Paying for Child Care
Child care can be a big expense for families with young children. The good news is that there are several programs that can assist parents.
Child Care Assistance Program
This program, run by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, helps low- and moderate-income families pay for the child care they need in order to work or attend school or training. Monthly payments are based on the number of hours the parents work or attend school or training, the amount charged by the child care provider, family size and household income. Parents can select any Class A child care center, school-based before and after school program, registered family child day care home, or registered in-home provider that participates in the program.
For more information about the program, including eligibility information and instructions on how to apply, visit the Child Care Assistance Program web site. You can even apply online!
Early Head Start & Head Start
Head Start is a family-focused child development program that offers education, health, parent involvement and social services for low income children and their families.
All Head Start services are provided at no cost to children and their families. Head Start programs are offered in many different settings, including in child care centers, family child care homes and public schools. Early Head Start provides services to pregnant women and children ages zero to three. "Traditional" Head Start serves preschool children, usually ages three through five. Early Head Start programs are not available in every parish, but there are traditional Head Start programs in every parish.
To find the nearest Head Start program, use the Administration for Children & Families' online Head Start Locator. You can also call Child Care Resources at 1-800-486-1712 to get more detailed information about the Head Start programs in your area.
Pre-K in Public Schools
Many elementary schools offer free or low-cost preschool programs for four year-olds. In Louisiana, children generally must be four by September 30th in order to enroll, though some schools provide preschool programs for three year-olds. School districts also offer programs for children ages 3 and older who are eligible to receive special education services. Each school district has its own policies and application deadlines, so contact your local school district and/or local charter schools to get more information on how to enroll your child. Because schools may not have enough slots in the preschool programs for every child who wants to enroll, it is important to start early! In some parishes, parents should apply as early as January to enroll their child in September's class.
The Louisiana Department of Education's web site has a directory of school district's web sites and directories of all schools in Louisiana. In New Orleans, parents can also use the New Orleans Parents Guide to Public Schools, which features easy-to-read information about public schools in New Orleans, including those run by the Orleans Parish School Board, the Recovery School District, and charter schools.
Nonpublic Schools Early Childhood Development Program
The NSECD program is a pre-kindergarten program that provides free tuition at private schools for four year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. Visit the NSECD web site for more information, including income requirements and a list of participating schools. Note that some parishes do not currently have NSECD programs, but children from any parish may participate in the program.
Child & Dependent Care Tax Credits
Parents and guardians can receive child and dependent care tax credits on both their federal and Louisiana income tax returns. Depending on your income, your federal credit may be worth up to 35% of your child care expenses. For more information on the federal child and dependent care tax credit, visit the IRS web site. The standard Louisiana child care tax credit is worth up to 50% of the federal child and dependent care tax credit, depending on a family's income.
School Readiness Tax Credits for Parents
When you send your child to a Quality Start rated child care center, you're not only giving your child the best possible care, you're also entitled to a special new tax credit – the School Readiness Tax Credit. This is a tax credit especially for taxpayers with children who are under the age of 6 who are enrolled in a child care center that has earned at least 2 stars in Louisiana's Quality Start program. The amount of the tax credit increases with the number of stars that the child care center has earned. The SRTC adds to your existing state child care tax credit. For more information, visit the Quality Start web site.