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Daycare for low income, free daycare, and child care assistance in all 50 states

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Daycare — a necessity for working families — can be a huge financial burden. If you’re finding it difficult to afford daycare, you’re not alone. All across the country, single parents and low-income families are struggling to pay for weekly daycare.

According to a recent survey by, parents spend on average 24% of their household income on child care.1 That same survey reports that the average cost of daycare is $321 per week (up from $284 in 2022). That works out to just under $1,300 each month. For some families, that’s more than rent (or a mortgage payment).

Yet, there is hope. 

If you meet income limits, you can get free daycare or a subsidy to help you pay for daycare. If you make too much money but still need help, you’ll have to get creative to find the help you need (we share some ideas below). 

Keep reading to find out which free or reduced-cost child care options will help your family.

To start your search, Google “free child care near me” or dial 211 to learn if your city has free or reduced-cost child care.

Daycare resources for low income 

Low-income families and single parents with limited income are often eligible for benefits to help pay for child care, including daycare and before and after school care. These helpful benefits are in the form of vouchers, subsidized daycare, daycare scholarships, and financial aid for daycare.

Daycare vouchers

A daycare voucher, sometimes called a daycare certificate, is a type of subsidy. Subsidies provide a portion of funds to help cover child care. 

How it works: 

If a week of daycare costs $400, a voucher might cover $250, leaving a family to pay the $150 difference. However, this is just an example. Voucher amounts will vary based on your income and other financial resources, as well as available funding from the voucher issuer. In some cases, there may be waitlists (you’ll need to sign up and wait for funding).

Daycare vouchers can come from many sources, including:

  • Government programs: States and territories receive federal funding to help families pay for child care
  • Nonprofits: If you qualify, you can get help from nationwide nonprofits and charities like YMCA, YWCA, and Boys & Girls Club, as well as smaller local charities
  • Churches and religious organizations: Local churches and faith-based charities may offer vouchers through partnerships with social services or may directly provide discounted child care and daycare options

How to get a daycare voucher:

Contact the source of the voucher and follow the instructions for receiving one.

Reach out to nonprofits and churches to ask what options they may offer to help pay for child care. They may require an application or a referral from a case worker if you receive benefits from programs like TANF or SNAP.

In the case of a government daycare voucher, you can contact your case worker (if you have one) or your state’s office of child care. Eligibility requirements are different for each state and territory but may cover factors like:

  • Household income based on size
  • Number of children and ages
  • Other sources of income (If you receive child support, you may still be eligible)
  • Employment or educational pursuits
  • Citizenship status

For example, in Texas, child care assistance is administered by the Texas Workforce Commission through its Child Care Services program. Texas parents may be eligible for funding to pay for daycare or child care if:

  • They have a low income (amounts vary by region)
  • Children are 12 or younger
  • They work, attend school, or are in a job training program
  • They receive or are transitioning from government assistance
  • They receive or are in need of protective services

In your state, you will have to apply in person or online for the voucher to find out if you are qualified to receive help. 

Please note that it may not be called a voucher. Depending on the state, it may be a scholarship, assistance, a certificate or something else, but its function will be to help you pay for child care.

To get help:

Government subsidy for daycare

A government subsidy for daycare is money that helps qualified families pay for care. This can be in the form of a voucher, but it may also be called a scholarship, certificate, or child care financial aid. These are federal funds given to states and territories based on the needs of the population. 

How it works:

The government daycare subsidy is accepted by state-approved providers throughout your state. Once you receive a subsidy, you can approach a participating daycare to enroll your child. Your state child care office will have a list of available providers that accept the subsidy. This may be online or through a phone number or referral service you can call.

To get help:

  • Contact your state child care office or tribal child welfare program
  • Go to
  • Dial 211 or visit

Medicaid and daycare

Does Medicaid cover daycare? Not for children. There are Medicaid waiver programs for adult day care, but none for children at this time. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide free or low-cost health coverage for children but do not provide money for daycare or child care.

Free daycare: Early Head Start

Head Start is a federal program founded in 1981 to bridge the early learning gap of low-income kids, support their families in ways that prepare children for school, and provide free or affordable child care for families that need it. Head Start has grown to include Early Head Start for infants, toddlers and their families, as well as summer programs, and has served more than 22 million kids and their families.

What are the qualifications for Early Head Start?

Most Early Head Start programs serve children from birth to age 3 through weekly home visits that support child development. EHS also provides services to pregnant mothers and families, including prenatal support. 

All Head Start programs are available at no cost to children whose family income is at or below the poverty level as determined by the federal government. Children whose families are receiving public assistance and those experiencing homelessness or in foster care qualify regardless of income. Head Start services are also available to children with disabilities and other special needs. 

