Child care assistance for single mothers

You may have discovered that the average cost of childcare ranges from $300 to over $1500 a month, depending on the age of your child and what kind of care they need. If you’re a single mother making less than $30,000 a year, that’s a steep price to pay to maintain your job.

Things get more complicated if your daycare closes for holidays, or if your child is sick and can’t go to class. You need a combination of childcare options.

If you’re searching for a way to pay less, but still have a safe and nurturing place for your child while you’re at work, we have some ideas for you.

Assistance options

Below we give a brief overview of state, government and other childcare assistance alternatives that you can try.

On-Campus Childcare

Many universities have a daycare center or preschool available at a discount to their students. These places are often staffed by students studying in a related field. You might be able to spend a lot of time with your child if you happen to be studying early childhood education.

Some schools go the extra mile. The University of Michigan has Kids Kare to take care of sick children while at home.

Daycare at the Office

A few businesses may allow you to bring your child to work once in a while. A better option is the handful of companies that offer reduced-rate or free childcare to their employees. For example, outdoor clothing and gear company Patagonia was recently recognized by President Obama for helping employees with childcare and maternity/paternity leave.

Some government offices, like the GSA, have daycares available onsite for their employees’ children.1

Military Moms get Childcare Assistance

All branches of the service refer parents to Child Care Aware.2 The Department of Defense always subsidizes part of the cost of child care on base, and usually helps pay for care off the base, if needed.

It’s Fun to Stay at the YMCA

See if your local Y has daycare or afterschool programs. For example, Houston has multiple sites for all ages, from infants to 6th graders.

Scholarships from Community Services like 2-1-1 and United Way

The local United Way and 2-1-1 are gateways to discovering lots of childcare resources in your area, including child care scholarships. For example, a United Way based in North Carolina helps working parents who are earning up to as much as 200% of the federal poverty level.3

Government Assistance for Childcare

Typically, a single mother has to file for child support from the father before the government will offer financial aid for child care. Then each state has their own rules for who is eligible, and may have a waiting list. Most of the time the parent still has to pay a portion of the cost of childcare. Contact your state Human Services division to find out how to apply.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has a Child Care and Development Fund.4 This works with the states’ assistance programs, as well as Tribal programs on reservations.

Tribal Childcare Assistance for Native Americans

If you are affiliated with a tribe, check to see if they can help pay for childcare. The Chickasaw Nation, the Choctaws, and many others offer subsidies. See the National Indian Child Care Association for more information.

Get a Head Start

This federally-funded pre-school program targets children up to age 5 whose parents earn less than 130% of the federal poverty level.5 (Since we keep mentioning this, you should know that the poverty level guideline for 2015 is $15,930 before taxes for a two-person family. At 130%, it would be $20,709.00.)

Federal Tax Credits for Paying Childcare

The IRS may give you a credit on your taxes if you paid for daycare while you’re working. The credit for 2015 is for 20 to 35% of your expenses, up to $3000 for one child. The exact rules are available on their website under “Child and Dependent Care Credit.”6 Keep in mind that this has to be money spent for regular childcare at a daycare, afterschool program, or for a nanny, not for occasional babysitting.

Flexible Spending Account

An FSA lets you set aside up to $5000 a year to pay for childcare. These are pre-tax dollars taken out of your paycheck, and you have to spend them or lose them. You can usually combine this benefit with the tax credit described above.

Cutting Expenses

Maybe the daycare you really want to use is still too expensive for now. Are there any changes you can make that might free up the funds you need? Perhaps cutting out the cable bill? Changing to a cheaper phone service, like pay-as-you-go? Or would a relative who couldn’t provide care help you pay?


Other options

We have some other ways for you to save on child care for your kids:

Keep Childcare in the Family

Many single mothers are fortunate enough to have a relative who will help care for a child. Consider paying them, or at least offering something in trade, to keep that good relationship.

Some states will pay a relative for daycare if the mother qualifies for assistance and if the relative becomes a licensed provider.

A Friendly Daycare

If you have a friend who also has a child and a different work schedule from yours, perhaps you can trade off. You’ll have the kids half of the week and she has them the other half.

Sharing a Nanny

Nannies aren’t just for wealthy people, and they need income just like everyone else, even if it comes piecemeal. Could you and another mother divide the cost and share a nanny?

In-Home Daycare or Homeschool

These are not necessarily licensed centers, but neighborhood moms who pool their resources and take turns caring for each other’s children. You may have to pay a nominal fee or contribute your time to participate.

Childcare in Churches

Check with community churches. Many have inexpensive preschool or after-school programs. You may find one that isn’t too preachy or has similar beliefs. Methodist and Presbyterian churches often run childcare centers.

Look for a Licensed Provider

Child Care Aware is an excellent place to start. They have state-by-state resources and information about types of care and typical prices. One article on their site gives ideas for how to evaluate providers. They also help military families find care for their children.

Barter Your Skills for Daycare

If you don’t have cash to pay, would the daycare facility accept something you can do for them as payment? Are you able to clean, cook, do maintenance, or teach a class to the children or the teachers?​

With some research and patience, we believe you can find a solution for your childcare needs.