Free DayCare… is it possible? A list of resources.

Colorful poster with text "FREE & LOW COST DAYCARE RESOURCES" surrounded by various children's toys and educational materials such as blocks, puzzles, a xylophone, and wooden tools on a light blue background.

If you landed on this page, you were probably frantically searching the internet for affordable or free daycare. I’ve been there. When my first child was young, the cost of childcare per hour (whether it be a nanny, a babysitter, or a daycare) was more than I could MAKE in an hour. I spent hours trying to find a solution.

While I’d love to report that there’s an amazing, magical, completely FREE daycare option here in the U.S., we both know that’s extremely unlikely. Kind of like finding a unicorn. Or a mom who feels fully rested. But I HAVE done a ton of research on low-cost daycare options and have a few free daycare ideas.

Affordable Childcare

Finding affordable childcare in the United States can sometimes feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The cost of childcare can be a significant expense, particularly for families with multiple children or for those who need full-time care. It’s no wonder that many parents feel like they are constantly chasing their tails trying to find affordable childcare options. But don’t worry, there are several options available for families seeking free or cheap childcare in the United States – and no, you don’t have to resort to leaving your child with a pack of wolves (although they might be cheaper).

One option is to look for programs that provide free or reduced-cost childcare for families in need. The Head Start Program, for example, provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. The program is funded by the federal government and is available in every state, as well as in some territories and tribal lands. And the best part? It’s totally free (as long as you meet the income requirements, of course).

Financial Assistance

Another option is to look for childcare assistance programs offered by state and local governments. Many states have programs that provide financial assistance to families in need to help cover the cost of childcare. These programs may be available to families who are working, attending school, or participating in job training programs. It’s like the government is saying “Hey, we know childcare is expensive, so here’s a little extra help to make it more manageable.” How thoughtful! Search your state at https://childcare.gov/state-resources to see what’s available.

Families who are eligible for federal or state assistance programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), may also be eligible for additional childcare assistance. It’s like a two-for-one deal – you get assistance with your basic needs, plus some extra help with childcare costs. Bonus!

Childcare Resources

Child Care Resource & Referral agencies, also called CCR&Rs, help parents locate resources for childcare and help childcare providers fund their businesses. You can search for one in your local area here.

Families who do not qualify for government assistance programs may still be able to find affordable childcare options through private providers. Some providers offer sliding scale fees based on family income, while others may offer discounts for families who pay in advance or for siblings. It may also be possible to negotiate lower rates with childcare providers if a family is able to commit to regular attendance or extended hours. It never hurts to ask – you might be surprised at what kind of deals you can negotiate.

Get Creative

Another option is to consider alternative childcare arrangements, such as sharing childcare responsibilities with another family or hiring a nanny or babysitter. These arrangements can be more flexible and may be less expensive than traditional childcare centers or in-home daycare. Plus, if you go the nanny or babysitter route, you might even be able to find someone who will make your child’s lunches in the shape of unicorns (if that’s what you’re into).

It is also worth considering alternative schedules or work arrangements that may allow for more flexibility in childcare arrangements. For example, working from home or adjusting work hours to coincide with school schedules may allow for more in-home childcare options. This can be a great option for parents who want to be more involved in their child’s care but also need to work.

Special Circumstances

Military

If you are a military family, check out Military OneSource, a free national database with a ton of resources.

Kindercare has centers nationwide that offer subsidies for military families

Disabled Parents and Children

The National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities can help you find resources. Fill out their form here.

American Indian and Alaska Natives

The Federal Government gives grants to many tribes and groups of Native Americans for inexpensive or free daycare. Check this list.

Artists

The Parents Artist Advocacy League, (PAAL), has created a national program of grants for childcare.

The Women’s Studio Workshop offers a Parent Residency Grant.

In conclusion, there are several options available for families seeking free or cheap childcare in the United States. These options include government assistance programs, private providers, alternative childcare arrangements, and alternative work schedules. By considering all of these options, families can find the best solution to meet their childcare needs – without breaking the bank or resorting to leaving their child with a pack of wolves (although they might be cheaper).

Resources:

Apps & Sites:

  • Various apps and sites to find babysitters, childcare/daycares, nannies, etc
    • WInnie app to find childcare near you https://winnie.com
    •  www.sittercity.com to find babysitters but it isn’t necessarily affordable. Have to sort through options. 
    • Care.com You can search for caregivers in your area and filter by hourly rate, experience, and other criteria. Prices vary depending on the caregiver and location. Laborious sign-up process, not super intuitive to use, but you can sort through for price in the location i used.
    •  UrbanSitter is another online platform that connects families with babysitters and nannies. You can search for caregivers in your area and read reviews from other families. Prices vary depending on the caregiver and location.
  • YMCA: Free care for parents exercising, partnerships with schools. Early learning, babies, and older kids. some YMCAs offer sliding-scale fees based on income.
  • Local community centers: Many community centers offer child care services to members. Prices and eligibility requirements vary by location. For older kids, can be cheaper to have them do a drop in sport/program at a community center
  • LIBRARIES!! Local libraries often run after school programs, check if child needs supervisor or not.
  • Public school programs: Some public schools offer after-school programs for elementary school-aged children. Prices and eligibility requirements vary by school district
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Jen

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