Many state governmental programs provide financial assistance to offset the high cost of childcare expenses for families that are at the poverty line or within a certain percentage of that income threshold. However, it can be difficult for a family who is not eligible for these state-run programs to receive assistance if the family is not considered "low-income." Although help may be hard to find, some resources may be available to financially assist you with childcare costs.
Check with your local Department of Human Services or similar government program for eligibility guidelines for moderate-income families. You may be eligible for childcare assistance if you are within 200% of the poverty guidelines. This may not sound like much money, but it might be more than you think — for example, a family of four can have an annual income of up to $60,636 in Fairfax, Virginia. A recent change in employment status, a disabled child or high medical expenses may affect your eligibility. Some states offer a sliding-fee scale based on your income even if you do not qualify for the official child-care assistance program.
Churches and Charitable Organizations
Many churches reserve a fund to assist families in need. Inquire with a local church if any funds may be available to assist your family. In addition, some community charitable organizations may provide you with financial assistance.
Check with local programs in your area to see if low-cost childcare options are available. Community centers, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, or the YMCA may provide daytime services or before- and after-school care at a free or reduced rate.
If your children are preschool age, the local elementary school may offer a free or low-cost pre-school or preparatory program. Even if the school is only in session for part of the day, you might be able to reduce your overall childcare expenses by only needing part-time paid childcare. Some schools offer before- or after-school programs, as well.
Shared Childcare Provider
If you only need a childcare provider for part of the day or week, you may be able to split the costs of a nanny, au pair or babysitter with another mother. This option may also be available if you and the other parent only have a few children combined. This alternative might work if you are familiar with another family that has children around the same age as yours, and a schedule that coordinates with your own.
Flexible Spending Accounts
Your employer may offer a flexible spending account that can help you save on your child-care expense. This option allows you to place the amount of money that you need each month for child-care expenses into a separate account with pretax dollars.
Some employers may offer affordable childcare services at an on-site facility. This benefit may be significant enough for you to consider a job change. Additionally, other employers offer discounts for particular childcare facilities that are near the business.
Use your tax credits to help offset some of your expense. For example, you can receive $1,000 for each qualifying child for the Child Tax Credit and up to 30 percent of your child-care cost for the Child and Dependent Care Credit. If you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, you can receive advance payments on this credit in your paycheck.
Samantha Kemp is a lawyer for a general practice firm. She has been writing professionally since 2009. Her articles focus on legal issues, personal finance, business and education. Kemp acquired her JD from the University of Arkansas School of Law. She also has degrees in economics and business and teaching.