If you’ve applied for child care assistance in your state and don’t qualify or there is a wait list, you may have other options for help paying for child care.

Child care assistance can come in many different forms. While some programs, like child care subsidies, pay for a portion of your child care each month, other options may help you save money or provide discounts on your monthly or weekly fees. If you’re not able to receive child care subsidy funds in your state, read on to learn about other programs, credits, or discounts that may be able to assist you with paying for child care.

Tax Credits

Tax credits do not provide immediate help with paying for child care, but they reduce the amount of tax owed and help to maximize your refund. A tax refund, if received, can be set aside for other costs throughout the year.

  • Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit – This credit is available to people who are paying for child care so that they can work or look for work.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit – This is a tax credit for moderate- to low-income working individuals and families.

Speak with a tax specialist or visit www.irs.gov for more information on these tax credits and more. Your local CCR&R may be also able to assist you with this information. Search for your local CCR&R here or by calling Child Care Aware® at 1(800) 424-2246.

Work- or School-Related Programs

Are there any assistance options based on where you work or go to school? Ask your employer or school about some of the options for child care assistance or savings below.

  • College or University Child Care – Some colleges and universities offer child care on campus. These programs may offer special discounts to students and faculty/staff of the college or university.
  • Employer Assisted Dependent Care – Some employers may allow employees to put a portion of each paycheck into a special fund to use for child care. The money placed in these funds is not taxed. It can only be used toward the cost of care, however. Check with your Human Resources department about what might be available where you work.
  • Other Employer Resources – Some companies may offer child care on-site for children of employees. In addition, some larger child care programs may offer discounts for employees of certain companies. Ask your employer if they have a relationship with any nearby child care programs that may offer a discount based on where you work.

Local and/or Provider-Specific Assistance and Discounts

Local child care assistance options may be available depending on where you live. Your best resource for this information is your local Child Care Resource & Referral agency. Visit your local agency’s website (find your agency here), or call to speak with a representative about child care assistance options.  You should also ask each child care provider about discounts they may offer. See below for possible options to ask about when you speak with your CCR&R or potential child care providers.

  • Sliding Fee Scale – Some providers may allow families to pay a rate based upon their income. This is called a sliding fee scale. Some CCR&Rs have lists of providers that offer this, while others may not. If your CCR&R is unable to direct you, ask them for a list of child care providers nearby. Call providers you’re considering and ask if they offer a sliding fee scale. You may also want to ask if they offer payment plans or other options to help with paying for child care.
  • Local Assistance or Scholarships– Local nonprofit organizations or individual child care providers may offer fee assistance or scholarships for child care. Be sure to ask your CCR&R and any child care programs that you call to see what is available.
  • Sibling Discount– Certain child care programs offer a discount to families that enroll siblings. They may take a percentage or dollar amount off of a child’s weekly or monthly rate. They may also offer to waive the registration or other fee. Ask each provider about a discount if you enroll more than one child.
  • Military Discount – Many child care providers offer discounts for military service members. Ask potential providers if they offer any discounts.

Lower-Cost Child Care Options

If you’re not eligible for child care assistance, you may want to research some lower-cost child care options where you live. Finding lower-cost child care may mean looking into a different type of care. The child care options below will provide you with some ideas on types of care that may cost less than a typical child care center.

  • Family Child Care Homes – The average cost of care at a licensed Family Child Care (FCC) home is lower than the average cost of a center. Ask your local CCR&R for a list of Family Child Care homes. Then call to ask about rates and set up a visit. Be sure to ask FCC providers about their education and experience. Ask if they have a degree in a child-related field, a Child Development Associate credential (CDA), or a national accreditation. Ask about First Aid and CPR trainings and how long they’ve provided care in their home. Visit our Selecting a Child Care Program page for more questions to ask potential providers.
  • Nonprofit Programs – Nonprofit providers often have lower rates than for-profit providers. Some nonprofit providers include YMCA (may offer both early childhood and school-age programs) and Boys and Girls Clubs (school-age programs). Churches and other religious organizations may have lower-cost child care programs as well.

The first step to finding lower-cost options is to contact your local Child Care Resource & Referral agency (CCR&R) for a list of child care providers. Your CCR&R can provide you with a list of referrals based on your needs, so you may ask them to include Family Child Care Home and/or Nonprofit Child Care programs in your list. Once you have your list, be sure to contact each program to ask about cost, availability, and to set up a tour.

Child Care Aware® can discuss financial assistance programs and child care options with you. We can answer your questions or put you in touch with a local contact that can help. We’ll also give you some resources and guidance to help you select a quality child care. Call 1(800) 424-2246 or request an online chat.