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

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Subsidized child care is provided through vouchers that can be used to pay for care with a provider who accepts vouchers. Subsidized care is also provided by programs that contract with the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) for child care spots. DTA only provides child care through vouchers. But many programs that have contracts also accept vouchers.

To get a child care voucher based on current or former receipt of TAFDC, 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 voucher to pay for the child care.

You can get names of local child care providers at EEC's Child Care Search page. Sometimes the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency will refer you to a program that has an open contracted spot. You do not have to accept that spot if you want voucher you can use at a different child care provider of your choice.

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 provider’s 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
  • n adult relative providing care in the child’s home or the relative’s home.

Informal child care pays $23.06 per day per child for six or more hours for care provided in a relative’s home and $13.85 per day per child for fewer than six hours. The rates are lower for care provided in the child’s home. See the FY 2024 child care daily reimbursement rates.

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. Watch how teachers relate to the children. If the provider is very busy but you like what you see, go back when there is time to talk.
  • 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 EEC Child Care Tips on Mass Legal Services. You can find the most recent inspection report for the provider by searching the provider’s name at EEC's Child Care Search page.

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.
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