For Families

School Readiness

The first five years of a child's life are critical to their lifelong development. A young child's earliest experiences and environments, at home, at school, and in the community, set the stage for their future development and school and life success.

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Information About School Readiness

The ELCHC and all of its partners work toward making certain that every child in Hillsborough County has access to the supports and resources they need to be ready to enter school and succeed.

The ELCHC does this by supporting organizations, programs, and initiatives that support and enhance a child’s:

  • Physical well-being and motor development
  • Social and emotional development
  • Approaches to learning
  • Cognition and general knowledge

School Readiness Financial Assistance

The ELCHC’s School Readiness Program can help working parents with the cost of child care (frequently called a child care subsidy). These services include extended-day, extended-year, and school age care for children to support parents in becoming financially self-sufficient. A family’s gross income (income before taxes, insurance, and any other deductions are subtracted) is used to determine eligibility. Both earned income (for example, wages) and unearned income (for example, child support, Social Security payments, Unemployment Insurance) are counted.

Generally, families with children who are 10 years old or younger may receive help through the School Readiness Program. However, a family may receive a child care subsidy for a child up to the age of 18 if the child requires extra care due to an acute or chronic physical or mental condition.

Depending on the family income, the family will pay a fee for each child for whom you receive financial assistance. The co-payment is based on family income and family size. Parents are expected to make their co-payment directly to the child care provider.

All families eligible for School Readiness financial assistance may select the provider of their choice. However, ELCHC will only pay for child care if the child care provider has been approved by the Coalition. Parents can select providers from the following types of early care providers:

  • Licensed Child Care Centers
  • Licensed Family Child Care Homes
  • Informal Care, which is care provided by a family member such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle (NOTE: There are some restrictions on this type of care).
  • License Exempt Center, which is a center that is not required to be licensed by state law.

Client Services

The Intake Eligibility Department coordinates and authorizes child care for families that are eligible for services through the School Readiness Program:

  • Enrollment: At the time of eligibility determination families will receive a one-on-oneinterview with staff and Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) services.
  • Selecting a Provider: During the initial interview you will be provided with Child Care Resource & Referral which is a free service that provides information on different types of child care options, consumer education on choosing quality care, a customized provider listing, and community resources. Client must select a provider that has an agreement with the School Readiness Program. Upon enrollment the provider will be issued an authorization form required for reimbursement: “Child Care Certificate” or “Pre Authorization for Child Care Certificate”.
  • Authorization Period: The period of time authorized for child care is dependent upon the funding source and/or type of referral and can vary from a few weeks to a year or longer. Children remain in the program as long as their family meets eligibility criteria.
  • Parent Fee: Families receiving subsidized child care are assessed a parent fee based on the Federal Poverty Level income guidelines determined by income and the household size of the family. The parent fee and any additional fees (i.e. registration, transportation, etc.) are to be paid directly to the selected child care provider.
  • Recertification: To continue child care clients must come in to the office to recertify before their authorization period expires. Recertification- By- Mail (RBM) is available to particular eligibility categories. RBM packets are mailed to the client 1 months prior their recertification end date and can be mailed back, faxed or dropped off to the North Tampa office located at 9309 N. Florida Ave., Suite 104 Tampa, Fl 33612.
  • Client Services Offices: Interested parents may visit or call any of our locations for additional information and services.
  • Intake Forms: Client Services forms and documents may be downloaded at Documents & Forms.

Wait List

Funding for school readiness services is limited. When funding is unavailable, families may be placed on the School Readiness (SR) Waiting List as follows:

All clients requesting to apply for the SR Waiting List (child care assistance) will need to complete the online application

  • Supporting documentation will be required to determine placement on the waiting list
  • You will be notified if additional information is needed prior to placing your child (ren) on the waiting list.
  • You are required to update your application on line if changes occur.
  • You will be contacted every 6 months to remain on the waiting list; failure to respond will result in the termination of waiting list status.
  • Families may contact the Child Care Resource & Referral office directly at (813) 906-5041 to request a listing of providers that may offer scholarships, negotiated rates, or a sliding scale fee.

When funds become available you will receive an invitation to come into the office to determine if you are eligible. Invitations are sent based on the established priorities and the date your child(ren) was placed on the waiting list.

If you’d like to check the status of a Wait List Application, call (813) 906-5041.

Questions about School Readiness

We’re here to help you get the services you need. If you need additional help in understanding school readiness or other topics related to early childhood care and education please don’t hesitate to contact staff at any of our locations. Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R), now called Family Services, is a parents ‘go to’ resource for early childhood information. Call (813) 906-5041.

Make an Appointment to Speak with an Eligibility Specialist

Enrollment into School Readiness

Required Application Information

  • Completed child care application and authorization form (referral) if applicable.
  • Verification of ages for all children in the home
  • Verification of Hillsborough County residency (i.e. government document, driver’s license, utility bill, pay stub, rental agreement, military order, document from shelter, etc.).
  • Verification of employment, educational activity, or disability (if applicable)
  • Photo ID card for parent/guardian arranging child care.
  • Verification of household income.

Additional Documentation

As of July 2, 2018 all Families applying for School Readiness Services, must make an account in the Florida Office of Early Learning’s (OEL) Early Learning Family Portal. This quick video will show you how to set up your account in the Family Portal.

  • Verification of child support payments received (court ordered/voluntary).
  • Verification of public assistance (TANF).
  • Verification of public housing assistance.
  • Verification of food stamp assistance.
  • Proof of other household income.

Download Family Information Packet