knowledge to help them prepare for school and provide you with consistent, state-approved childcare. Age restrictions on pre-k programs vary between states and counties, as some programs allow children to be enrolled when they reach the age of three, while other programs will not accept a child until they are 4 years old. Be sure to check with pre-k centers in your area.
Along with pre-k, head-start programs are also an option that low-income families may be eligible for. Although the funding for head-start programs had decreased over the years, they are still a childcare option in many states. Similar to pre-k schooling, head-start programs can provide children with early learning that will prepare them for school and provide parents with state-approved childcare. Unlike pre-k, head-start programs offer a variety of services including facility-based childcare and home-based childcare. Head-start programs also offer family-wellbeing services designed to help families with housing stability and financial security.
2. Military Assistance
If your family includes a member of the military, you could be eligible for separate subsidies that are funded by the federal government and the Department of Defense. For those who qualify, these programs help with paying childcare fees. Parents who are in the Navy or Air Force may also be eligible for the childcare services offered by these military programs. The program is run through Child Care Aware of America, and you can visit their website for more information. The requirements to be eligible for these programs may vary depending on your location or military branch, so be sure to check with Child Care Aware or with your state’s social services department.
3. Student Assistance
Similar to military parents, parents who are currently attending college may also qualify for additional childcare assistance. It is not uncommon for universities, especially public universities, to offer childcare services to parents who are attending their college. If you are currently attending college, or applying to go to college, you can ask them about available childcare programs for students who have children. The requirements for eligibility and available services will depend on the institution, so be sure to ask for details about the college’s programs.
In addition to childcare services provided by educational institutes, some counties in the US provide childcare for college attending parents through independent organizations. These programs, such as Sitters for Scholars in Boston, are grant-funded initiatives that provide a variety of services such as financial assistance and free childcare sessions for the parents. The requirements for eligibility and the services offered will vary, so be sure to check with the organizations. If you are unaware of available programs in your county, your local social services department may be able to direct you to any childcare options.
4. Employer Assistance
As the demands of parental life and the economic system have increased, an increasing number of employers have begun to offer childcare assistance to their employees. Employers such as Best Buy offer a limited number of free childcare sessions to their employees as well as discounted fulltime childcare with certain providers. Other employers, such as Google, offer onsite childcare facilities that can be utilized by their employees. If you work for an educational institute, particularly a public university, you may be eligible for childcare services similar to the ones offered to students. If you are uncertain about what may be available to you as an employee, contact your HR department and they should be able to give you information on any childcare programs supported by your company.
5. Childcare Facility Discounts
Some childcare centers offer discounts and financial aid to low-income families that use their childcare services. If you want to take your child to a childcare center but are unable to afford their regular fees, ask the facility if they offer sliding scale fees or discounts for low-income families. Some childcare centers will also offer “sibling” discounts to families who register 2 or more children at their facility.
If you are struggling to afford childcare due to a recent job loss, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Like federally funded childcare assistance, unemployment benefits are run through the state’s social services departments and requirements for eligibility will vary from state to state. However, those who obtain unemployment are provided with a weekly income based on what they were making at their last job. While this will not directly provide you with childcare, the unemployment income could be used to pay for childcare fees, or it could be used to pay for the necessities that prevent you from being able to afford childcare. If you are unable to obtain unemployment, or if the income is not enough to pay for childcare, the agents at the unemployment department may be able to recommend alternate options that you could pursue.
7. Utility Bill Assistance
Many low-income households cannot afford to take their children to daycare or hire a babysitter because most or all their income goes toward paying bills. Families that are unable to get assistance with paying for childcare could be eligible for assistance with paying their bills. Federally funded programs such as LIHEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program) help disadvantaged households pay for utilities such as gas, water, electric, and heating/cooling bills. Information on how to apply for LIHEAP can be found here:
It is not uncommon for individual states to have their own assistance programs as well, so you could always contact your state’s social services department and ask them if they implement any form of energy assistance program for low-income households. While this will not help you acquire childcare directly, it could help you save enough money that you could pay for a daycare or a babysitter.
People start GoFundMe’s for an endless number of reasons, from students looking to fund their college tuition to parents asking for help buying their children Christmas presents. For a low-income family really struggling to afford childcare, there may be a number of people willing to help provide the funds to make sure your little ones are looked after. You do not have to pay to create a GoFundMe account or set up a fundraiser, and GoFundMe can provide all sorts of tips on how to earn more money. Any money that you make through your GoFundMe will be extra finances that have not already been allotted to your other expenses, so no matter how much you make it will be a financial gain. Even if you do not make enough to pay for long-term childcare, it may provide you with a short-term solution until you can get more help though federally funded programs or until you can find a job that can provide employee childcare programs.