CalWORKs Recipients Qualify for Immediate Child Care Assistance Enroll Now


Many families have questions about qualifying for childcare assistance and how the process works. To simplify, we’ve compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions for your reference.

Currently, enrolled families can also download the Parent Handbook here (Spanish: Manual de Padres). If you have further questions, please contact our Resource and Referral Specialists for more help!

General Questions

Pathways LA Child Care Payment and Assistance Programs serve eligible families by providing subsidies and services for children from birth through age 13 (up to age 21 for children with exceptional needs), funding permitting.

These programs, which are designed to support low-income parents with child care, include CalWORKs Stage 1 and the California Department of Education programs: Stage 2, Stage 3, Alternative Payment, and Berendo Program.

To determine which program can assist you in paying for child care services, please contact our Resource and Referral department or use our online Eligibility Tool

Pathways LA maintains a database of licensed child care providers, including child care centers and family child care homes that offer care in our service area.

We also have information on legally license-exempt child care centers. This service is free and available to anyone living or seeking child care in the Pathways LA service area, regardless of income.

We're here to help you access the information you need about childcare options in our area, no matter your income level.

While we provide parents with education and resources on best practices for selecting a childcare provider, Pathways LA cannot make recommendations—selecting a provider is the parent’s right and sole responsibility. 

For more information or to obtain child care referrals, don't hesitate to contact our Resource & Referral Department at (213) 427-2710.

The childcare hours approved for each family will be based on their documented care needs. Pathways LA offers reduced-cost child care up to the maximum cost allowed by the State of California.

Pathways LA may reimburse childcare providers for registration, materials, and insurance costs. However, families are responsible for paying a Family Fee. We'll work with you to ensure you receive the maximum benefits and understand your responsibilities.

A Family Fee is the amount a participant must pay toward childcare costs based on income, family size, and the fee schedule established by the State.

Families with a certified need of fewer than 130 hours per month will be assessed a part-time fee, while families with a certified need of 130 hours or more per month will be assessed a full-time fee. The Family Fee is distinct from the Co-Payment.

Pathways LA reimburses childcare providers based on their published rates up to a maximum established by the State of California - this is referred to as the Regional Market Rate Ceiling (RMR).

Suppose a family selects a provider with higher rates than the current RMR. In that case, the family is responsible for paying the additional costs directly to the provider as a “Co-Payment.” The Co-Payment is distinct from the Family Fee.

Parents and providers will be notified of the provider’s established rates and RMR payment limitations at the time child care services are authorized by Pathways LA.

A “public charge” is a person who is dependent on the government for support. Benefits that can result in someone being considered a public charge include:

  • Federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance
  • SNAP (food stamps)
  • Section 8 housing assistance
  • Public housing
  • Medicaid (except for emergency services, pregnancy + 60 days, and under age 21)

Programs that do not count towards public charge consideration include: 

  • Child care assistance
  • CHIP
  • School lunches
  • Food banks
  • Shelters
  • WIC
  • State and locally-funded healthcare

For more information regarding public charge qualifications, click here

Stage 1 Questions

If you currently receive CalWORKs cash aid, participate (or intend to participate) in any Welfare-to-Work activity or employment, or are a CalWORKs-sanctioned participant, you have at least one eligible child, you are eligible for Stage 1 Child Care.

For two-parent households, both parents must be unable to care for their children to be eligible. Please contact the Stage 1 department for additional information.

Once a parent has been determined eligible by a CalWORKs worker, GAIN worker, or Pathways LA specialist, they are considered “approved” for Stage 1 child care.

The parent is then responsible for locating a provider and submitting the required documents to Pathways LA. Once Pathways LA has determined that the requested provider is eligible, parents will be notified that they are “authorized” to use that provider for their childcare needs.

Pathways LA will be able to reimburse the provider for their services. Authorizing child care indicates that the parent has “secured” child care for their needs. 

Once a parent has been determined eligible by a CalWORKs, Cal-Learn, GAIN worker, or Pathways LA specialist will mail out authorization notices to both the parent and the provider within four business days of the successful submission of all required documents.

The notices will include the parent and provider information along with the children authorized for child care, dates the care has been approved, and the scheduled care that has been approved.

