“Children Learning, Parents Earning, Communities Growing"

Overview of Alternative Payment Programs in California

In 1976, Governor Brown’s office set forth a pilot program to expand the growth of child development programs in the state. The outcome of that pilot program was legislation in 1980 to create Alternative Payment (AP) child care programs in each of California’s 58 counties. The purposes of APPs were to allow innovative community based public and private agencies to develop non-traditional regional approaches that would support parental choice of access for children from birth on to a variety of early care and education settings.

Today, there are 70 Alternative Payment Programs (APPs) that administer California’s subsidized child care programs across all 58 counties. The focus of these programs are to support working families and those on the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program with access to a variety of early care and education settings, including high quality Title 5 centers, Family Child Care Home Education Networks (FCCHENs), family child care providers, and small business child care and early learning providers.

In 2021/22 APPs are funded to support vouchers for 129,332; children in CalWORKs Stage 2 – 34, 287; children in CalWORKs Stage 3 – 68,109; for a total of 231,728 subsidized children 0-13.   

The number of children from 0-13 in Child Care outside of the public schools is 314,679.  This includes an additional 110,000 new slots growing to 200,000 total of new slots by 2025-26. 

Prior to COVID, the CBPC estimated roughly 2.2 million income eligible children that were unable to access child care.  To date, that number has not been updated.  As of June 30, 2022, all those enrolled during COVID as Essential Workers for purposes of receiving child care will either be rolled into the existing CAPP voucher if income eligible or disenrolled as the funding for the EWs will have expired.

What is an Alternative Payment Program (APP)?

APPs are community based mixed delivery systems of public and private nonprofits that help families arrange for early care and education services for children from birth on. The program helps working families, especially single mothers; move off of public welfare rolls and towards self-sufficiency.

Who do Alternative Payment Programs Serve?

APPs serve low-income working families who are eligible for CalWORKs Stages 1, 2 and 3 child care in addition to serving working non-CalWORKs families who meet specific income thresholds via the AP child care program.

How long do families stay with an Alternative Payment Program?

According to 2014 data, on average an APP program will support a family from 3.4 to 5.2 years.

What types of services do Alternative Payment Programs Provide?

APPs provide a safety net of services and serve as a "one-stop" shop for families eligible for subsidized child care. APPs may offer a variety of child care arrangements for parents to choose from including in-home care, family child care and center-based care. The APP program is intended to increase parental choice and accommodate the individual cultural and linguistic needs of the family and children.

What are some core functions of an Alternative Payment Program?

• To determine family eligibility and enroll families in subsidized child care programs.
• To verify hours of care provided.
• To make payments to child care providers chosen by the family.
• To process vouchers for counties that opt in to the foster care bridge program
• To educate parents about provider types and setting options for children from birth on.
• To provide parents with community support information.
• To offer access to toy closets and resource libraries for parents and providers.
• To link families directly to programs and services within their community.
• To serve as a community resource hub during times of declared emergencies.

What are some of the other contracts delivered by Alternative Payment Programs?

APPs administer CalWORKs Stages 2 & 3, preschool and center based programs, general child care, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Family Child Care Home Education Networks (FCCHEN), transportation, behavioral health, respite, regional center, health and safety, 21st Century, and Trustline. Additionally, roughly 40 counties contract out administration of CalWORKs Stage 1 child care to their local APP agency; this represents roughly 94 percent of the caseload.

Who is CAPPA?

The California Alternative Payment Program Association (CAPPA) is a 40-plus year network of community-based public and private nonprofit agencies that support working families and children. Established in 1977, CAPPA is the lead voice for public and private nonprofit agencies who contract with California Department of Social Services (CDSS) to provide child care subsidies to families and to ensure children keep learning while parents are earning.

Who funds CAPPA?

Funding comes from member agencies, affiliate members and donations.

How does CAPPA help families and children?

  • We promote economic self-sufficiency by helping parents pay for the child care they need to work, look for work, or attend a training program.
  • We promote school readiness by providing children with access to quality child care and development programs.
  • We promote consumer responsibility by allowing parents to choose the child care program or programs that best meet their needs.
  • We ensure continuity of services by serving children from infancy through the school age years.
  • We increase employment options by accommodating non-traditional work schedules and the changing child care needs of families.
  • We facilitate access to family service programs.
  • We provide parent education and important health and safety information.

How does CAPPA help Child Care Professionals?

  • We provide ongoing support services to child care programs and providers.
  • We provide access to information and connection to child nutrition programs, resource libraries, and continuing education opportunities.

How does CAPPA help communities?

  • We advocate for quality child care programs in local communities.
  • We collaborate with community-based family and child Welfare organizations to provide comprehensive family support services.
  • We provide economic growth through payments to local child care businesses.