After a two-year fight, the California legislature adopted a $31 million budget item that is aimed at providing child care services to caregivers who are taking in young children involved with the state’s foster care system.
Passed by legislators on Thursday, the 2017 budget sets aside money for the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program, which would provide child care vouchers to foster parents and parenting foster youth for children ages 0 to 5 living with them. Money from the program will also go toward providing caregivers with navigators to help them find affordable, long-term child care and training aimed at helping child care providers give trauma-informed care to young children in the system.
In recent years, as California has faced a shortfall in the number of foster homes for the children in its child welfare system, a lack of child care has emerged as an important barrier. A survey of L.A. County-based foster family agencies by the Association of Community Human Service Agencies in 2015 found that a dearth of available child care had played a part in discouraging almost 70 percent of respondents from taking in children, especially younger ones.
A 2013 survey of children in L.A. County found that families of children in the foster care system are less likely than low-income peers to access subsidized child care. Accessing the the state’s Byzantine system of subsidized child care is often challenging, according to current foster parents. Waiting lists for a limited number of slots are long, and the windows of enrollment often do not coincide with the needs of foster parents, who may take in a child at short notice.
Last year, the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program failed to make it into the final state budget. This year, a renewed effort included another bid for the program to be included in the state budget as well as an associated piece of legislation, Assembly Bill 1164. Advocates said they do not expect the legislation to move forward.
The governor is expected to sign the budget before the end of the month.