Raising children is a rewarding and challenging responsibility. It is especially difficult when most of your time and energy is spent trying to make ends meet. You want to do what is best for your kids: provide adequate food and housing, get them to school with everything they need, and help them with their schoolwork. Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming.
So what kind of help is out there, and where can you find it?
The title of this article may sound a little funny – are there really grants that kids can get? Actually there are some grants and loans for older kids and the providers may surprise you. There are also a lot more programs, services, and financial aid available that are provided to families with children. The Administration for Children & Families government agency alone expects to provide $17 billion in aid and services in 2014!
Most child and family-related programs and services do come from the government. But many others are offered by private non-profit organizations. Those are often funded by grants from private corporations. In this article we cover both government and non-government resources as well as tips for finding unique local programs and community services.
Discover your program today!
Special note for moms: See also our articles about Grants for Single Moms and Grants for Widows with Children. And for teachers: find more money for your classroom and yourself in Grants for Teachers.
grants.gov: If you are looking specifically for a grant to help your own or other kids, you really need to be a government agency or an officially classified 501©(3) non-profit agency. Most grants come from the federal government and do not go directly to individuals. They are given to state and local agencies and to some non-profits. You can get a big picture idea of some of the competitive grants available by going to grants.gov and doing a keyword search. If you plan to apply to any of the government organizations mentioned below you must be registered with grants.gov so it is worth checking out. (It is also worth checking out our article that explains grants.gov).
The Children’s Bureau: At a more meaningful level you can check out grants available from The Children’s Bureau. It is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to improve the lives of children and families by working with and through states, tribal agencies and some faith-based and other community agencies.
Grants are an important part of the Children’s Bureau’s function. Most of them do go to other government or tribal agencies rather than to individuals or non-government groups. There is a category, however, called “Discretionary Grants.” Community agencies and faith based groups as well as small businesses can qualify for this type of grant. If you have a program or idea which helps improve child safety, increases adoptions (especially of foster kids), or helps improve the strength and stability of children and families, your organization might be able to qualify for a grant.
The Children’s Bureau website has a section called Grants. Under Discretionary Grant Programs is a link to the Children’s Bureau Discretionary Grants Library. There you can either see all grant opportunities for a particular state, or enter keywords to view all possible opportunities that could apply to you. You can also view all the discretionary grants awarded over the past year. These will give you a good idea if your program has a chance of being funded.
Loans For Kids: That may sound odd, but the Farm Service Agency – which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – actually has quite an active program for “Youth Farmers and Ranchers”. They make financial loans to youths in rural areas who are participating in supervised programs with organizations like 4-H clubs, Future Farmers of America and others. You can read some interesting “success stories” on the Farm Service Agency website. Several of them involve loans of $4-5,000 for the purchase of cows and calves that the young people then care for and breed. They earn income from the sale of the offspring and hopefully make more than the amount of the loan, which they pay back. By successfully repaying the loan they can qualify for future loans as well. If you’re in a rural area and you or your child has any interest in farming or ranching this could be a great program for them. Also check out our article about Grants For Farms for more information about this program.
Update December 2017
Interested in helping kids learn more about nature, gardening and the environment? Kidsandgardening.org would like to help you do that! They are providing several grants to make it more possible for you to do. This coming year (2018) they will award $3000 grants in 6 metropolitan areas in the U.S. Applications have to be in by January 31, 2018 so you still have some time. these are alled their Budding Botanist Grants. They also have a “Carton 2 Garden Contest that ecourages putting together some sort of garden creation that makes creative use of recycled materials like juice and milk cartons. It's open to the public as well as to public and private schools. Applications are due April 16, 2018.
Update July 2017 Are your kids into gardening — or would you like them to be? Gardening is a great way to teach kids about how things grow, where their food comes from and more. kidsgardening.org encourages people and organizations to help kids learn by providing some grants and programs to defray some of the costs involved. They are running a “BEE the Change” giveaway contest that will provide pollinator seeds and plants to its winners. The contest is open through August 31, 2017 with winners being chosen in September. They also provide financial grants and programs periodically, and you can sign up for a newsletter to stay informed.
Update March 2017 Action for Healthy Kids is continuing its awesome programs! They’ve given over $6 million in grants to schools since 2009, helping kids eat better and be more active. They will continue these programs in the 2017-2018 school year. They are already taking applications and will be until April 7, 2017. They provide information on recommended steps to apply for these grants on their website actionforhealthykids.org. You can take a look at what lucky schools got funded in the previous school year. And you can also sign up for a newsletter so you can stay on top of what opportunities are available and what other schools are doing to maximize their impact.
You know that irritating, ear-worm creating radio advertisement you might hear frequently for Kars4Kids? Well the organization actually does some good work — and it helps others do good works too. They have a Small Grants Program that provides grants that generally range between $500 and $2000. The grants are offered to non-profits with mission and vision alignment with Kar4Kids. In the past they have helped organizations like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Girls on the Run, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of America, Impact on Education and more. Just check out their website to see more and apply if you are a non-profit OR if you are working with one and acting on their behalf.
