Counties throughout California are working to recruit loving families to care for foster children, but some families may feel they cannot afford to bring a foster child into their home due to budget constraints. To increase the number of foster parents and meet the needs of foster children, the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children was established for counties to help caregivers pay for child care until they find other subsidized child care or are able to pay for child care themselves.
Introduced in January 2018, the Bridge Program aims to increase the number of stable, sustainable family placements for children in foster care. The program provides eligible caregivers vouchers to pay for child care. These vouchers help ensure that caregivers have adequate support to balance work and home lives and increase the likelihood of a smooth transition.
In 2018-19, 46 counties opted in to receive a portion of the $31 million allocated to provide Bridge Program services. As of November 30, the program in Sacramento County had served 72 foster children in nearly 60 foster families.
On December 11, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors approved a nearly $500,000 increase of the Bridge Program contract funding to expand child care support services. The $1.3 million budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19 will be used to contract with Child Action, Inc., the local child care resource and referral agency, for Child Care Vouchers, Navigator Services and Trauma-Informed Care Training/Coaching.
“With more parents working outside the home, the ability to recruit and retain foster parents is becoming more challenging,” said Michelle Callejas, Sacramento County Director of Child, Family and Adult Services. “The Bridge Program is vital to help the Department of Child, Family and Adult Services place more local foster children in homes where they will receive high-quality care. The amendment of the contract will allow our department to support even more families who open their homes and hearts to foster children.”
The Bridge Program is comprised of three major components. This includes emergency child care vouchers that are issued to eligible families to cover child care costs for children ages 0-12 for 6 to 12 months; support from a child care navigator who will work with families to find a child care provider, assist with completion of child care applications, and develop a plan for long-term child care; as well as trauma-informed care training so child care providers can learn strategies for working with children in foster care, many of whom have experienced trauma.
There are many types of families in the foster care system who are eligible for the Bridge Program: Resource families that have completed the Resource Family Approval (RFA) process; Foster Family Agency-approved or County-approved homes; families who care for foster children in an emergency placement; an approved relative or a non-related extended family member; parenting youth and non-minor dependents; or those who have children placed with them for a compelling reason.
For additional information on the Bridge Program, contact Bridge Program Contract Monitor, Gloria Bedford