Counties in California will have until Thursday to decide whether to opt into a state program that aims to boost the number of foster parents by providing some with subsidized child care.
According to advocates for the program, a lack of child care is a leading reason why some foster parents in the state have been reluctant to take in foster children. In California, foster children are eligible for slots in the state’s system of subsidized child care, but it may take months to obtain a space in those programs. Plus, navigating the child-care system can be a confusing and time-consuming process.
The Emergency Child Care Bridge Program, which is designed to create more family-based placements for very young children in foster care, will also link foster parents with child care navigators and provide trauma-informed training to child care providers who will work with foster children.
In June, California Gov. Jerry Brown approved a $31 million budget measure that will use state funds to provide temporary child care to foster parents who are caring for infants. Six-month vouchers will be issued to caregivers to support them until they can find more permanent child-care arrangements. If caregivers are unable to find a long-term child care solution during that period, counties can extend temporary child care to them for up to 12 months under the program.
Starting on January 1, 2018, counties in the state will be eligible for a cut of $15.5 million earmarked for the program in the second half of the 2017-18 fiscal year, depending on their caseloads. Los Angeles County is projected to receive nearly $5.5 million if it signs up, San Bernardino County about $1.5 million and Fresno County about $433,000.
The capped money comes with a few strings attached. To be eligible for the program, counties must create partnerships with local child care referral agencies and collect data for the program, including demographics on the children and families, types of child care utilized and numbers of vouchers distributed, among others. Counties are allowed to tailor the program to meet local needs, although there is no funding set aside for county administrative costs. Counties are not required to provide matching funds of their own, although they are encouraged to seek out other funding sources to support the program.
The deadline for counties to opt into the program is Thursday, November 30. Read more information and deadlines for the program here.