News You Can Use Distributed 05/04/07
Some Louisiana families can get assistance with the cost of child care through programs administered by the state, according to LSU AgCenter child care associate Cheri Gioe.
The Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support is responsible for administration of the Child Care and Development Fund, which offers services to families and child care providers in Louisiana.
Among those services, one of the largest programs the department administers is the Child Care Assistance Program. The program serves more than 45,000 Louisiana children and provides approximately $7.1 million of assistance monthly.
"This program assists low-income families in paying for the child care they need in order to work, seek employment or attend school or training," Gioe explained.
Monthly assistance payments are based on the number of hours parents work or attend school or training, the family size and the household income, according to Gioe, who explained hours are charged to the program by the child care provider.
"Child Care Assistance Program funds are available only to families who have children enrolled in Class A licensed child care facilities, registered family day care homes, in-home providers and school-based before- and after-school programs," Gioe said, stressing, "Not all programs accept children enrolled in the program."
You may be eligible to receive Child Care Assistance if you:
–Are responsible for paying child care costs for children under the age of 13 or children under the age of 18 who are disabled or under court supervision and live with you.
–Are working, looking for work, attending an educational or training program or receiving disability income.
–Have a household monthly gross earned income that fits within the guidelines for your household size. Those monthly income limits for household sizes are $2,147 for two people in a household, $2,653 for a three-person household, $3,158 for four, $3,664 for five, $4,169 for six, $4,264 for seven, $4,358 for eight and $4,453 for nine.
Child Care Assistance applications may be obtained at your parish or district Office of Family Support or downloaded by computer from www.dss.state.la.us/departments/ofs/Child_Care_Assistance_Program.html.
To apply for the assistance program, complete an application form and return it to the Office of Family Support. The application must be accompanied by copies of the four most recent check stubs for each household member who is working, proof of other types of income received by any household members, a statement from the educational institution for any adult or parent attending school, copies of Social Security cards for all household members, copies of birth certificates for all children under 18 years of age living in the home, proof of citizenship or alien status of children needing care and verification of disability, if applicable.
The Office of Family Support then has up to 30 days after receiving it to process your application.
"That means it may take up to 30 working days to process an application, and if a provider must be certified or registered, it may take longer," Gioe explained. "A written notice will be sent telling you of the decision that has been reached."
If you are eligible for assistance through the program, you will receive a certificate for each child needing care. The certificates then must be filled out by the child care provider and returned to the Office of Family Support.
All payments from that office are made directly to the child care provider on a monthly basis – although it generally takes approximately two weeks from the time an invoice from a provider is received in the office for a provider to be paid for services, according to officials with the Office of Family Support.
"Even if you qualify for assistance, however, you can expect to still have to pay a part of the costs," Gioe stressed, explaining, "The amount of assistance you qualify for will not cover all of the fees your child care provider charges. Unless you’re enrolled as a STEP Participant, you are responsible for a copayment, which is owed to the child care provider."
The copayment for child care services must be made directly to the child care provider by the family.
Gioe also says you may have to make other payments during the transition period between applying for assistance and the time the first payments from the assistance program are made to the child care provider.
"Expect your child care provider to request that you pay child care fees in advance until they begin to receive the Child Care Assistance payments," Gioe advised.
For more information about Child Care Assistance, visit the Web site at www.dss.state.la.us/departments/ofs/Child_Care_Assistance_Program.html or call 1-888-LAHELPU.
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.