Who is eligible for child care?

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Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2017

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 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

You are eligible for free child care as long as you

You are also eligible for child care for up to two weeks while you are waiting to start an activity. This is especially important if your benefits were stopped because of a sanction and you must participate in an activity for two weeks to get back on benefits. See 106 C.M.R. § 207.210(A)(2).

calendar icon courtesy of graphicadvocacy.org

You may continue child care for up to one month after an activity ends if the child care arrangements would otherwise be lost and you are scheduled to start or resume an activity within the month. This allows you to keep your current provider while you are waiting for the next activity to start.  DTA Transitions, February 2009, p. 7; DTA Transitions, June 2005, p. 4.

You may be able to get child care if you are on maternity leave from your job. Ask your worker. F.O. Memo 2006-47 (Oct. 26, 2006).

If you are not getting TAFDC for yourself because of your immigration status, but you are receiving TAFDC for a child and are documented, you are eligible for child care on the same basis as TAFDC recipients. DTA Transitions, February 2009, pp. 7-8; DTA Transitions, June 2005, p.4; F.O. Memo 2002-18A (Oct. 10, 2002).

DTA policy says child care should be approved for 12 months for employment; child care for education or training should be approved for the length of the program, but no more than 6 months at a time. DTA Transitions, May 2012, p.7. Consult an advocate if you have a problem because DTA approves your child care for a shorter time.

DTA may say you cannot get child care if you are not getting TAFDC for yourself, for example, if you get SSI, are undocumented, are a relative who chooses not be on the grant, or have been sanctioned for not cooperating with child support. Consult an advocate.

Child care for teen parents

You are eligible for a DTA authorization for child care if you are a teen parent who is in school or another ESP activity and

You are also eligible for child care through the Department of Early Education and Care if you are a teen parent and you meet certain income eligibility requirements and you are

  • participating in a full time high school or HiSET program; or
  • participating in the Young Parents Program, which provides parenting classes and other services in addition to HiSET classes. 

See 606 C.M.R. § 10.07; Department of Early Education and Care Financial Assistance Policy Guide, Chapter 6. Apply through the local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCR&RA). See How do you get child care? How should you choose a child care provider? There may be a waitlist for care if you are applying at the CCR&RA and do not have a referral from DTA. 

Child care for former TAFDC recipients

Transitional Child Care

You are eligible for Transitional Child Care during the first 12 months after your TAFDC case closes if you are working. You can ask for child care at any time during the 12 months. 106 C.M.R. § 207.210(A)(1)(f); DTA Transitions, Apr. 2013, p. 6. If you are working and also in a training program, you can get child care to cover your training time and your work time. DTA Field Operations Memo 2004-17 (Apr. 1, 2004)

To get child care after your TAFDC case closes, you must

  • get a new child care referral from DTA (you will need to verify your activity hours and income)
  • Ask DTA to fax the referral to the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency,
  • (you may also need to go to the CCR&RA in person),
  • cooperate with child support enforcement or show good cause for not cooperating, 106 C.M.R. § 207.210(A)(1)(f), and
  • pay a fee based on your income.

Employment Services Program child care

You are eligible for ESP child care for up to 6 months after your TAFDC case closes if you want to continue a DTA-approved education or training program that began before the case closing. 106 C.M.R. § 207.210(A)(1)(d); DTA Transitions, Apr. 2013, p. 6. There is no fee for ESP child care. If ESP child care ends during the first year after your TAFDC case closes, you can get a referral for Transitional Child Care as long as you are working at least part time. See below for “Continuity of care” if you are not working but have another need for child care when your ESP child care ends. 

Continuity of care

If you have subsidized child care when Transitional or ESP child care ends, you should be able to keep getting subsidized child care as long as you have a service need recognized by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and your income is below the maximum for subsidized child care ($78,676 for a family of three; $92,560 for a family of three with a special needs child). See Dep’t of Early Education and Care, SMI Income Eligibility FY 2017

Service needs recognized by EEC include

  • your child has a documented special need 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),
  • you need child care because you have a documented special need,
  • you are working,
  • you are looking for work (up to 8 weeks) after leaving a job or finishing education or training (may be extended to 12 weeks in extraordinary circumstances),
  • you are participating in education or training, or
  • you are on maternity leave from your job (up to 12 weeks). See Department of Early Education and Care Financial Assistance Policy Guide.

Advocacy Reminders

  • If you are not eligible for a Transitional or ESP referral from DTA, 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 phone). You will have to go on a waiting list unless you have a priority. If you had subsidized child care within the previous three months that was suspended temporarily (for example, because of summer break or travel out of state), you may have a priority for continuing to receive child care through EEC. Department of Early Education and Care Financial Assistance Policy Guide, pp. 1-3.
  • Former TAFDC recipients are eligible for Transitional or ESP 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.
  • If you are eligible for Transitional child care after your case closes because you are working, you should get a new referral from DTA even if you already have a voucher that has not yet expired. The CCR&RA can then calculate the amount of your parent fee. Otherwise, EEC may say you are liable for back fees. You do not need to get a new referral and there is no fee if you are eligible for ESP child care because you are continuing a DTA-approved education or training program.
  • You may be able to get a DTA referral for child care during the first 12 months 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 with a “service need” of at least 20 hours 
    a week. Consult an advocate to find out more about how to get into a Section 30 program. 
  • During the second year after you leave TAFDC, if you do not have subsidized child care and you are working or have a job offer, you may be able to get a DTA referral for Transitional child care. Check with an advocate. 
  • It may be illegal for DTA to require current or former recipients to cooperate with child support requirements to receive child care. Consult an advocate. 

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