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This road map can ease confusion of applications for child care

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Child care center with many students

When it comes to applying for help paying for child care, there are four avenues for financial assistance. The one that's most appropriate for your family depends on a number of factors, including income, participation in other services and more. Read on to find the right program for your family:

  • Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten: This free program is designed to prepare children academically, socially and emotionally for kindergarten and build the foundation for their educational success. It is available to 4-year-olds born on or before Sept. 1 who reside in Florida, regardless of family income. Four-year-old children with birthdays from Feb. 2 through Sept. 1 are eligible to enroll that year or can postpone it to the next. Children receive 540 instructional hours when participating in a school-year program with each class limited to 20 students. Families can register online or in person via the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County's self-service kiosks in Riviera Beach, Palm Springs and Belle Glade. Call the coalition at 561-514-3300 or visit its website for a list of required documents to complete your application.

  • School Readiness: This funding is available to working families in need. Eligibility is based on income and other priorities. You can apply online or call the Early Learning Coalition at 561-514-3300 for more information. Once your application is accepted, you will be placed on a waiting list. When a spot opens, you will meet with the coalition's staff to finalize eligibility. After approval, you will receive a certificate to use at any child care provider under contract with the coalition.

  • Early Head Start & Head Start: These programs serve children ages up to 3 and 4-5, respectively. To be eligible, you must meet federal poverty guidelines, or the child must be in the foster care system. You can download the application through Lutheran Services Florida, which oversees the program in Palm Beach County, or call 561-233-1600. The Early Learning Coalition also offers Early Head Start services. For more information, contact the coalition at 561-514-3300 or apply here.
  • Children’s Services Council (CSC) Scholarship: To access a CSC Scholarship, families must be directly referred to the Early Learning Coalition from a CSC Healthy Beginnings provider, from one of CSC’s 10 BRIDGES sites or from one of the other specific programs listed in the categories.
Child-care scholarships through Children’s Services Council are available to children based on the five categories listed below.

  1. CSC Scholarships: For children, from birth to 12 years old, who have lost school readiness eligibility and attend a CSC-approved child-care site. These children can continue in care without disruption.
  2. Domestic Violence/Homelessness Scholarships: For children, from birth to 12 years old, who have been referred from an authorized domestic violence or homeless shelter and whose eligibility has run out. These children can continue in care without disruption at a CSC-approved site.
  3. Healthy Beginning Scholarships: For children, from birth through age 5, who participate in a program within CSC’s Healthy Beginning System of Care.
  4. Afterschool Scholarships: For school-age children through age 12 who attend programs participating in Prime Time’s Quality Improvement System. This scholarship may also be offered for school-age children no longer eligible for subsidized child care and who attend a Prime Time’s Quality Improvement System site.
  5. Relative Caregivers Scholarships: For children, from birth through 12, who live with a relative caregiver (grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc.), who are referred by Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County.

Once approved, families receive a certificate to be used at a site that participates in CSC’s Strong Minds.

Families who are unsure of what assistance they may be eligible for should contact the Early Learning Coalition for guidance. The coalition also can provide resource and referral information for families paying privately for care.


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