CalWORKs Child Care

The availability of quality child care is essential to the success of the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) child care program. The program helps a family access immediate child care as the parent works or performs their welfare-to-work activity.  The purpose of the program is to support parents as they transition to the stable, long-term child care necessary for the family to leave and remain off aid. 

The CalWORKs child care program is administered in three different stages and is defined as follows:

Stage One is administered by the county welfare departments (CWD) or their contractors.  The program begins when a family start receiving CalWORKs cash aid.  CalWORKs clients may be served in Stage One until the county determines that the family situation is stable, or if no funds are available in Stage Two.  Former CalWORKs clients are also eligible to receive child care services in Stage One and/or Stage Two for a total of no more than 24 months after they leave cash aid. 

Stage Two is administered by California Department of Social Services (CDSS) through contracts with the Alternative Payment Program (APP).  The APPs are agencies that contract with CDSS to make payments to subsidized child care providers and to provide other related child care and development services.   Stage Two serves CalWORKs recipients whose situation has stabilized or families that are transitioning off CalWORKs.  Families that receive lump-sum diversion services may receive child care in Stage Two if there is no funding available in Stage Three.  Families leave Stage Two when they have been off cash aid for 24 months. 

Stage Three is also administered by CDSS.  This Stage provides services for former CalWORKs families after they have been off aid for 24 months and for families that receive lump-sum diversion services.  Families remain in Stage Three until the family’s income exceeds 85 percent of the state median income or until the children are over the eligibility age. 


CalWORKs cash aid recipients are eligible for Stage One and Stage Two child care based on their eligibility for cash aid and need.  Stages One and Two services are an entitlement; however, Stage Three services are dependent on fund availability. 

To apply for services, contact your local Social Services office. picture of group of kids smiling  

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CDSS Child Care and Development Division
744 P Street M.S. 9-8-360
Sacramento, CA 95814

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