Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Children in Foster Care

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance for counties participating in the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The Bridge Program aims to increase the number of stable, sustainable home-based family placements for children in foster care. Because one of the main barriers for placement of foster children is lack of access to child care at the time of placement, resource families, emergency caretakers, approved homes of nonrelative extended family members (NREFM) and parents who have jurisdiction under the juvenile court may be eligible to receive a time-limited voucher for child care and child care services. The program is opt-in at the county level, and funds are to be supplementary to existing funds used to provide child care.

The Resource and Referral (R&R) programs provide information and services to both parents and other potential child care providers. The R&R Programs must enter into a formal agreement with the county welfare agency to facilitate communication and the best use of Title IV-E funding sources. These services are available through Alternative Payment Programs which are funded by states and the federal government, and they are designed to aid parents in creating and accommodating care arrangements for their children.

The Bridge Program has three primary parts. The first establishes an emergency child care voucher or payment which helps eligible families pay for child care costs for foster children until the child turns 12, or 21under some circumstances.  Eligible families may receive a voucher when work or school responsibilities prevent them from being at home to care for the child, or when the family is required to participate in an activity without the child, such as judicial reviews, that are outside the scope of ordinary parental duties. These vouchers may be issued for up to six (6) months until the child is successfully transitioned into long-term, subsidized child care. If this is not possible, eligibility may extend up to, but not beyond, twelve (12) months, at the discretion of the county. If the family secures a subsidized child care placement before their enrollment period in the Bridge Program is set to expire, the family will cease receiving funds from the Bridge Program.

The child care payments may be made to the family or directly to the provider in accordance with Regional Market Rate guidelines.

The second part of the Bridge program is the Child Care Navigator provided by the county R&R Programs to assist families with finding a child care provider, complete program applications, and work with the parents to develop a long-term care plan. The Child Care Navigator is an employee of the local R & R Programs, and works with eligible families, child welfare workers, social workers, and the Child and Family Team (CFT) to assess child care options and provide information about care. Navigator services are available to any child in foster care, any child previously in foster care but in their original home, and any child with parents involved in the child welfare system.

The third part of the Bridge program provides access to trauma-informed care training, which teaches parents and providers about how to work with children in foster care. Also included in the training is information on best care practices and infant/toddler development.

Family eligibility for the Bridge program is determined by the county, which may establish additional criteria depending on local priorities. Eligible parties include resource families and families with a child placed with them for an emergency or compelling reason, licensed foster family homes, certified family homes or NREFM homes, and parents who are under the jurisdiction of juvenile court (such as nonminor dependent parents).

Participating counties must ensure collaboration between the child welfare services program and CalWorks child care program administrators to share information, priorities, and child care plans. They must also develop and agree to plans with the local Resource and Referral Program to ensure that a child care navigator is provided, develop and use eligibility criteria in accordance with local priorities, and distribute payments to eligible families. They must also ensure that the payment or voucher is in the correct amount and in accordance with RMR ceiling payment rates and collect and submit quarterly data and outcomes to CDSS. This data includes information on voucher eligibility and enrollment, type of voucher placements and care settings, and transition information, as well as the number of each type of referral and trauma-informed care training sessions held.  (ACL 18-80, June 14, 2018.)