Families Enrolled in CalWORKs Are Entitled to Immediate, Stable Child Care

Updated Sept. 9, 2019

New improvements to the CalWORKs Stage 1 child care program will ensure that families get immediate and consistent child care services.[1] The budget provides $56.4 million this year and $70.5 million ongoing, to give an extra 3,724 children in the CalWORKs program 12 months of immediate, full-time child care. The expansion in the Stage 1 child care program will promote stability, foster children’s healthy development, and open opportunities for children, families and communities.

Families enrolled in CalWORKs now have a right to:

  • Child care that is authorized immediately upon CalWORKs approval, and the authorization lasts for 12 months or until transfer to the Stage 2 program;
  • Child care to attend Welfare-to-Work (WTW) activities or work. If the parent hasn’t found suitable child care, they have good cause for not participating;
  • Child care so that parents can attend to a broad set of family needs. For example: housing search, domestic violence, addiction or mental health counseling, court and medical appointments, or other similar activities;
  • County must verify that the parent has actually secured child care before they need to show up for required activities or welfare appointments;
  •  Full-time child care, unless a parent decides part-time care better meets their family’s needs;
  • Child care for exempt volunteers who choose to participate in activities; and
  • Child care for sanctioned adults who indicate an intent to participate in any program activity.
  • These provisions go into effect on October 1, 2019.

County Worker’s Duty to Offer Child Care

County workers must “offer and make available” child care to families who want to work, or participate in WTW activities, or an expanded list of program activities.  Workers must inform participants about the availability of child care when they enroll in the CalWORKs program, at the time of signing a new or amended WTW plan, and whenever they express a need for child care. Once automation is operational (January 2021 or later) the times when child care must be offered will increase to include any time a new activity, job, or earnings are reported.

Child Care Available for an Expanded List of Activities

Program activities for which full-time Stage 1 child care is available include, but are not limited to: any WTW activity, orientation, appraisal, assessment, job search, job club, domestic violence services, court appearances, housing search or classes, homeless support programs, shelter participation requirements, eviction proceedings, mental health services (including therapy or personal counseling), home visiting programs, drug or substance abuse services, parenting classes, and medical or education-related appointments for the participant or their dependents.

Transition between CalWORKs Child Care Stages

There are three stages of CalWORKs child care through which families should seamlessly transition as they move from entry into the CalWORKs program to WTW activities and employment. Families enrolled in Stage 1 child care should seamlessly move to Stage 2 when the county determines they are “stable.”  Counties are required to manage the transition from Stage 1 to Stage 2 so that participants do not experience a break in their child care services due to the transfer. The new law makes clear that the County must provide all the information needed to enroll the family in the next stage of child care, and must receive confirmation that the family’s enrollment in the next stage of child care is complete, or that the family is not eligible, before discontinuing Stage 1 child care.[2]

Child Care for Families that have been Sanctioned

Participants that have been sanctioned are eligible to receive full-time Stage 1 child care for 12 months if they express an intent to participate in any program activity or work and need child care in order to do so. CalWORKs participants who are receiving Stage 1 child care services and then are sanctioned should continue to receive their Stage 1 child care services for the remainder of the 12 months, or through their transfer to Stage 2 child care.

Diversion Services to Get CalWORKs Child Care

Counties must inform every applicant for CalWORKs cash assistance at the time of application of the availability of diversion services.  A one-time diversion payment or service should be considered when it will resolve the need for ongoing assistance.  Diversionary child care services are available for a family who appears to be eligible for CalWORKs, but only needs child care to resolve the circumstances that necessitated the CalWORKs application.[3] For example, CalWORKs Stage 2 or 3 child care services can be provided as a diversionary service to a family who needs child care in order to obtain or maintain employment.[4]

For further information or client-specific questions, please email Patti Prunhuber, Senior Policy Attorney, or call her at 415-523-7800


[1] Human Services Omnibus, S., S. B. 80, 2019-20 Sess., ch. 27 (Cal. 2019) (enacted). See id. §1 (amending Cal. Educ. Code § 8350(c)); id. §§ 46-51 (amending Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 11323.1-.4).
[2] Cal. Educ. Code § 8350(c), amended by Stats. 2019, Ch. 27, Sec. 1. (SB 80) Effective June 27, 2019.  See also, Cal. Dept. of Social Services ACIN I-19-17; CDE Management Bulletin 18-05.
[3] Department of Social Services, Manual of Policies and Procedures, Secs. 81-200 and 81.215.2.
[4] Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 11266.5(i).