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Child Care Services

Do you need child care payment assistance while you work or attend school? 

You may be eligible for Smart Steps Child Care Payment Assistance if you meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Must be employed no less than 30 hours per week, or be enrolled and attending a post-secondary education program full-time, or a combination of both
  • Must have a child between ages six (6) weeks old through five (5) years old
  • Household gross income must be below the 85th percentile of the State Median Income (SMI) for Tennessee. Please refer to the flyer at the link below for the Household Income Limits chart. 

Learn more about Smart Steps on the Smart Steps flyer, by clicking here.   To apply, print and return the Smart Steps Application to your nearest DHS Child Care Office which can be found by clicking here.

Application for Child Care Payment Assistance/Smart Steps  (HS-3408) - Instructions
Application for Child Care Payment Assistance/Smart Steps (Spanish) (HS-3408sp) - Instructions
Application for Child Care Payment Assistance/Smart Steps (Arabic) (HS-3408a) - Instructions
Application for Child Care Payment Assistance/Smart Steps (Somali) (HS-3408s)- Instructions

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About Child Care Services:

Child Care Care Services plans, implements, and coordinates activities and programs to ensure quality, accessibility and the health and safety of children in care.

The Child and Adult Care Licensing section is responsible for monitoring child and adult care agencies to ensure the health and safety of the young children and vulnerable adults in care.

Child Care Assessment staff use a quality measurement instrument to assess each licensed provider annually and establish the Star-Quality Report Card Rating and Evaluation System for facilities.

The Child Care Certificate Program provides child care payment support to families who are working, in post-secondary education programs, teen parents who are enrolled in high school or those who are participating in the Families First program. Child care payment assistance not only allows families a sense of security while they work or pursue educational goals, it also promotes children’s learning and development in child care environments.

Within the Child Care Services section, statewide early childhood-related services are managed through child care partners including Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R), Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance (TECTA), and Tennessee’s Outstanding Providers Supported through Available Resources (TOPSTAR). These services provide a support system for improving and maintaining the overall quality of child care across the state and help provide parents and families with safe, healthy and developmentally appropriate child care options. Child Care Resource and Referral assist both parents and providers. For parents, the CCR & R offers information on child care providers in their area, answers questions on types of care that is available and provides helpful information on safe, healthy and developmentally appropriate options.


Report Child Care violations/complaints by calling the Child Care Complaint Hotline at 1-800-462-8261  

Have more questions? Contact a child care licensing office near you. Contact information can be found by clicking here.