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Finding Childcare

By September 14, 2022News

When should I start looking for childcare?

Although looking into childcare options isn’t usually at the forefront of your mind when you find out you’re expecting, it’s a good idea to start your search during pregnancy. Many childcare providers have long waiting lists, especially for infants. If you know you’ll need childcare within a set timeframe after giving birth, you should start researching your options as soon as you can.


What are my options?

  • Childcare centers – also called daycares are facilities that care for children of various ages. These programs are licensed by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. Children are usually grouped by age, and there are size limits and adult-to-child ratios that must be maintained. Curriculums vary with each facility, some are focused on free play while others have more set activities.

  • Family childcare homes – these providers care for up to 10-12 children of various ages in their own homes. They are usually regulated by either Child Care Resource Network or the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, depending on the number of children in their care. If there are only 1-2 children being cared for in a residence, the childcare home is legally exempt from oversight by a regulating body.

  • Private childcare in your home – this option includes babysitters, nannies, and au pairs. These childcare professionals come into your home to care for your child. This type of care is not regulated in any way, but there are many reputable agencies and resources to help in your search.


Who can help with my search?

We are fortunate in Western New York to have wonderful resources to help you find the type of childcare you need.

  • Child Care Resource Network – a comprehensive resource for information, referrals, and services related to childcare options for families living in Erie County. They provide assistance in finding childcare (including lists of programs that meet your specific criteria), information on subsidies and making childcare more affordable, and education on what to look for in a high-quality program. Check out their website for more information or call (716) 877-6666 ext. 3064 to speak directly with a childcare navigator.

  • – this online directory lists childcare providers including babysitters, nannies, daycare centers, back-up care, and afterschool care. You can post a job listing and receive responses from local caregivers and view their profiles, including background checks and references.

  • Local Facebook Groups – other parents in Western New York are one of the best resources available to get information on childcare options. There are also groups where you can post what you’re looking for and receive responses from interested caregivers.

  • Friends and Family – Your friends and family with children may also have lots of good information to assist you in your search. Even if your needs and preferences are different, gathering as much information as possible is important to find the right fit for your little one.

What assistance is available?

Childcare is notoriously expensive. Luckily, there are some programs to help with the costs. Some  employers provide discounts or have agreements with certain programs for reduced rates. Additionally, many offer Dependent Care Assistance Programs, which allow you to deduct up to $5,000 a year from your paycheck on a pre-tax basis to pay for childcare. Contact your HR representative to be sure you’re taking advantage of all the benefits your employer offers. If you’re a college student, your school may also have their own childcare center and offer discounts.

Financial assistance is available to working families that meet specific guidelines based on family size and income through Erie County. To apply for a child care subsidy, call the Erie County Department of Social Services (DSS) Day Care Unit at (716) 858-8953. You can even use your subsidy to hire a family member or friend to care for your child. All providers who care for children receiving a childcare subsidy from the Department of Social Services must meet basic health and safety regulations. Another subsidy for working families is the Workforce Development Institute Childcare Subsidy Program. To qualify you must be employed a minimum of 25 hours per week, have children less than 13 years of age, reside in Erie County, and meet certain guidelines based on income and family size that are slightly higher than the DSS subsidy. For more information, contact the Workforce Development Institute Child Care Subsidy Program at (716) 632-1900. If someone in your household is in the U.S. Military, you may also qualify for a Department of Defense Military Subsidy. Contact Child Care Aware at 1-800-424-2246 or email them at for information. Childcare Resource Network can help you find childcare near you that accepts any subsidies you receive.

Head Start programs can also help make childcare affordable. These programs are federally funded and provide free education for families that meet specific income requirements. Contact local Head Start programs as soon as possible, since they usually have a long waiting list. Other assistance programs include scholarships, sliding fee scales, or multi-child discounts provided by individual childcare programs. There are also tax credits through the IRS including the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, in addition to the Empire State Child Credit through New York State. Make sure you are receiving everything entitled to you when you file your yearly income taxes.


Who do you recommend?

Fika staff and clients have come up with the following recommendations. Keep in mind that your choice of childcare is deeply personal, so what works for others may not be the best option for you. There are many factors that go into childcare decisions including provider type, curriculum, location, and cost.