How to apply for daycare assistance from Early Head Start

To apply for Early Head Start services, use the Head Start Locator to find a program near you (select Early Head Start from the dropdown menu). You can call 866-763-6481 for assistance weekdays from 8 A.M. to 6 P.M.

Free daycare: Head Start

Head Start services are for pregnant women and children ages 0 to 5 and are typically offered in centers, though some programs may provide in-home services.

What are the qualifications for Head Start?

Head Start programs are available at no cost to children from low-income families. Eligibility is the same as Early Head Start:

Head Start is free for children whose family income is at or below the federal poverty level, as well as children whose families receive public assistance, are homeless or in foster care qualify — regardless of income. Head Start services are also available to children with disabilities and other special needs. 

How to apply for daycare assistance from Head Start

To apply for Head Start services, use the Head Start Locator to find a program near you.

Free daycare: YMCA

YMCA programs across the country offer child care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Some centers provide free or low-cost care for families who qualify based on income and other criteria. Search for a YMCA location near you to find out which programs and services are available. 

Qualifications vary by location.

Free daycare: YWCA

YWCA serves more than 200,000 children annually through its affordable child care, Head Start and preschool programs. Search the YWCA website for programs and services offered in your area. 

Qualifications vary by location.

Free preschool

YMCAs, YWCAs, Head Start all provide preschool programs for 3 and 4-year-olds. Check with your local social service agency to learn about other free options, including voucher programs where you may have some choice to enroll your child in a church, private or school-based preschool, for free or low-cost.

Governments are expanding these programs because they are good for child development, and help the economy by supporting working parents.

For example, in 2009 Washington, D.C., began offering two years of full-day preschool to include 88% of 4-year-olds and 66% of 3-year-olds by 2017, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.

The percent of mothers with at least one child under age 5 in the district, who were either working or looking for work, grew by 10 percentage points during that time.

6 places to find a babysitter in 2023

Free child care programs: Child care assistance programs in your state

To find free or low-cost daycare options in your area, visit to search for licensed providers and financial resources. The website provides a comprehensive list of assistance programs and discounts available to families who need help paying for child care. 

Child care assistance is available in each state:

Where to find free daycare “near me”

Use this map to find free daycare and low-cost daycare in your area. Enter your ZIP code and then click the red “search by ZIP code” button.


More resources for single moms and low-income families

Other resources and help for single moms:

Free laptops$500 monthly single mom grant
Free clothesScholarships for single moms
Free carFree Christmas gifts
Free smartphoneGovernment assistance for single moms
Free wifiFree and low-cost prescriptions
Free formulaFree diapers
Free toysFree gas
Affordable denturesFree prescription glasses
Free money10+ charities that help single mothers
Tutoring and homework helpFree or low-cost after school programs
Health insuranceCash for junk cars
Free foodDumpster diving
Low-income home loansFree school supplies
Free housingHome buyer grants
Free or cheap dental careFree gift cards
Free Christmas moneyCheap eats near me
Free money for billsFree baby stuff
Free car seatEBT cash
EBT discounts and freebiesEBT on Amazon

Where to find cheap daycare

If you don’t qualify for daycare vouchers, find yourself at the bottom of a long waitlist for daycare vouchers, or simply need help finding cheap daycare, we’d like to share some creative ways to get access to affordable daycare, before and after school care, and free preschool.

We asked our Millionaire Single Mom Facebook group for advice, and here’s what some had to say:

“Care swap with friends. That was the only way we made it work.”

– Lourdes G.

“Boys and Girls club. For $100/wk they would pick my son up from school, keep him until 7 pm and provide a meal. If schools closed, they were open. If school closed early unexpectedly, they picked them up early and kept them. It was amazing.”

– Nicole S.

“If you are U.S. based and believe your child is delayed in speech or other areas, check your local school district! I was able to get my toddler into free preschool this way because she was speech delayed.

Because I went this route through a public school, she also automatically received an IEP, which is a huge deal in my state. So on top of the free child care she receives, through her IEP she also receives therapy for speech, OT, and PT at school. That saves me $600 in copays every month from private therapy.”

– CheyAnne C.

“Before/after school programs through your specific school (not an outside source that visits the school).”

– Courtney H.

