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Tennessee Taking Steps to Improve Child Care Access

The state is increasing financial support for child care programs that provide care for children receiving financial assistance.
Monday, March 11, 2019 | 12:07pm

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) announced a major step forward in helping families pay for the cost of child care and incentivizing more providers across the state to participate in the child care subsidy program. 

Beginning in April, TDHS will raise the weekly reimbursement rates for all providers who take part in the state’s Child Care Certificate Program.  This rate increase is the first for child care providers since 2008.

Through the Smart Steps Program, TDHS provides child care financial assistance to families who are working or pursuing post-secondary education and who meet certain income eligibility requirements. The Child Care Certificate Program also serves teen parents enrolled in high school, through the Teen Parent Assistance for Child Care Program. Additional categories of child care payment assistance are available to families who take part in the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program known as Families First, parents transitioning off Families First, and children in foster care.

Under this reimbursement rate change providers will receive:

·         35% increase in weekly reimbursement rates for infant and toddler care.

·         20% increase in weekly reimbursement rates for pre-school and school age care.

For example, these changes would mean an extra $46 a week for every infant that’s served by our Smart Steps program at child care agencies in Nashville and another $20 a week for each pre-school child.

“Quality child care is essential to the development of children and the thriving Tennessee we are trying to build,” said TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes. “These rate increases are a specific investment in Tennessee’s community of child care providers and will promote access to early childhood environments that are safe, healthy and educationally rich.”

Tennessee has approximately 4,200 regulated child care agencies, who would be eligible to participate in the Child Care Certificate Program.  Approximately 1,500 providers are currently participating. By raising the reimbursement rates, TDHS hopes that more providers will join the program, resulting in more choices for families seeking quality child care. 

In July 2018, TDHS released new child care licensing rules that support providers in raising quality, health, and safety expectations for their services.  By raising the reimbursement rates, TDHS is supporting providers in reaching those higher expectations of quality.   Providers who wish to join the Certificate Program should contact the state office nearest them .

Parents seeking information about enrolling in the Child Care Certificate Program should visit the TDHS website

To support parents, TDHS also provides tips for choosing child care and an interactive database where parents can search for providers in their area

Learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services at   


CONTACT:  Sky Arnold
OFFICE:  615-313-5551