This page is for parents and caregivers to learn about different child care settings as well as state and federally funded child care assistance.
Types of Child Care Settings
Licensed Family Child Care: Licensed family child care is care offered in a child care provider’s home. Families may choose family child care for their children because it is a home-based setting with smaller adult-to-child ratios. This type of care is licensed by the CDSS’s Child Care Licensing Division.
Child Care Center: Child care centers are facilities that operate in a commercial setting. These programs are also licensed by the state. Child care centers range in size and can be operated by community-based organizations, school districts, religious institutions, or private businesses. Families may choose center-based care because of the more structured, classroom-like environment, greater number of adults present in the facility, and the greater variety of equipment, supplies, and activities available.
If you select a licensed child care provider, we encourage you to visit the Child Care Licensing Facility Search Webpage. You can use this website to learn about a licensed provider’s facility inspection reports, violations, and inspection history. Another helpful resource is the Child Care Licensing Parent Resource Page.
Family Friend or Neighbor Care: Family, Friend, or Neighbor Care (also known as License-Exempt Child Care) is care provided in the child’s or child care provider’s home by a person who is a relative, friend, neighbor, or other license-exempt provider. This type of care is not required to be licensed by the State of California. Families who choose this type of care may know and trust the caregiver. Families may choose this type of care for linguistic or cultural reasons, or for flexibility in scheduling, and transportation reasons.
Parents or guardians looking for child care can reach out to their local Child Care Resource and Referral Program (R&R). R&Rs have a directory of child care providers and give resources and information to parents looking for child care. R&Rs also help child care providers with training and licensing. R&Rs also have a tollfree telephone number. If you would like more assistance, call 1-800-KIDS-7933.
Parents or guardians can also look for licensed child care providers in their area using the MyChildCareplan.org online search tool.
The State of California may be able to help pay for your child care if you meet certain income and eligibility criteria. In California, there are two types of subsidized child care: voucher-based and center-based or direct service programs.
- Voucher-based Programs: Voucher-based programs provide vouchers for families to obtain care in licensed child care centers, licensed family child care homes, or license-exempt family, friend, and neighbor care at the parents’ option.
- If you select a license-exempt provider, they may be required to complete a background check in order to be reimbursed for their care through a voucher-based program. You can learn more about the steps to pass this background check on our TrustLine webpage.
- Center-based/Direct Service Programs: Direct service, center-based subsidized programs contract with the State directly and enroll families at child care and development centers, based on income eligibility and other criteria. You can reach out to your local R&R for a list of center-based programs available in your area.
- CalWORKs Stage One: If you are on CalWORKs cash aid and have age-eligible children, you are entitled to CalWORKs Stage One Child Care upon enrollment in CalWORKs. The CalWORKs program is administered at the local level by the county welfare departments. To find out if you are eligible and to apply for services, contact your local county welfare department.
- CalWORKs Stage Two: Once families on CalWORKs cash aid are determined to be stable, or when parents are discontinued from cash aid, they are transferred to Stage Two Child Care. Families are eligible for Stage Two if on the parent(s) received cash aid within the past 24 months and their income does not exceed 85% of the state median income. Like Stage One, this is an entitlement program, but Stage Two is administered by your local Alternative Payment Programs (APPs), which contracts with the state of California to distribute vouchers for child care subsidies to eligible families. Please visit the California Alternative Payment Association webpage to contact the APP in your area for more information about Stage Two Child Care.
- CalWORKs Stage Three: After families have been off cash aid for 24 months, they are transferred to CalWORKs Stage Three Child Care. Unlike Stages One and Two, Stage Three is not an entitlement program and families are only able to benefit from the program if funding is available. If funding is available, families can stay in Stage Three Child Care until their income exceeds 85% of the state median income or their child ages out. Like Stage Two, Stage Three is administered by the local APPs. Please visit the California Alternative Payment Association webpage to contact the APP in your area for more information about Stage Three Child Care.
- If you are currently receiving CalWORKs Child Care, have questions or concerns about your services or current Child Care arrangements, contact your county worker or case manager.
- California Alternative Payment Program (CAPP): APPs provide CAPP vouchers for eligible low-income families who are not on CalWORKs. APPs exist in each county and have enrollment specialists or case managers who prioritize the families most in need of child care including families who are involved in the child welfare system or at risk of child welfare involvement to receive a voucher. Families are then prioritized based on their income – with families with the lowest gross income receiving priority for enrollment.
- Additionally, APPs help families receiving CalWORKs and APP vouchers arrange child care services and make payment for those services directly to the child care provider selected by the family. Please visit the California Alternative Payment Association webpage to find the APP in your area.
- Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children (Bridge Program): The Bridge Program offers limited-term child care vouchers for foster parents and for parenting youth in the foster care system. Through the program, families receive vouchers to help pay for child care and child care navigator services. The Bridge Program is only available in participating counties. Please visit our Bridge Program webpage to find out more information about the Bridge Program.
For regulations regarding parental appeal rights, see California Code of Regulations, Title 5 (5 CCR), Section 18118 et seq.
You have a right to appeal any changes that your agency makes to your child care subsidy. For information about your parental rights and the appeals process, please visit our Parent Appeals webpage or email CCDDappeals@dss.ca.gov.
For information about the appeals process, please email CCDDappeals@dss.ca.gov.
You can also file a complaint regarding a licensed child care facility or staff member by calling the Child Care Licensing Complaint hotline at:
1-844-LET US NO
Please visit the Community Care Licensing Division Complaint Webpage for more information about the complaint process.
Free parent resources created with state, federal and philanthropic dollars.
- All About Young Children: Information for families on children’s early development, available in eight languages.
- CAFirstFive Parent Resources: includes support for parenting during COVID-19, development milestones and resources about the importance of talking, reading and singing to your baby.
- CalHope: COVID-19 emotional support hotline for all Californians – with culturally sensitive support sessions for Black, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Latino, LGBTQ+ individuals as well as Veterans, Parents and Caregivers and Young Adults
- Drowning Prevention: resources compiled by the California Department of Developmental Services to educate the public about strategies to prevent drowning.
- Milestone Tracker: A free application created by the CDC for tracking a child’s development in a fun and easy way.
- MyChildCareplan.org Information on licensed child care providers that are currently open, including location, health and safety details, ages of children served, capacity, and hours of care.
- Text4baby: a free app that helps you track your child’s doctor appointments and that also provides health and safety tips and learn how your baby is growing each week