Who can help me with child care?
Quality child care is the goal of any good parent or caregiver. But paying for child care costs is often difficult for many families. Fortunately, in South Carolina, there are various kinds of resources available to families in need of financial assistance for child care. From the SC Voucher program that makes payments to child care providers to care for children from low-income families so their parents can work, to special assistance offerings like the child and dependent care tax credits, there are many different programs available in our state. See the list below and remember that each program may have different qualifications, like income level, employment status, or residency.
- SC Voucher – The SC Voucher Program is a Department of Social Services (DSS) funded program that makes payments to child care programs to care for children from low-income families so their parents can work. Those who are eligible for this state child care subsidy pay part of the cost and the rest is paid directly to your selected child care provider.
- Dual Language Learner Voucher- This voucher is also funded by the DSS, and is specifically for families that speak a language other than English in the home and have a child aged 0-12 years old. Parents are required to do one of the following to qualify: work a minimum of 15 hours per week, attend school (this includes ESL classes), or actively seek employment.
- Homeless Initiative Child Care Voucher- To qualify for this DSS-funded voucher, a family must have a child aged 0-12 years old and currently be experiencing homelessness as defined by the McKinney Vento Act. This means a family will be considered as experiencing homelessness if, due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason, they are sharing housing (doubled-up) or residing in substandard housing, a shelter, an abandoned building, public spaces, a hotel or motel, a park, a trailer park, camp grounds, a bus or train station, or a car.
Child Care Programs
- Head Start and Early Head Start – Head Start and Early Head Start are federally and sometimes state funded full or part-day programs that provide free child care and health services. Head Start and Early Head Start have income guidelines in order to participate.
- First Steps Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) Programs – South Carolina offers free Pre-K programs for 3 and 4 year old children. The goal of all pre-K programs is to make sure that children are better prepared for kindergarten. Pre-K programs are offered in public schools and other child care settings. Please contact your public school's district office for more information.
Tax Credit Programs
- Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit – This tax credit helps families pay for child care for children under the age of 13 if the parents are working, or are looking for work. Parents who are full-time students can also claim the credit. Qualifying care includes child care centers, family child care homes, and care provided by paid friends or relatives, as long as the relative is not a dependent of the taxpayer. The size of the credit depends on the number of children in care, your family income, and the amount you paid for child care during the tax year. There are limits on the credit given for one child and two or more children.
- Employer Dependent Care Assistance Programs (DCAPs) – Your employer may offer a DCAP, which allows you to have money taken out of your paycheck tax-free and put into a special account to be used for child care tuition reimbursement. The main purpose of this type of program is to help you lower the amount of taxes you have to pay during the year.
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – A refundable tax credit for low- and moderate-income families, particularly those with children, the EITC is based on family income and the number of children in the family. Both single- and two-parent families are entitled to the credit, as long as one parent is employed.
- South Carolina Tax Credits – A child and dependent care credit allows you to claim 7% of your allowable federal expenses for the care of a child or an elderly person, if that care is necessary for you to work.
- In-Home Care or Nanny Tax – When you hire an in-home caregiver, you become an employer under federal law. You need to be aware of laws regarding taxes, verification of employment eligibility, and minimum wage. For information on these topics, contact the Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Services, an accountant, a tax advisor, or an insurance agent.
Check Your Eligibility
Visit Palmetto Pre-K to find out if you might qualify for one or more of the child care assistance options listed above.
By ABC Quality Team on June 15, 2021