Child Care Assistance for Single Mothers

Child care is a significant expense for most families, but it takes on a whole different level of strain for many single mothers. It can be difficult to come up with the money to pay for quality child care on just one income. There are many assistance programs that are available to help single mothers pay for the cost of child care.

In the rest of this article, we are going to explore the different child care assistance options that are available for single mothers so you can get the care your child needs without worrying about the financial aspect.

What are the available child care assistance programs for single mothers?

As a single mom, it can be difficult to make ends meet. With little or no financial support from your child’s other parent, it’s important to be aware of the resources available to you to help you pay for things like child care.

Programs will vary a bit depending on your specific circumstances and where you live, but here is a breakdown of some of the options that are available to you as a single mother looking for childcare.

Child Care; Development Fund Assistance

The easiest way to get assistance with child care costs as a single mother is to apply for assistance through a state-run program where you live. These programs are run on a state-by-state basis and receive funding from the federal government to cover the cost of the benefits they extend to local families.

These programs are run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s easy to find the local offices near you to find out more details about how to apply for the program and what is included.

To qualify for assistance through the Child Care ; Development Fund programs, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be characterized as very low or low income
  • Be employed or enrolled in an approved educational or training program
  • Be a parent or primary caregiver of a child under 13 (or under 19 if unable to care for themselves or requiring court-ordered supervision)
  • Demonstrate a need for assistance paying for child care

State-Funded Early Learning Programs

For most single parents, the need for child care assistance is most significant between ages 0-5, before their children are eligible to enter the public school system. Most states have options for state-run early learning programs that cover the period of childcare and early education before kindergarten to help bridge the gap.

Here are the most common programs that are available in most states:

Head Start Programs

Head Start offers child care options at low or no cost for qualifying families or single parents. They also offer Early Head Start programs that you can access in early infancy as well. These are wonderful programs that focus on quality early learning for children to prepare them to enter school.

Pre-Kindergarten Programs

Once children turn 3, they can move on from Head Start to a state-funded pre-Kindergarten program. These programs offer quality education to children between the ages of 3-5 at a reduced cost or possibly no cost depending on your financial situation.

Tribal Child Care Financial Assistance

If you are American Indian, Native Alaskan, or Native Hawaiian, you may qualify for Tribal Child Care Financial Assistance. This assistance comes in the form of grants that tribal associations can allocate to members who need help covering the cost of programs like Head Start and other state-funded early childhood education.

Are there any child care discount programs available for single mothers?

Many single mothers do not qualify for the state-funded programs due to the income requirements or other factors, so it’s important to know about other options that can help to offset the cost of child care.

Discounts and scholarship programs are great because the restrictions are often less strict and you can often combine a few different ones to cover a significant chunk of child care costs.

Here are some of the other child care programs and discounts you can inquire about:

Scholarship Programs

If you do not qualify for state-funded programs or are in need of additional assistance, a great next step to look at would be scholarships. This can be a great way to offset the expensive cost of quality childcare as a single mom.

Many public and private child care centers offer scholarships for full or partial tuition to their establishment. Some scholarships have income requirements to apply, but others do not. This is a great option if you are striking out with the strict state-funded programs due to income restrictions or other regulations.

Military Discounts

If you, your child’s other parent, or anyone else in your family currently serves or has served in any branch of the U.S. military, you may qualify for a military discount on childcare.

Speak with someone at the child care center of your choice to find out what options are available to you as far as military discounts. Some centers offer full scholarships to service members’ families while others are willing to at least extend a discount, which will help minimize the cost of care.

Multi-Child Discounts

Child care costs for multiple children can be staggering. When you have a few children who all require full-time child care, the costs can quickly eclipse your income, especially as a single parent.

When you find a child care center that you like, inquire about multi-child discounts. Many centers offer discounts or sliding scale rates for parents who enroll multiple children in their programs. This is a great way to save some money when you have to foot the bill for a few children in full or part-time care.

Employee Discounts

Many employers are adding child care discount programs and even fully subsidized child care to their benefits to help with employee retention and satisfaction. With parental leave being inconsistent and minimal depending on local laws and company regulations, this is a way that companies are trying to help bridge the gap.

Check with your employer’s human resources department to find out if they have partnered with any local child care centers to offer a discount or if they offer in-house child care. These options are great because you can get access to a high-quality child care center that is close to or even at your office.

Are there any tax credits that can help pay for childcare?

As a parent, there are some perks that you can take advantage of when it comes to your income and other tax credits. It’s important to properly budget for these items to make sure you make the best use of these funds so you can help pay for child care.

Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

If you meet certain income requirements and can prove the need for child care so that you can find a job or go to your current job, you may qualify for this additional tax credit. It is meant to help cover a portion of the cost of child care so that you can continue to work without interruption.

Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts

Although this is not technically a tax credit, Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (also known as FSAs) are a great way to allocate some of your own money towards child care in a tax-advantageous way.

Money contributed to an FSA for dependent care is pre-tax dollars, so you are not required to pay taxes on whatever funds you contribute to it.

Your employer will deduct the amount you want to contribute directly from your paychecks and it will be available on your FSA card. You can pay your child care center tuition with your FSA card and not have to worry about the added expense from your normal income.

Final Thoughts

As a single mother, child care costs can seem overwhelming and even feel impossible to cover on your own. Without the support of a partner’s income, it’s easy to assume that you can’t find a way to make it work. The good news is that there are plenty of programs available to support single mothers who need financial assistance.

The goal of state-run programs is to provide quality education and preparation for formal schooling once children turn 5 and are eligible for public kindergarten. These programs are heavily subsidized so they are available at low or no cost as long as you meet the income requirements.

Another great option is to explore the different discounts and scholarships that you might qualify for as well. These are usually less strict than government-run programs and can be combined depending on what you qualify for. Look for discounts through your employer, for multiple children, or if you come from a military family.

Whether you opt for state-run assistance programs, capitalize on scholarships, or use discounts that are available to you, there is always a way to make it work. Many of the options listed above can be used in conjunction with each other, which is a great way to cover the at-times overwhelming costs easily.

Learn more about Grants and Government Assistance Programs for Single Mothers.