One of the most difficult aspects of being a single mother is the need to find daycare so that you can work a part- or full-time job. Sure, numerous daycare options are available, but most cost a sizeable chunk of a single mother’s salary.
Fortunately, several programs exist to help single mothers with this issue, and some can even help provide free daycare for single mothers. Your eligibility for many of these programs depends on your income level, where you live and the age of your children. In addition, different states offer different types and levels of assistance.
Sources for Free or Low-Cost Daycare
The best place to begin your search for free or low-cost daycare is your local Department of Health and Human Services office. The DHHS can steer you to affordable daycare providers in your community and possible grants to help you pay for daycare.
Head Start, the federal program that focuses on providing safe and reliable child care for mothers of children between birth and 5 years old, including foster children, is an excellent starting point for finding the assistance that you need if your children are of that age. Head Start is also administered by the DHHS. The DHHS might also hook you up with the Child Care Development Fund, another source of funds for single mothers looking for affordable daycare.
Another possible source of daycare at reasonable prices is local churches that offer after-school or extended daycare hours. If you are a member of a church that offers such programs, you might be able to work out an arrangement where you get free daycare. You might need to exchange time as a volunteer to get free daycare, but it is certainly worth an inquiry.
If you are pursuing a college degree, check and see if your school offers daycare. Many universities want to capture the enormous single mother market and offer incentives such as free daycare to lure new students.
No matter what you pay for daycare, you can be confident that a nice chunk of your expenses are deductible through the child care credit on your yearly taxes. In addition, the Dependent Care Assistance Program enables you to set aside a portion of your paycheck for child care expenses. This money is taken out of your pay and can be used for children 13 and younger.
The criteria for most of these daycare assistance programs is that you are working at least 30 hours a week or are a full-time student, or a combination of work and school that equals 30 hours of productive activity per week. The children that can be covered by federal help can be between birth and 12 years old.
As with all assistance, you might need to do a little legwork and spend time filling out applications that seem to take forever. It will be well worth it, however, if you are able to eliminate daycare as a budget item in your financial future. It’s also easier and faster than ever to apply for aid through the Internet.