Parents: How to Find Low-Cost or Free Daycare in Your Area

As a parent, you probably know that daycare expenses can be a massive undertaking, especially if you have multiple children. It’s estimated that the average family spends $8,355 per child each year on childcare alone, a cost that is unfeasible for many families. 

High day care center costs can make it difficult for parents to maintain their employment and have a significant impact on a household’s overall budget. However, there are a few tips you can use to find low-cost and free child and infant daycare so you can save more money without sacrificing employment opportunities. 

Low-Cost and Free Daycare Through the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (VPK)
kids at daycare
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Have you heard of the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program? VPK is a state-funded early education program available in most states. Depending on the state program, services may be provided in a school setting, non-profit day care center, or through a faith-based provider. 

Like many state-based programs, eligibility requirements, including age-related requirements, can vary significantly between states. For example, most state VPK programs only provide services to children who are five years of age.

However, around 22% of state programs serve four-year-olds, and only about 3% provide services to three-year-olds. VPK programs are not available to infants and children younger than three years old. 

Not only does the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program provide parents with an outlet to free day care, but these programs generally include early education.

There are currently 6 states that do not provide state-funded programs:

  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • South Dakota
  • Wyoming

However, state residents may still qualify for low-cost or free VPK services through non-profit, faith-based, or community-based programs. 

While VPKs usually provide some sort of educational benefit, not all programs provide education. Therefore, you should always check out your local state program to learn more about the services, locations, and schedules available. If you live in a state that does not offer a state-wide program, check your local community for non-profits or elementary schools that offer VPK. 

In many state-based programs, you’ll need to apply for a VPK voucher before you can receive benefits for your child. Every state has its own application process, but you may be able to apply online, by mail, by phone, or in person. Additionally, you may need to provide documentation to support your application, such as your child’s birth certificate to fulfill proof of age requirements. 

But what if there isn’t a VPK in your area? What if your child doesn’t qualify, or the VPK operates on a schedule different from the one you’re looking for? Read on to the next slide to learn more about your low-cost and free daycare options, including head start early childhood education. 

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