Office of Family Assistance: This agency is also part of the Department of Health and Human Services. It operates the well-known Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant program. It’s important to know that their grants do not go directly to individuals. The agency provides grants to states and to recognized Indian tribes. Those organizations then manage awards of assistance to local families.
Therefore you must go to your local state or tribe to seek assistance. You can easily find out where to go by entering your state in the appropriate spot on the home page of the Office of Family Assistance. Just find the line that says “Find state and tribal contact information here.” It will ask you to enter the name of your state and then will provide you with the information you need.
Child Care: Finding and affording quality child care is a major issue, especially for single parent households. The Office of Child Care is the main government agency tasked with providing support in this area. Through the Child Care and Development Fund over $5 billion is made available annually to state and tribal agencies to help support families needing child care so they can work and/or attend training and education classes. Eligible families receive help finding and paying for child care, including full day early child care as well as after school programs. Each state sets their own requirements for eligibility, so it is important that you contact the CCDF agency in your state to get information and find out how to apply. You can also try going to chilcareaware.org or calling 1-800-424-2246 to find the agency nearest you.
Head Start and Early Head Start: These are additional programs of the U.S. government to help prepare very young children (from birth to age 5) become ready for kindergarten and elementary school. Low-income families are eligible for this program; each state determines its own rules for eligibility. To find the program nearest you, you can do a simple search for the “Head Start Program Search Tool”. However, sometimes this tool just lists main offices, which may be too far away from you to be practical. You should still call these offices, as there are likely many more small centers that are not listed, and one of them could be perfect for you. If it’s easier for you to get help by phone to find a Head Start program near you, call 1-866-763-6481.
Kids.gov: This is not an assistance program but it could help you entertain and educate your kids and keep them busy - and safe - for a while. Kids.gov is a part of USA.gov, which we have recently written about. It includes some educational materials, games and videos that can help your child understand the government of the United States. You might also find some information there or on USA.gov that could help you find help for you and your kids.
Local Programs: You should always look for programs offered by service agencies in your specific area. Contact a Family Services office in your city or county to find out where these are. Every state and many counties have their own programs which are too numerous for us to cover here. For example, in California the CalWORKs program offers cash aid, guidance for your job search, and health care assistance through MediCal. Your state probably has similar programs.
Pell Grants: These are grants for college and career schools that are in fact awarded to individuals. They are provided by the U.S. Department of Education. Eligibility is based solely on financial need, so you do not need to compete to win these grants. Best of all, they never have to be repaid. Use our super-fast (like 2 minutes) Pell Grant quiz to see if you or your older kids might be eligible and learn how to apply for free.
Don't make the mistake of not bothering to apply because you don't think you'll qualify! It's estimated that almost $3 billion got left on the table in 2015 because people who actually could qualify did not bother to apply. It's not difficult – and the feds have actually made it easier and more convenient to apply in 2016. You can apply as early as October 1 so get your info together and be ready! And remember, it costs nothing to apply so don't let anyone con you into paying them to do so…
Because there is so little government funding now for school food programs and physical activity programs non-profits and private businesses have stepped into help. If you run a school or are working with a school, there are grants you can apply for to help kids to grow up being healthy and strong. Alternative breakfast programs and activity programs are available for eligible schools that apply. You can learn more at actionforhealthykids.org. Applications for the 2015-2016 school year are pretty much closed but you can check into it now and be ready to make an early application for the 2016-2017 school year — it will be with us before we know it!
Action for Healthy Kids partners with private companies and others to provide grants to schools. Their focus is on programs that increase health and wellness so every kid is active, healthy and ready to learn. For the 2016-2017 school year they are awarding more than $1.6 million to schools. Their main programs are school Breakfast Grants and Game on Grants. As many as 550 schools will get grants of $500-$5000 to increase their breakfast programs, and 500 schools will get grants of $500 to $2500 for programs involving physical activity and nutrition. You can see recordings of the webinars conducted to explain these grants and apply online, see their website actionforhealthykids.org.
Private programs vary widely by state. Some national programs you should look into include:
The YMCA: with locations in 10,000 U.S. communities, the Y is an awesome organization. In addition to their fitness programs they offer after-school care and run great summer camps that are often low- or no-cost for low income families. (To find a camp see ymca.net/find-a-camp/.) Through a $5.3 million grant from Walmart they are also offering summer meals in 1100 locations. These are expected to benefit over 150,000 kids and teenagers.
CVS Caremark: If you are a non-profit providing or planning to provide programs for kids with disabilities, check out the CVS Caremark program. In fact both non-profits and public schools can apply for a Community Grant. Learn more about their impressive All Kids Can program at cvsallkidscan.com.
Summerfund: In the greater Boston area Summer Fund provides grants to non-profits (with official 501©(3) designation) for the specific purpose of running residential or day camps for inner-city kids. Religious organizations are also eligible if their camps do not include required religious education or worship.
These programs are just a sampling of the many opportunities out there. With a little local research you can find many more in your area. If you don’t know how to go about it, your local library would love to help you!