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Free child care assistance programs South Carolina.

The ABC Child Care Program can help qualified lower income families in South Carolina pay their child and day care costs. Assistance is provided by the government in the form of grants and/or free vouchers. Payments will be made directly to providers so that parents can either work or attend some form of job training or educational programs.

The Department of Social Services in South Carolina is the leading agency that administers the free ABC Voucher program and its various components, and the phone number is below. A number of activities, referrals and projects are also offered and all can help improve the government funded child care programs and make care both more available and affordable to families that need assistance.

Since the 1990s the state has paid for low-income children to attend some form of day or child care so their parents could work. Or social services will subsidize costs so parents can attend college, school or required job training in order to obtain relevant employment. The low cost or free ABC Child Care program and the standards its set are purely voluntary. All payments and vouchers are paid directly to child care providers and the family will not be compensated. In addition to the government payment, qualified providers may be able to receive additional compensation in the form of a $5 bonus for each ABC funded enrollee.

The state provides an extensive amount of Parental Choice. This allows participants to choose the kind of day care they want for their child and they can select the provider as well. So to that end, the South Carolina ABC Voucher Program pays for care at Licensed Centers, Group Child Care Homes, churches, family or friends, or after school programs. All of those need to be approved and also licensed in advance of receiving a voucher.

The Special Needs Program is a service provided by the Department of Social Services Child Care Services Division. This will place a high priority on serving low income qualified families with children who are disabled and/or have special needs. Candidates can include those that have differing abilities and developmental delays such as Mental Retardation, Autism, Down Syndrome, or brain and spinal cord injuries. They also need to be under the age of 19.

Also, a child in South Carolina may also be eligible if they are receiving physical, speech or occupational therapy through their local county school district. They also need to have an Individualized Education Plan in place with their school. The state offers a number of services to these income qualified families. Eligible families may qualify for special child care vouchers if they meet other conditions, such as working or attending training.




Some of the partner organizations and places to turn to for more information on disability assistance include The South Carolina School for the Deaf & Blind, your local county Departments of Disabilities and Special Needs, the Babynet Office at the Department of Health and Environmental Control and also Children’s Rehabilitative Services, which are based at the county Department of Health and Environmental Control. Staff at these centers, known as Interventionist, a Service Coordinator or a Referral Agent, can process applications and answer questions. Or dial (803) 898-9735.

Day care providers who treat special needs child can also get help, including training, from the state. DSS oversees the ABC Special Needs Program and partners with the Center for Disability Resources. Providers can get specialized technical assistance and training.

The application process is conditional and there could be a waiting list. In order to be qualified, the parents needs to be working, in school, or training. They must also require a minimum of 15 hours of child care per week. In addition, their gross (before taxes) total household must be at or below the income limit for their family size.

To apply for free child care vouchers

If you are on welfare, otherwise known as the Family Independence in South Carolina, contact your local DSS office. Or dial (800) 476-0199. They will process your application for a free ABC voucher. Foster parents should contact their care worker for more details.

Other low income parents who think they may qualify can call the ABC program at 1-800-476-0199. If funds or free vouchers become available to pay for child care to the general public, there will be more information provided. As indicated, funds are low and the demand is high, so only a small number of families can be assisted.

Other assistance programs may be available as well. Call your local South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness Office in your county to see if they have any public or private funding available to pay for day or child care expenses, or if they offer free programs. Another option is the Head Start program, which offers educational and other services to low-income children. Also explore the federal government Child Tax Credit as well as Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The money from these sources could possibly can help offset your costs.

By Jon McNamara

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