Child Care Payment Assistance

Who is eligible?

  • Parents applying for the Smart Steps program whose income is below the 85th percentile of State Median Income  (which can be found on the Income Eligibility and Parent Co-Pay Fee Table using the 85.0% line that coincides with your household size) who have children six (6) weeks until kindergarten  and who work, are enrolled in a post-secondary education program, or a combination of both for an average of 30 hours or more a week.
  • High school or middle school mothers who stay in school who participate in the Teen Parent program.
  • Parents in the Families First program who need child care to complete the work activities in their personal responsibility plan.
  • Parents whose Families First case has closed can receive transitional child care assistance for 18 months after their Families First case closes IF each parent works an average of 30 hours or more a week.
  • Non-parental guardians in the Families First program who need child care for a related child IF the guardian does average 30 or more hours of work, training, or education a week.

How do I apply?

Apply Online through the One DHS Customer Portal by clicking here.

You may submit a paper application at the links below and then fax, mail, or bring it to your local TDHS office.

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

***Make sure you submit all required verification documents with your online or paper application. Applications are not complete and will not be processed until all required verifications are provided. ***

The documents listed below may be required to complete the application process and determine eligibility.

Valid ID-At least one (1) of the following for each parent/guardian residing in the home:

  • Driver’s License
  • State Issued ID
  • Voter’s Registration Care (Tennessee)
  • 1-94 Card
  • Passport

Verification of Current Resident- At least (1) of the following must be in the parent/guardian’s name:

  • Rent/lease agreement
  • Mortgage receipt
  • Utility bill

Verification of Citizenship- At least (1) of the following for each child needed care:

  • A U.S. Passport
  • A Certificate of U.S. Citizenship (DHS Forms N-560 or N-561)
  • A birth certificate
  • Hospital, clinic, or doctor records
  • A report or Certificate of Birth Abroad of a U.S. Citizen

Verification of relationship of the following: (Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate, Court Orders, etc.)

  • Spouse/partner/other parent
  • Sibling
  • Other children who may receive assistance due to custody or birth

Income Verification-At least one (1) of the following for each parent/guardian residing in the home:

  • Check stubs for the most recent eight (8) weeks for each parent/guardian/spouse employed
  • Employer statement on company letterhead, signed and dated (if within eight (8) week of employment or if hours or wage have changed less than eight (8) weeks ago)
  • Federal 1040 (ONLY to be used for self-employment verification, most recent year).
  • Award Letters
  • Self-Employment Reporting and Verification Form HS-3177
  • Child Support Verification (court order, payment records)

Verification of school/college attendance/enrollment for parent(s) and guardians(s):

  • Current class schedule per semester/quarter-registration and attendance must be verified.

Any other verification(s) needed per request to determine eligibility.

**If you are a Family First recipient, you may be eligible. Please contact your assigned Client Service Representative for more information.**

How do I find a child care provider?

Child care providers can be can be located at Find Child Care. You may search by your address, provider, or county. Providers that accept child care payment assistance can be filtered by selecting the “Accepts Child Care Assistance Program” option.

If I qualify, what will I have to pay?

The co-pay chart estimates your payment based on your income and the number of children you will have in child care. You will receive an exact amount that you will have to pay if you qualify. It’s important that you pay the amount you owe and don’t miss payments. Your child care provider may terminate your child from their program if you don’t pay the amount you owe.

How do I transfer child care providers?

For a parent/guardian requesting to transfer your child to a new provider, please submit information using the link here

**If are a Family First recipient, please contact your assigned Client Service Representative for more information for transfer requests ** 

Are there are other helpful resources?

Additional child resources for parents can be located here. You can learn more about how to choose the right child care provider, the types of child care providers in the State, and how the State assesses child care providers. You can also learn about the importance of checkups and developmental screening for children.

You can learn more here about tips for safe sleep for babies.

Also, if you are interested in child care payment assistance, you may also be eligible for one or more of these programs to assist you with your other needs.


For a parent/guardian receiving child care payment assistance, should you have a question, please contact the One DHS Contact Center at 1-833-772-TDHS (8347) or via the One DHS General Inquiry webform, by clicking here.

Customer Survey

Please take a moment to let us know about your experience applying for child care payment assistance.