ACS Subsidized Child Care




The first federal investment in child care was made during the Great Depression. The motivation behind the movement was to provide government jobs to out-of-work adults. However, funding for services ended with the end of the Depression. Subsequently the United States’ entrance into World War II generated an enormous demand for women labor in the war industries and federal funding for child care once again became available. Ironically after the war the federal government abandoned their support for child care and instructed women to quit working, return home and take care of their children; advice many women did not take

During the 1960’s attitudes toward child care began to shift in part because of child development research. Out of this research the Head Start program was born. Then in 1974 Title XX of the Social Services Amendments allocated $2.5 billion annually for a variety of services, including child care. For many years Title XX was the sole source of public support for subsidized child care in many states.

In 1988 the Family Support Act (FSA) passed, which required many welfare recipients, including most mothers with preschool children, participate in education, training, or work. An increase in child care services was integral to the success of this new law.

Then, just two years after the passage of the FSA, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) became law as a result of a growing recognition of the need for child care support among all families, not just those on welfare, as well as the growing political muscle of middle and upper middle-class women who demanded policy responses to some of their basic economic concerns and need for child care.


The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has overall responsibility for child care programs. Within HHS the Administration for Children and Families is responsible for establishing the regulations that carry out the law and provide states with direction in running the program.

States have flexibility to design policies, define eligibility guidelines, service priorities, regulate provider payment rates and family co-payment amounts, within the broad parameters specified under federal law.

In NYS the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) administers child care and sets rules regarding the funding distribution in accordance with federal and state laws and regulations. The office within OCFS responsible for overseeing child care services is the Division of Early Child Care Services.

In NYC publicly funded child care is administered by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Division of Child Care and Head Start. ACS administers childcare services in various settings to low-income families, including center based, family child care and legally exempt providers. (ACS also oversees the federal Head Start program, as well as foster care, adoption, and preventive services.)

Four out of the 5 boroughs in NYC have an ACS borough office called an ACS Resource Area that acts as an administrative hub for ACS services in the boroughs. The Resource Areas process applications and renewals, maintain information on the eligibility status of children in care and children on the waiting lists, as well as information on centers and providers. See below, Government Contacts.

Additional NYC agencies involved with the administration of child care are the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which licenses all group child care centers, family child care and group family child care, unless the program is exempted from licensing requirements, and monitors them to make sure they are in compliance with NYC health code; the NYC Department of Education, which runs the Universal Pre-K program, and the Department of Youth and Community Development, which oversees the school-age child care; the latter two are not discussed in this chapter, and the Human Resources Administration which assistance parents in receipt of Cash Assistance, transitional child care or child care in lieu of Cash Assistance.


Funding for child care comes from the federal, state and local monies. The federal Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the primary source of funding for child care assistance for low and moderate-income families. Under CCDBG, states set policies, within federal parameters, that determine families’ eligibility for child care assistance, the amount of assistance families can receive, and families’ copayments. CCDBG funding can be used to subsidize care offered by a broad range of child care providers, including child care centers, family child care providers, and informal providers.

In addition to the CCDBG grant, funding for child care also comes from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) grant, which provides money to states to provide Cash Assistance to families with children on Cash Assistance, and Title XX funding (also known as the Social Services Block Grant), which supports a broad range of social services, including child care for certain families. The funds are pooled into the New York State Child Care Block Grant, which distributes the funds to the local social districts and creates a seamless child care system for Family Assistance families on TANF and other eligible low-income families in need of child care.

In addition, New York State also contributes a portion of the child care funding through the federal “maintenance of effort” requirement, as well as NYC. NYC funding for child care must be approved by the City Council and signed by the Mayor, as part of the City budget.

Summary of Publicly Funded Child Care

NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) subsidizes free or low-cost child care services for eligible families living in New York City and is available for children ages 6 weeks through 12 years, while children with special needs may be able to receive care through age 18. Eligible families may access child care services at group child care centers, family-based child care, or through informal providers.

Most settings for publicly funded child care must be regulated, that is, the provider must go through a process to obtain certification that the child care program meets certain health, safety and programmatic standards, as prescribed by regulation.

Under NYS provisions, informal providers are exempt from regulatory oversight, although they must be enrolled by a Legally Exempt Caregiver Enrollment Agency in order to receive government funds. NYS OCFS has contracted with the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDCO) to be the enrollment agency in NYC.

The Administration for Children Services pays child care providers based on their costs of care up to the state market rate. Eligible families, except for Cash Assistance recipients, will pay a portion of the actual expense for child care services.

To qualify for a child care subsidy, a family must meet all Federal and state regulations of the program, which includes age of child, need for child care, citizenship/immigration status, residency, and income requirements. Families can initiate the application process for publicly funded day either by typically applying directly with the ACS contracted child care center, that is, an EarlyLearn NYC center.

Per state regulations, families who receive a child care subsidy are authorized for a certain period of time. At the end of this time families must continue to prove they meet the eligibility requirements for a child care subsidy through the recertification process.