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How do you get child care? How should you choose a child care provider?


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 andBetsy Gwin, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2022

Subsidized child care is provided through programs that contract with the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) or through programs (or informal providers) that sign agreements with EEC.

To get child care based on current or former receipt of TAFDC at a program that accepts child care subsidies, you must

  • get a child care authorization from DTA,
  • find a child care provider who accepts child care subsidies and has an opening for the child, and
  • contact your Child Care Resource and Referral Agency to get a subsidy, or
  • arrange for care with a child care provider who contracts directly with EEC.

You can get names of local child care providers at 

How to choose a child care provider

Licensed care or informal (unlicensed care)

  • The child care license shows the provider meets rules for health, safety, and education. Licensed care may be center-based child care or family child care (provider is licensed to care for a group of children in the providers' home).
  • Informal (unlicensed) care is child care you arrange yourself. An informal child care provider can be
  • any adult person you choose providing care in your home (must pass criminal history check), or
  • an adult relative providing care in the child’s home or the relative’s home.

Informal child care pays $20.96 per day per child for six or more hours for care provided in a relative’s home and $12.59 per day per child for fewer than six hours. The rates are somewhat lower for care provided in the child’s home.

An informal child care provider must attend a CCR&RA orientation session and must complete a health and safety check list. Non-relatives must pass a criminal history check.

What to look for

  • Visit the program.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Always ask questions.
  • Take care to make sure your child is safe and happy.
  • The child care provider should have experience and education working with young children.
  • The facility should be safe and clean.
  • The program should offer educational and fun activities, have plenty of safe toys and learning materials, encourage creative play, and plan quiet time both indoors and out.

For more information on what to look for, see Child Care Tips. You can find the most recent inspection report for the provider by searching the provider’s name at

Advocacy Reminders

  • Does your child need transportation to and from child care? Ask if the program provides transportation. If it does, and there is space for your child in the van, ask the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency to add transportation to the subsidy authorization.
  • If you are not fluent in English, the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency has a duty to speak with you and provide you with materials in your language or provide an interpreter who speaks your language.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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