Child care assistance is available for those in need

(Ohio) – As childcare centers reopening and parents heading back to work, the looming concern regarding how to pay for child care could be creating back into the lives of many.

This information series is brought to you by Tuscarawas County Job & Family Services.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) offers financial assistance to eligible parents to help them with child care costs while they engage in work, education, or job training. In addition, ODJFS and county agencies are responsible for licensing and inspecting all child care settings in Ohio, from large child care centers to family child care homes.

Every day in Ohio, approximately 285,000 children are cared for in settings outside the home that are licensed by the state of Ohio. Of those children, more than 116,000 receive financial assistance for child care each month. This assistance allows low-income parents to find and keep jobs, and it ensures that their children have access to early care and education experience they need to succeed in school. Ohio’s 88 county departments of job and family services determine families’ eligibility for publicly funded child care services.

ODJFS then makes payments to programs for the costs of that care, based on a local market rate survey.

Who can get child care assistance?
To become eligible for publicly funded child care, a family’s income must be below 130 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). After that, families may remain eligible unless their income becomes greater than 300 percent of the FPL. Families can be eligible for all or part of their monthly child care expenses. The program serves children of all ages, from infants to preschoolers to school-age children who need care before and after school.

How often is eligibility determined?
The county agencies review cases every 12 months to decide whether income or other changes affect eligibility.

How is child care assistance paid?
Ohio uses an electronic Time, Attendance, and Payment (TAP) system to record the time and attendance of children receiving publicly funded child care. Parents or guardians use the system to check their children in and out of care, and then ODJFS issues direct deposit payments to programs to reimburse them for the time they spend caring for
children.

How often are child care programs inspected?
Child care centers are inspected three times in their first year, at least once annually after that, and any time ODJFS receives a complaint. Family child care homes are inspected at least twice a year and any time the county agency receives a complaint. All inspections are unannounced.

(Tuscarawas County Health Department Advertisement)

All child care programs and staff are subject to criminal background checks, including staff who have no direct contact with children, such as cooks and custodians. For in-home programs, all residents of the home who are age 18 or older must complete background checks. In addition, ODJFS sends a list of all child care programs to the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association so county sheriffs can cross-check that list with their local sex offender registries.

Does ODJFS have suggestions for parents who are choosing child care programs?
Yes. Families searching for child care in Ohio should visit ChildCareSearch.ohio.gov. This website allows families to search for child care by county, city, zip code, program type, and Step Up To Quality rating. Families also can search for specific programs and view their past inspection reports. Step Up To Quality is Ohio’s quality rating system for child care programs. ODJFS and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) now use a comprehensive, one- to the five-star rating system to assess ODJFS- and ODE-licensed
early childhood programs that choose to exceed minimum health and safety standards.

Starting in 2020, all child care programs that receive state funding will be required to participate in Step Up To Quality. Ratings are posted online, and parents can use them to choose the program that is best for their child. Highly rated programs require continuing education for teachers and staff, use child assessments to guide learning and development, and take additional steps to help prepare children for kindergarten.

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