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Child Care Certificate Program

The Child Care Certificate Program is a state program that assists Families First participants, parents transitioning off Families First, teen parents, and children in foster care. It’s also called the subsidized child care program. To participate in the program, families must be declared eligible by the Department of Human Services (DHS) staff or by the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) staff for children in foster care.

DHS provides financial help for childcare costs for families with low incomes through a few different assistance programs.

How to Apply
To apply for the service, contact the local Department of Human Services office. Some assistance requires a co-payment. During this contact, the applicant may also discuss eligibility for SNAP/Food Stamps, eligibility for TennCare/Medicaid, and eligibility for cash assistance through Families First/TANF.

*Please note: Currently an application and approval through the DHS Families First program is the entry point for the Child Care Certificate Program. The Teen Parent and Department of Children's Services child care programs are the only exceptions.

Did you know?
If a parent is eligible for one of the childcare certificate programs, any type of childcare can be used by the parents (both regulated and unregulated), with the exception of Teen Parent Child Care and DCS. For these types of care, the parent must use a regulated (licensed) provider. However, the chosen provider must be enrolled in the certificate payment program. Payment rates are established by the Department of Human Services and agreed to by the provider.

Further information about the program:

  • Families First Child Care Assistance. Parents participating in the Families First program who need childcare to complete the work activities in their personal responsibility plan can receive financial assistance with the cost of childcare. Families First parents do not pay a parent co-pay in this program. Eligibility is based on Families First income guidelines.
  • Transitional Child Care Assistance. Parents whose Families First case has closed are potentially eligible for 18 months of transitional childcare assistance. Each parent must meet a work activity requirement of 30 hours per week in order to be eligible for this program. Parents must pay a co-pay fee based on a sliding income scale.
  • At-Risk Child Only. Nonparental caretakers who are receiving Families First for a related child may be eligible for this childcare assistance. Caretakers must pay a co-pay fee based on a sliding income scale and must participate in 30 hours of work, training or education weekly.
  • Teen Child Care Assistance. This program is for eligible high school or middle school mothers. These young mothers must stay in school in order to receive childcare assistance. Parents must pay a co-pay fee based on a sliding income scale.