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 Bridge Program addresses child care needs as a barrier for families otherwise willing to bring a child in the foster care system into their home, and for parenting youth in the foster care system. It provides time limited vouchers for child care and child care navigator services for families to assist with accessing child care. There is also 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 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.
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 up to six-months or 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 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 (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
Assembly Bill (AB) 82 (Chapter 6, Statutes of 2021) authorized the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) to allocate funding from the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act toward stipend funds for child care providers caring for children enrolled in a subsidized child care program.
Senate Bill (SB) 85 revises the Budget Act of 2020 to include an allocation to the CDSS to provide a flat-rate one-time stipend in the amount of $525 per child to child care providers serving children enrolled in the Bridge Program.
The stipends are intended to provide financial relief to assist child care providers with ongoing hardships experienced due to the pandemic such as decreased enrollment, increased teacher-to child ratios, costs associated with added cleaning protocols, and other expenses.
Who is Eligible to Receive a Child Care Stipends Check?
Child care providers serving children receiving a Bridge Program child care subsidy, including centers, family child care homes, and license-exempt providers (sometimes referred to as family, friend, or neighbor providers), through a county or an Alternative Payment Program (APP) who were open in November 2020 and submitted requests for reimbursement for children receiving a Bridge Program subsidy are eligible for a stipend.
How Will the Child Care Stipends Check Be Issued?
Child care providers will receive their stipend checks in one of two ways. In counties that directly administer the Bridge Program, CDSS has contracted with the Foundation of California Community Colleges (FoundationCCC) to issue and distribute the stipend checks directly to providers. In counties that contract the Bridge Program through an APP, the FoundationCCC will issue funding to APPs, who will then send stipend checks to providers.
The stipends are taxable. Therefore, providers receiving a check directly from CDSS and the FoundationCCC must complete a W-9. You can complete this form online using the Child Care Provider W-9 Form hosted by the FoundationCCC.
If you have any questions about the stipend please call the FoundationCCC stipend hotline at 866-470-6792 or reach out to the Bridge Program mailbox at ChildCareBridge@dss.ca.gov.
For more information, please see Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).