Child Care Subsidy

Each year, the federal government provides each state with funds for a state-run child care subsidy program. While eligibility requirements differ depending on your state, the programs are designed to help low-income families get affordable child care, in turn, giving parents the opportunity to attend school, go to work, or pursue other opportunities.

Children playing in Early Learning Center
These child care subsidies have helped families for decades; so how can you qualify for a child care subsidy? And what else should you know about this type of child care assistance? We’ve got answers to your questions. 

How Do I Qualify for a Child Care Subsidy?

For the past few decades, the Department of Health and Human Services has issued child care funds to each state on a recurring basis. States then administer child care programs and determine their own eligibility requirements. 

Most states have strict income guidelines to qualify for a child care subsidy; there are additional guidelines, too. 

Most states require that you and your child are residents of the state in which you’re applying for the subsidy. 

Texas also requires that caregivers work or attend school for a certain number of hours each week in order to qualify. 

And California, for example, has age requirements —for different types of care. 

How Many Absences Are Allowed in Child Care?

When you’re using a child care subsidy, are there attendance requirements for children? It depends on the state you live in — for example, in Texas, children are allotted 40 unexplained absences per year. Some states don’t have attendance requirements. 

How Long Does It Take to Get Approved for a Child Care Subsidy?

The earliest date you can expect to get approved for a child care subsidy is whatever date you complete your interview. 

Typically, once you’re in the interview stage, you will have already provided the necessary verification information. You’ll have to include the name of your preferred daycare, early learning center, or other care facility/program. If additional documentation is required, an eligibility worker will let you know at the time of your interview. Then, they can approve or deny your application.

The child care subsidy approval process varies by state. 

New York makes a decision within 15 days of receiving a child care program application. North Carolina can take up to 30 days to process an application. Other states, like Texas, might have longer waitlists due to a larger population and limited funds. And when there are waitlists, the approval process can average 2 to 3 months. 

Check with your state’s child care program to learn the average wait time to anticipate. Then, you can plan ahead to ensure there are no gaps in your child’s care — especially if you already know when you plan to go back to work after maternity leave or when you’ll need to start child care.


What does it mean to subsidize child care?

Local, state, and federal authorities allocate funds annually for families that need assistance with child care expenses. A child care subsidy program is governed by specific guidelines, regulations, and rules.

How do you qualify for a child care subsidy?


The qualification requirements vary depending on the state in which you live. Each state has its own income requirements and other criteria for eligibility. Check with the Department for Health and Human Services to learn about your own state’s requirements. 

Why is a child care subsidy important?

A child care subsidy makes high-quality daycare centers and other forms of child care more accessible to lower-income families. These high-quality programs can greatly benefit a child’s development, help them get ready for school, and set them up for future success. Plus, when working parents have reliable child care, they can focus on work, advance in their careers, and boost their financial wellbeing. 
mother holding child

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Bright Horizons is a United States–based child-care provider and is the largest provider of employer-sponsored child care. Employees looking to become a child care teacher are offered the opportunity to earn an early education degree for free as part of their corporate benefits. Search by zip to find a child care center near you. Bright Horizons Global Headquarters are in Newton, Massachusetts, USA.