Tips on lowering daycare costs

When it comes to finding affordable daycare and lowering your child care costs, use these tips to get the best results:

  • Participate in a child care swap
  • Try a nanny share arrangement
  • Research local nonprofit child care options
  • Check with your school district
  • Contact colleges and universities (especially if you are a student)
  • Ask about child care options if you or your children belong to a club or participate in extracurricular activities
  • Check with your employer atu daycare stipends and other child care benefits
  • Use a child care referral network
  • Look for sliding scale fee daycares
  • Check your military benefits

Let’s explore these suggestions:

Child care swap

These best friends do child care swaps monthly to give each other a break:

Mom shares how she and her best friend do ‘child care swaps' | GMA

A child care swap or child care co-op allows you to create your own daycare network with other parents you trust. This works best if your schedules are aligned, but you agree to take turns caring for each others’ children.

When creating a care swap, you’ll want to:

  • Lay out clear expectations: Talk about schedules, naps, transportation, activities, meals, discipline, and any other concerns you have about offering child care
  • Ensure safety: Make sure homes have childproof measures in place and discuss the details of any care that will happen outside of the home (like a trip to a playground)
  • Communicate regularly:  
  • Establish emergency plans: Make sure all parents are clear about what to do if an emergency arises

If you need help organizing the swaps, consider using an app like Carefully. Carefully allows you to build a private network of people you trust to take care of your child. It allows you to arrange scheduling, pickups/drop offs, and communicate in one spot.

Carefully has a 4.1/5 rating on Google Play and a 5/5 rating on the App Store. 

Nanny share

If you are looking for in-home care from a professional, a nanny share might be right for you. You will agree to share the cost of a nanny’s care with other families. In turn, that nanny will provide care on a schedule to each family involved.

According to, a nanny share will cost less than a private nanny but more than a child care center.2 Using rates based on a two-family nanny share for one infant and data from a 2022 survey on the cost of care, a family might pay:

  • $694 per week for a private nanny
  • $463 per week for a nanny share
  • $226 per week for a child care center

Keep in mind that prices vary by region. Even though a child care center may cost less, a nanny share could give you benefits like schedule flexibility (especially on holiday nights, and weekends), more one-on-one attention for your children and socialization with other kids and parents in the nanny share.

To get started, have conversations with other families you know and trust. You can use a resource like to find a nanny and set up a share.

Check out this Reddit thread where parents compare daycare vs nanny share:


Nonprofits that focus on children, like Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA, YWCA often offer free or low-cost child care or daycare solutions during the school year and over the summer. But don’t limit your search to children-centered organizations. Also look for help from faith-based charities and churches, as they often offer free or low-cost daycare options.

School districts and local schools

Your school district or your child’s school might offer in-house before and after school care as well as summer programs. These programs are provided by the school and usually offer a meal or snack and age-appropriate activities for children. Some schools also partner with local organizations to provide free or reduced-cost care.

Also, if your child has a developmental delay, needs assistive technology, or is dealing with behavioral or medical challenges, they may be eligible for free preschool.  

Check with the guidance counselor at your child’s school or contact your school district office to learn what options are available.

Local colleges and universities

Colleges and universities in your area may provide discounted, on-campus daycare if you are a student. Plus, if they offer an early childhood education major, there could be options for enrolling your child in the on-site daycare even if you do not attend the school. 

Clubs and activities

If your child participates in STEAM, gymnastics, martial arts, creative arts, sports, or other academic clubs or activities, there may be options for before and after school care as part of your membership.


Ask your current or potential employer about benefits such as daycare stipends, money employers provide to help pay for the child care costs of their employees. The human resources office is a great place to start.

Referral networks

Use child care resource referral tools from sources like Child Care Aware of America. A referral network will allow you to search for care, compare services and pricing, and find discounts and programs to help you save. It’s a way to get the facts and settle on the best, affordable solution for your family.

Sliding scale fee daycare

When you are looking for a daycare center, ask if they offer a sliding scale fee. If so, it will allow you to pay for child care at a cost that is typically based on your monthly gross income and family size.

Some daycare providers base these financial requirements on the federal poverty level (FPL). You may see FPL percentages as the qualifying factors. For example, if the guideline is 150% of the FPL, that means you can earn up to 150% of the FPL for your household size. 

For a two-person household in 2024, the FPL is $20,440 and up to 150% of that number is $30,660. This means you can make up to $30,660 for a two-person household and be eligible. 

Here’s an example of a sliding scale fee program:

Let’s say a local day care offers a sliding scale fee option for families that qualify based on income. In this made-up scenario, the cost of daycare is $250 per week for one child. They may offer a 20% discount for a two-person family with an income up to 150% of the FPL. Instead of paying $250, you’d pay $200, a savings of $50 per week.

Military child care benefits

Child Care Aware of America partners with the United States military and Department of Defense to support families looking for help through the Fee Assistance and Respite Child Care programs.


  1. “This is how much child care costs in 2024” January 17, 2024. Care.
  2. “Is a nanny share right for you?” January 20, 2023. Care.

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