If you have already started your child care search, you know that quality child care can be expensive. Fortunately there are a variety of child care assistance programs for low-income and other eligible families and children.

State Child Care Assistance

Each state receives funds from the federal government for their state’s child care fee assistance program. Your state may refer to this program as vouchers, fee assistance, subsidy, or a specific program name. These programs assist low-income families with paying for child care so that they can work or attend school. Eligibility requirements vary by state.

If you are thinking about applying for subsidy, visit your state’s child care assistance website. You may be able to check your eligibility before you even apply. It may also be possible to apply for the program online, read about how the program works, and learn about who is eligible. You can find your state’s child care subsidy website on our State by State Resource Map. Once you’re on the map, click on your state. You’ll find Child Care Assistance under the Financial Assistance category.

If you are a high school student in need of child care in order to finish school, you may be able to receive subsidy funds set aside for high school students. Follow the steps listed above to access our State by State Resource Map and find your state’s subsidy office. Contact your state or local office, and ask if there are funds set aside for high school students.

Head Start Programs

Head Start programs promote the school readiness of children and provide a wide range of services to support children’s mental, social, and emotional development. These programs are funded by the federal government. Early Head Start serves children from birth to 2 years old, and Head Start serves children 3 to 5 years old. Families with an income at or below the poverty level may be eligible for Head Start. Other factors that affect eligibility include homelessness, children in foster care, or receiving certain types of public assistance.

Head Start programs provide services in every U.S. state and territory, in farm-worker camps and in more than 155 American Indian and Alaska Native tribal communities. To apply for Head Start, contact your nearest Head Start grantee. They will be able to provide you with information on openings in the program and how to apply. You can also learn more on the Head Start website.

State-Funded Pre-K

Pre-K programs are geared towards children 3 to 5 years old. The focus is on early education and school readiness, and they may be part- or full-day programs. Some states offer Pre-K programs at low or no cost to eligible families. Other states have made pre-K available to all families. Your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency (CCR&R) can tell you if your state funds pre-K for some or all families. They can also help you find pre-K programs where you live. Search for your local CCR&R here or by calling Child Care Aware® at 1(800) 424-2246.

Military and DoD Fee Assistance Programs

Child Care Aware® of America offers child care fee assistance to eligible members of the military and DoD. Eligibility requirements are determined by each branch of service or agency. Visit Child Care Aware® of America’s website to find out if your branch or agency is covered.