For Parents and Guardians

Help Paying for Child Care


The Minnesota Department of Human Services has Child Care Assistance Programs for low-income families needing assistance to help pay for child care to support employment, job search, and remedial and postsecondary education that will lead to employment.

There are different programs that families may be eligible for based on a variety of eligibility criteria. They are the Early Learning Scholarships, MFIP/DWP Child Care Assistance, Transition Year Child Care Assistance, and Basic Sliding Fee Child Care Assistance.


Early Learning Scholarships 

The Early Learning Scholarships give families financial support to help pay for high-quality early care and education to prepare their young children for school.

The scholarship amount is up to $7,500 for a 12 month period. The Early Learning Scholarship must be used at a Minnesota child care or early learning program that is a 3 or 4 star-rated Parent Aware program.

Questions? 651-604-6604


Update: April 2016

Think Small continues to accept applications for the current scholarship season that ends June 30, 2016. This scholarship season is for families with a child that was 3 or 4 years old on September 1, 2015.  A younger child can be considered when a parent is under 21 and seeking a GED or high school diploma. Most of the counties that we serve have a waiting list and the list expires June 30, 2016.

If your child does not meet the current age requirements, read below for the new season that starts in July.

If you are on the waiting list, read below to see if you are eligible to apply again.


When do I apply?

The current scholarship season is almost done. 

Applications accepted July 1, 2015–June 30, 2016

Apply if your child was 3 or 4 on September 1, 2015


The next scholarship season begins soon. 

Applications will be available soon. Please check back to this page for an application and instructions for the next season. 

Scholarship season: July 1, 2016–June 30, 2017

Apply if your child is 3 or 4 on September 1, 2016


Application and Instructions to use through June 2016

Click below to download an application and instructions:

English 2016 application

English 2016 application instructions

Hmong 2016 application

Hmong 2016 application instructions

Spanish 2016 application

Spanish 2016 application instructions

Somali 2016 application

Somali 2016 application instructions


Who is eligible to apply for the next scholarship season in July 2016?

Requirements for each family:

  • Children who are 3 or 4 on September 1, 2016   (younger siblings are also considered when they attend the    same program as the 3 or 4 year old) OR the younger child of a parent under 21 seeking a GED or high school diploma
  • Resident of  Aiken, Anoka, Carlton, Carver, Cook, Dakota, Hennepin, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, Ramsey, St. Louis, Scott and Washington counties
  • An annual gross income at or below 185%  of the Federal Poverty Guideline (more details provided soon)


Tips and Common Questions about Early Learning Scholarships

Click here for tips and common questions


Contact Information

For questions about scholarships or eligibility, please call 651-641-6604 or toll-free 1-855-898-4465 to talk with the scholarship team.

For scholarship information available in other languages, call 651-665-0150 or 1-866-807-6021

Yog nyob hauv ob lub nroog ntxaib:   651-665-0150

En el área metropolitana, Ilame al:    651-665-0150

Magaalada gudahed wac:    651-665-0150



MFIP/DWP Child Care Assistance

This program serves families that receive cash and/or food portion benefits through either the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) or the Diversionary Work Program (DWP). In order to be eligible for child care assistance through this program an employment plan must be created with an employment services worker. This program is fully funded and has no waiting lists.


Transition Year Child Care Assistance 

Families that left MFIP/DWP Financial Assistance within the last twelve months are served by this program. This program only supports working parents or parents needing care in order to look for a job. Transition Year Child Care Assistance cannot pay child care while parents attend any type of education program. In order to be eligible for Transition Year Child Care Assistance families must have received MFIP/DWP financial benefits for a least three out of the last six months prior to the benefits ending. This program is fully funded and has no waiting lists.


Basic Sliding Fee Child Care Assistance

This program serves families that do not meet criteria for MFIP/DWP or Transition Year Child Care Programs and need child care assistance to support employment, job search, or remedial and postsecondary education. This program is not fully funded and may have a waiting list.

Contact the human services office in your county to determine which Child Care Assistance program you may be eligible for.  If the county has no funding for the Basic Sliding Fee Child Care Assistance Program, you can ask to be placed on the waiting list.


Think Small administers the Basic Sliding Fee Child Care Assistance Program for Ramsey County Residents.

If you live in Ramsey County and would like assistance in understanding which Child Care Assistance Program you may be eligible for, call the Intake Screening Line at 651-641-6665.  If you don't live in Ramsey County contact your county's human service program.


Do you have questions? Call your county's program. 


Child Care Assistance Program

MFIP, DWP, or  Transition Year programs

Anoka 763-717-7711


Carver 952-361-1721


Dakota 651-554-5611















Additional information to help understand Child Care Assistance Programs in Minnesota: