Child care assistance is available in many areas to help low-income families pay for daycare so they can work, go to school, or both. This assistance normally must be applied for through local child care assistance offices. The applicant typically must meet certain income guidelines and be working or attending school for a minimum number of hours each week. Child care assistance is most commonly given for children under age 13, or sometimes up to age 18 if the child has special needs. Child care assistance may cover the entire bill, or some cases the family will be required to make a co-payment. This is usually based on the family's income and the number of children needing care.
The application for child care assistance can usually be completed online if the applicant has computer access, or a printed copy can often be obtained from a child care office. Sometimes the child care provider must meet certain requirements, such as be at least 18 years old. Other requirements might include being licensed or registered. Some families may choose to hire in-home care as opposed to using a day care center; in some cases requirements may allow this provider to be a relative not living with the family or a close family friend. Most offices use some sort of fee scale which determines, normally based upon the applicant's income and number of children, how much they can afford to contribute toward their children's care.
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When an applicant is eligible for financial assistance for child care, they usually receive two certificates in the mail, one for their records and one to give to their day care provider. The certificate typically states how much child care assistance they may receive each month and how long they will receive it. Their provider typically bills the appropriate office for the child care, based upon the information on the certificate. If a family is not eligible for assistance, the applicant will normally receive a notice advising them of this and explaining why. When their approved period for daycare assistance has expired, the applicant usually has to reapply to continue to receive financial assistance.
Those who receive child care assistance are usually required to report any changes in their household to the office who is helping them pay for care. Some changes that normally require reporting include address, income, school schedule, and a new job or loss of a job. Other changes might include household size, change of daycare provider, and changes in any child support that the family may receive. Many offices require that changes be reported on a timely basis or the family may risk losing the assistance.