Child Care Certificate Program


The Child Care Certificate Program is a state program that assists Families First participants, parents transitioning off Families First, parents working of enrolled in post-secondary education programs, 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 Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) staff or by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) staff for children in foster care.

TDHS provides financial assistance with child care costs for families meeting income guideline criteria through a several child care assistance programs.

How to Apply
To apply for the service, contact your local Department of Human Services office. Some child care assistance requires a co-payment based on income and household size. 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.

Did you know?
Once approved for child care payment assistance the family may choose the type of care their best meets their needs. A child find locator is available to assist families in locating TDHS licensed or DOE approved agencies. The agency must agree be participating or agree to participate in the Child Care Certificate program. Parents participating in Families First Child Care, Transitional Child Care or At-Risk Child Only Child Care may choose and agency or an individual to provide care. The individual’s home must meet health and safety guidelines, pass a background check and agree to complete health and safety training before approved. The TDHS establishes reimbursement rates and pays the selected and approved provider directly.

Further information about the program:

  • Families First Child Care Assistance. Parents participating in the Families First program who need child care to complete the work activities in their personal responsibility plan can receive financial assistance with the cost of child care. 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 child care 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. Non-parental caretakers who are receiving Families First for a related child may be eligible for this child care 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.
  • Smart Steps Child Care Payment Assistance. This program was established to provide child care payment assistance to working families or those pursuing post-secondary educational goals. The family must pay a co-pay fee based on a sliding income scale. The program is for children six (6) weeks to kindergarten and only TDHS licensed or Department of Education approved care may be utilized. 
  • 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 child care assistance. Parents must pay a co-pay fee based on a sliding income scale.