Child Care Assistance for Single Mothers

Last updated: June 17, 2014 by Dawn

One of the most important decisions you will ever make as a parent or guardian is choosing quality, affordable child care.

Quality of care makes a huge impact on the child’s readiness for school, which impacts his or her success throughout school and later in life.

It also gives parents the support and peace of mind they need to be productive at work.

But that doesn’t always come cheap.

In 2012, the average annual cost of full-time child care for a 4-year-old in a center ranged from about $4,300 in Mississippi to nearly $12,300 in New York.1

With only one income, the average cost of child care is far out of reach for single mothers, especially for those with two or more children.

State Assistance

State child care assistance program helps eligible families pay for child care while working or attending school. The program pays for part of the child care costs, and you co-pay for a portion based on the size of the family and the amount of your income.

Each State has its own eligibility guidelines but in most cases, you may apply for assistance if

  • You need child care to work, attend school, or receive training;
  • Your income is not greater than the income limit set by your State;
  • Your child is younger than 13 years; and/or
  • Your child has a special need or is under court supervision and is younger than 19 years.

To find out whether you are eligible to receive child care assistance, contact the child care agency near you.2

There are other child care options available to single mothers:

Child Care Aware

Child Care Aware can help you locate safe and affordable child care options near you. A child care budgeting calculator, and a child care decision making tool are also available to help you get an idea of your monthly budget.

Visit their web site at or call 1-800-424-2246 to locate an agency near you & ask for help in finding providers in your area.

Head Start

Head Start is a federal program that helps children ages birth to five years old from low income families prepare for school. In addition to education, the program provides health, nutrition, and social services depending on your family’s needs.

Eligibility is largely income–based in which families must earn less than 130% of the federal poverty level. Families with circumstances such as homelessness, children in foster care, or receiving TANF or SSI may also qualify.

To find a Head Start near you, use the Head Start Locator or call 1-866-763-6481 (toll-free) for more information on how to apply.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program assists families with children whose parents or responsible caregivers cannot provide for the family’s basic needs.

If you’re already on temporary assistance and need child care to go to work, you are most likely guaranteed assistance in paying for child care. To apply for TANF, contact your state’s TANF office.

pre-Kindergarten Programs

Some states may have pre-K programs that are designed to give 3- and 4-year-old children the experiences they need to be ready for kindergarten. These programs usually last 2 1/2 to 6 hours of a school day.

To find out if there is such program in your area and whether you are eligible to participate, contact your state education agency.

Child and Dependent Care Credit

For those who could afford private childcare are entitled to federal tax credit. The Child and Dependent Care Credit covered up to 35 percent of qualifying expenses, based on adjusted gross income.

For 2013, they could use as much as $3,000 in annual expenses for one qualifying child or $6,000 for two or more qualifying children when they were calculating their tax.

To claim the credit, attach Form 2441 to your tax return or IRS e-file to file your return and the software will automate this for you.

Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

Enrolling in FSA program saves you money. It allows you to use pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible dependent care FSA expenses, such as day care, preschool, or after-school care.

The main draw of an FSA is that the money set aside in the account is pre-tax, thus lowering the amount of your taxable income.

If you participate in your employer’s FSA program, you could save up to $2,000 on child care expenses every year.

Child Support

If you’re not receiving child support, your local Child Support Enforcement Agency can assist you in collecting ‘unpaid’ child support payments, helping you make ends meet and afford the right care for your child.

  1. The 10 most expensive states for full-time infant care in a center in 2012 were Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, Washington, Kansas, California, and Hawaii. []
  2. State Child Care Division []