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Who is eligible for child care?

Alert

DTA made a number of changes and suspended a number of rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Guide notes in red when a rule was suspended during the pandemic.

Produced by Deborah Harris and Betsy Gwin, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2022

There are special child care rules for TAFDC recipients and applicants, former TAFDC recipients, and teen parents. Unlike other low-income families, these families do not have to go on a wait list for a subsidy. Eligible current TAFDC recipients and applicants and teen parents referred for child care by DTA do not have to a pay a fee.

Child care for TAFDC recipients and applicants

Parents or other caregivers applying for or receiving TAFDC for themselves. You are eligible for free child care as long as you have a child in your care who is under age 13 (or under age 16 if the child has a disability), and

Non-parent caregivers applying for or receiving TAFDC only for children. You are eligible for free child care as long as you have a child in your care child care who is under age 13 (or under age 16 if the child has a disability), and

  • you are doing paid work (including self-employment).

Parents receiving SSI applying for or receiving TAFDC for children. You are eligible for free child care as long as you have a child in your care who qualifies for child care, and

  • you are doing paid work (including self-employment) or participating in an education or training activity.

DTA will authorize child care for 12 months for any approved activity. The authorization is valid for 12 months even if your activity stops or your TAFDC closes. DTA Online Guide (Child Care Fact Sheet). At the end of 12 months, you can renew the child care authorization if you are in the same or another approved activity.

If you are not getting TAFDC for yourself because of your immigration status, but you are receiving TAFDC for a child and you are documented, you are eligible for child care on the same basis as TAFDC recipients. DTA Transitions, Feb. 2009, pp. 7-8, June 2005, p. 4; DTA Field Operations Memo 2002-18A (Oct. 10, 2002). If you are an undocumented noncitizen and you are subject to the TAFDC work requirement, DTA will authorize child care so you can do community service but not for other activites.

DTA may say you cannot get child care if you are undocumented and need child care for another activity such as an English language program. DTA may also say you cannot get child care  if you have been sanctioned for not cooperating with child support. Email [email protected] for advice.

Child care for teen parents

You are eligible for a DTA authorization for child care if you are a teen parent (currently under age 20 but may be raised to under age 24) who is in school or another DTA approved education, training or work-related activity, and

  • receiving TAFDC, or
  • receiving SSI or foster care for yourself and TAFDC for your child, 106 C.M.R. § 707.210(A)(1)(c), or
  • receiving SSI, under the age of 18, living with your child and your parent, and household income is below 200% of the poverty level or you cannot get verification of your parent’s income. 106 C.M.R. § 707.230.

You are also eligible for child care through the Department of Early Education and Care whether or not you are receiving TAFDC if you are a young parent (under age 20 at application as of early December 2022), you are pregnant or have a child in your care, you meet certain income eligibility requirements and you are

  • participating in a full time high school or HiSET program and participating in social service support and child care activities, or
  • participating in the Young Parents Program, which provides parenting classes and other services in addition to HiSET classes.

For this category of care, you can get a referral from DTA (whether or not you received TAFDC) or you can apply directly at the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCR&RA). See How do you get child care?

Once you qualify for child care as a young parent, you may be eligible for this category of care until you reach your 24th birthday. See 606 C.M.R. § 10.07; Department of Early Education and Care, Financial Assistance Policy Guide

Child care for former TAFDC recipients

After your TAFDC case closes, your voucher will continue until it expires. If you don’t have a voucher or your voucher expires, there are several ways you can get child care after your TAFDC case closes without having to go on a wait list.

Transitional Child Care. You are eligible for Transitional Child Care during the first 12 months after your TAFDC case closes if you are working or participating in an education or training activity. You can ask for child care at any time during the 12 months. 106 C.M.R. § 707.210(A)(1)(f); DTA Transitions, Apr. 2013, p. 6. You may be able to get Transitional Child Care in the second year after your TAFDC case closes. Email [email protected] for advice.

To get Transitional Child Care after your DTA child care voucher expires you must

Continuity of care. You should be able to keep getting subsidized child care when DTA or Transitional child care ends as long as you have a child care need recognized by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) at the time of the child care authorization and your income is below the maximum for subsidized child care ($8,088 a month for a family of three). See Dep’t of Early Education and Care, FY 2022 Income Eligibility Table.

Child care needs recognized by EEC include

  • you need child care because you have a documented health issue,
  • you are working,
  • you are looking for work,
  • you are participating in education or training,
  • you are homeless, including staying in a homeless or domestic violence shelter or doubled up because you don’t have enough money for rent,
  • you are experiencing domestic violence or dealing with the consequences of past violence,
  • you are on parenting leave from your job plus any time left on your 12-month authorization, or
  • your child has a documented special need or disability and a health professional verifies that the child would benefit from child care (parent must separately establish at least a part-time service need on some other basis).

Department of Early Education and Care, Financial Assistance Policy Guide.

Advocacy Reminders

  • If you are not eligible for Transitional or other DTA-approved child care, you can apply for child care at the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency, at an agency that has contracts to provide child care, or by calling Mass 211 (dial 2-1-1 from your landline or 877-211-6277 from your cell phone). You will have to go on a wait list unless you are homeless have another priority for immediate access. If you had subsidized child care within the previous three months that was suspended temporarily (for example, because of travel out of state), you may have a priority for continuing to receive child care through EEC.
  • Former TAFDC recipients are eligible for Transitional child care even if they received assistance for a very short time. If you lose your job and expect to get unemployment insurance benefits, you may want to apply for TAFDC before your unemployment benefits begin. Although you may not be eligible for TAFDC once unemployment benefits start, you will be eligible for child care as a former TAFDC recipient once you start working again.
  • DTA regulations say DTA should give you a referral for child care if you are working during the second year after your TAFDC case closed, but DTA says that this regulation is not in effect. Email [email protected] if you are in the second year after your TAFDC closed and DTA won’t give you a referral..
  • DTA or EEC may say you have to be working or in education or training a minimum number of hours to qualify for Transitional Child Care. Contact your local legal services program, Appendix D: Massachusetts Legal Services Offices, if this is a problem for you.
  • You may be able to get a DTA referral for child care after your TAFDC case closes if you are receiving unemployment insurance benefits, and you are participating in a “Section 30” training program approved by the Division of Unemployment Assistance. Contact your local legal services program, Appendix D: Massachusetts Legal Services Offices, to find out more about how to get into a Section 30 program.
  • If you are homeless and living in a shelter, your shelter worker can help you get a child care referral to EEC through the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities. You do not need to be working or in another work activity. If you are told there is no slot available for you, you can find a child care provider who accepts vouchers and ask for a voucher. You can also call 211 (or 877-211-6277) to get on the child care waitlist and then call the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency and explain you are homeless and in shelter. Once you are on the "waitlist" you should get child care right away since homeless families get priority. Contact your local legal services program, Appendix D: Massachusetts Legal Services Offices, if you need help.
  • Families with an active case with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or during a transitional period after case closure, may be able to get a child care referral from DCF for subsidized child care (usually with no fee). Contact DCF for a referral.
  • DTA does not have a publicly available policy on child care for children of SSI recipients. Contact the Full Engagement Worker to make a request. Email [email protected] for help.
  • SNAP recipients who are not receiving TAFDC are eligible for subsidized child care if they are enrolled in a SNAP “Path to Work” activity. DTA Online Guide (Pathways to Work, Eligibility for Child Care).

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