Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children (Bridge Program)
The goals of the Bridge Program are to:
- Increase the number of foster children successfully placed in home-based family care settings,
- Increase capacity of child care providers to meet the needs of foster children in their care, and
- Maximize funding to support the child care needs of eligible families.
The Bridge Program addresses lack of child care as a barrier for families otherwise willing to bring a foster child into their home, and for parenting foster youth. It provides vouchers for child care and child care navigator services for families as well as Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) training and coaching for child care providers to enhance their ability to provide nurturing and safe environments for children. The Bridge Program is not an entitlement, instead it is a time limited “bridge” to longer term child care solutions used at the time of placement to stabilize children in the best possible settings ensuring that caretakers have adequate support to balance their work and home lives.
Bridge Program began January 2018 with 42 California County Child Welfare Agencies participating in partnership with their local Resource and Referral (R&R) Programs. In FY 2018-19, 46 counties opted in to receive a portion of the $31 million allocated to provide Bridge Program services.
The Bridge Program is comprised of three major components:
Emergency child care voucher: Families may receive a time-limited child care voucher to assist with child care costs for foster children birth through age 12, and for youth with exceptional needs up to age 21. A voucher may be issued for up to six-months until the child is successfully transitioned into long-term, subsidized child care. Eligibility may be extended an additional six-months at the discretion of the county. All vouchers must be paid in accordance with the Regional Market Rate (RMR) ceilings for subsidized child care payment rates. Counties may choose to issues vouchers directly or enter into a formal agreement with their local Alternate Payment Program (APP) and/or R&R Program.
Child care navigator: The child care navigator, employed by a local R&R Program, works with the eligible family and others authorized to assess child care opportunities and provide consumer education based on the child’s age and needs. Navigator services are available to any child in foster care, any child previously in foster care who has returned to his or her home of origin, and any child of parents involved in the child welfare system, including any child who meets the eligibility criteria for the Bridge Program.
Trauma-informed care training and coaching: Child care providers participating in the Bridge Program will have TIC training made available to them through the California Child Care R&R Network. Child care providers will also receive access to coaching to assist them in applying training curriculum and learn strategies for working with children who have experienced trauma.
If you have questions about the Bridge Program, please contact the Child Care Programs Bureau at ChildCareBridge@dss.ca.gov.