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 placement stability,
- 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 Emergency Child Care Bridge Program (Bridge Program) aims to facilitate the immediate placement of children within the foster care system into a stable child care and development setting by helping relatives, parenting youth under the jurisdiction of the court, or foster/resource families obtain child care services upon placement. It provides time-limited vouchers for child care and child care navigator services for families to assist with accessing child care. There is also a Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) training and coaching component 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. These solutions are used at the time of placement and are meant to stabilize children in the best possible settings ensuring that caretakers have adequate support to balance their work and home lives.
The Bridge Program was implemented January 2018 with California County Child Welfare Agencies in partnership with their local Resource and Referral (R&R) Programs opting into a share of the funding.
The Bridge Program is comprised of three major components:
Emergency Child Care Voucher
Families may receive a time-limited voucher to assist with child care costs for children in the foster care system birth through age 12, and for youth with exceptional needs up to age 21. A voucher may be issued for an initial six-months, and then renewed for an additional six months, or until the child is successfully transitioned into long-term, subsidized child care. Eligibility may be extended beyond 12 months if there is a compelling reason, 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 issue 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.
Trauma-Informed Care Training and Coaching
Through the Bridge Program, child care providers have access to trauma-informed care training and coaching. Training and coaching are intended to help child care providers learn practical strategies for working with children who have experienced trauma.
The California Child Care Resource and Referral Network developed and delivers the training curriculum to certify trainers in the local R&R Program. The certification of trainers and use of the designated curriculum is encouraged for all participating R&R Programs.
If you have questions about the Bridge Program, please contact the Child Care Programs Bureau at ChildCareBridge@dss.ca.gov .
Bridge Program Stipends
The following types of child care providers serving children receiving a Bridge Program child care subsidy, through a county or an Alternative Payment Program (APP) may be eligible for current or future subsidized child care stipends.
- Family Child Care Homes, and
- License-Exempt Providers (sometimes referred to as Family, Friend, or Neighbor (FFN) Providers)
The stipends are intended to provide financial relief to assist child care providers with ongoing hardships, such as decreased enrollment, increased teacher-to child ratios, costs associated with added cleaning protocols, and other expenses, due to the pandemic.
For more information, please see Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).