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Low Cost or Free Childcare

Parenting and Child Care

Unlike other industrialized countries like France or Sweden, the US doesn’t subsidize daycare costs on a national level. Before parents can enroll their kids in a childcare center, they must first look at their finances, their work schedule and the ages of their kids. However, nowadays many families must also cut back spending and deal with unemployment. Parents must decide what childcare options best suit their family. Free and low cost childcare is available, but only for people who qualify.

Free or Inexpensive Childcare Options

One option for free or low cost childcare is for parents to ask relatives or friends for help. Even if relatives opt to help out only once a week or twice a month, it’s still often cheaper than hiring a babysitter or sending the kids to a daycare center for that time. Parents can also “trade” babysitting with friends or family members. This way, it’s even exchange of services and no one has to pay extra. It’s like a babysitting co-op.

Another option is to check with the state and local resources. Depending on the family’s income level, some families may qualify for free or reduced price childcare in their state. In some states, parents may qualify for a state childcare subsidy due to the income level and if the parent works in a school.

In addition, many states offer free or cheap Pre-K programs or Head Start programs to prepare 3 and 4 year olds for kindergarten. State and federal programs also may have some requirements based criteria like: income, military service, language ability, education disadvantage or state custody. Depending on the state and locality, these requirements can be more or less inclusive.

Local universities, colleges, government agencies, faith organizations, non-profit organizations, and local community groups may also run and subsidize daycare centers. They often provide daycare at a lower price than private programs. Check with your local state daycare office to learn about the qualifications for these childcare programs.

Some employers sometimes subsidize or run a daycare for their employee’s kids nearby or on site. Other employers offer discounts to parents who enroll their kids at a preferred child care center. Parents should ask the HR manager about these options, and then compare prices and quality of care at these daycares.

Other Options

Parents should also look at their tax returns to see if they qualify for any federal or state tax credits or deductions. On the federal level, many parents may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit and the Child Tax Credit. In addition, military families also may be eligible for Military Child Care Assistance provided by the Department of Defense.

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