Types of Subsidized Child Care Programs

Voucher-based Child Care

All of the CalWORKs and Alternative Payment Programs described below provide vouchers for families to obtain care in licensed child care centers, licensed family child care homes, or license-exempt care. The family may choose the type of care that their child receives.


CalWORKs Stage One Child Care
This program provides child care to CalWORKs families when they first become employed or engaged welfare-to-work activities. CDSS administers the Stage One child care program through the county welfare departments.

CalWORKs Stage Two Child Care
CalWORKs families move to this program when the county welfare departments (CWD) determines they are stable. The CWDs have the flexibility to determine when a family’s situation is stable. Families remain in Stage Two until they have been off cash aid for two years. The California Department of Education contracts with Alternative Payment Program agencies to administer this program.

CalWORKs Stage Three Child Care
Families that have exhausted two years of CalWORKs Stage Two child care transition to Stage Three. This program provides care as long as funding is available and the family remains eligible. The California Department of Education contracts with the Alternative Payment Program agencies, which administer this program.

Alternative Payment Program
This program is also funded by California Department of Education through contracts with the Alternative Payment Programs (APPs). The APPs may also contract with the county welfare department to administer Stage One Child Care. The APPs help eligible families arrange child care services and pays for those services directly to the child care provider. The APPs also support families and providers by offering assistance and consumer information about various services and resources available to them.

Direct Contracts – Title 5 Subsidized Child Care

All direct contracts for subsidized child care are administered through the California Department of Education (CDE). The CDE contracts directly with child care centers and Family Child Care Home Education Networks for a fixed number of child care slots. Title 5 contracted programs must meet Title 5 and Title 22 regulations.  However Title 5 regulations require more stringent ratio and staff qualification than Title 22 programs.

The Direct Service Contract Types are listed below:

  • General Child Care and Development
  • Migrant Child Care and Development
  • California State Preschool Program
  • Severely Handicapped Program
  • California Community Colleges
  • Family Child Care Education Home Networks