  • Set Schedule: A Set Schedule is a fixed work schedule with constant days and hours. For example, a parent who works Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm works a Set Schedule. When a family is approved on a Set Schedule, the provider can confidently designate a spot for a child. A Set Schedule makes the provider eligible for reimbursement when the child is absent, and the facility observes its approved non-service days.
  • Weekly Schedule: A Weekly Schedule is a way for parents with flexible work hours to arrange child care for their children. Families who are approved for a Weekly Schedule are given a set number of hours they can use for child care during a certain period of time. Childcare expenses for Weekly Schedules will be reimbursed based on the actual hours of care provided by the childcare provider. However, families on Weekly Schedules will not be reimbursed for childcare that doesn't happen, such as when the childcare provider takes a holiday or when the child is absent.

Once Stage 1 Child Care has been authorized, the parent is responsible for reporting the following changes:

  1. If the parent needs to decrease their authorized hours from full-time to part-time.
  2. If the parent or provider changes any contact information, such as an address, phone number, or email address.
  3. If the parent would like to change providers.
  4. If the parent would like to terminate childcare services.

California Department of Education (CDE) Questions

To enroll in a CDE Child Care program through Pathways LA, each adult in the household must verify a “need.” A need is one or a combination of employment, vocational training, seeking employment, incapacity, or homelessness.

The verified need determines a family’s authorized service level and approved childcare service hours.

Programs offered through the California Department of Education are:

  • CalWORKs Child Care Program (Stage 2 and Stage 3)
  • CalWORKs Child Care is a program for current and former recipients of CalWORKs cash aid who are working, participating in a county-approved Welfare-to-Work activity, looking for work, seeking housing, and/or in a job training or educational program. CalWORKs Child Care is designed to help families receiving public assistance pay for the full or a portion of the cost of child care while the participating parent(s) works to comply with and/or complete the program requirements.
  • Alternative Payment Program: The Alternative Payment (AP) program provides child care payment assistance to eligible families who need child care services because they are working, looking for work, seeking housing, and/or in a job training or educational program. The AP program may pay for all or a part of the childcare services, depending on the family's certifiable need. This program is open to parents who do not currently receive, have not in the past received, or are not eligible to receive CalWORKs cash aid.
  • Berendo Program: The Family Child Care Home Education Network (FCCHEN) program, known as the Berendo Program at Pathways LA, offers affordable child care to eligible parents with children under five years of age who select a child care provider from a list of participating licensed family child care homes (FCCH). The goal of the Berendo Program is to support parents and providers in creating the best experience possible for the children in their care.

Four types of childcare providers are eligible to participate in our programs. Providers must be willing to comply with Pathways LA rules and regulations and enter into a binding Service Agreement. Below are descriptions of the provider types available to program participants.

  • Licensed Child Care Centers: Child Care Centers are licensed and overseen by the California Community Care Licensing Board (CCL). Centers offer physical, social, developmental, and educational activities for groups of children of different ages. State regulations specify staff size, academic requirements, and health and safety standards. All staff must be certified and free of any serious criminal history. Public or private agencies, including churches, may operate these centers.
  • Licensed Family Child Care Homes: Family Child Care Homes (FCCH) are licensed and overseen by the CCL. They are operated in private homes and are subject to inspection. There are two license types in this provider category: Small and Large. Small FCCH may care for up to eight children. Large FCCHs are required to employ a full-time assistant and may care for up to 14 children. State regulations specify health and safety standards for the provider and the provider’s home. The provider and all persons aged 18 and older in the home must be certified as free of any serious criminal history.
  • Before and After School Programs/License-Exempt Facilities: These programs provide child care services before and/or after school or when school is not in session (e.g., summer and winter camps). These may include municipal parks, recreational centers, and programs on school sites. The CCL does not oversee these sites.
  • Family, Friends & Neighbors (License-Exempt Child Care): License-exempt providers are providers without a license from the CCL. These providers may be adult relatives, friends, neighbors, or babysitters who, in their own homes, care for the children of only one family. There are no state health and safety regulations for this type of provider. There are two types of licensed-exempt care: License-Exempt Relative and Licensed-Exempt Non-Relative, each with specific requirements.
  • Licensed-Exempt Relative: Eligible License-Exempt Relatives are the grandmother, grandfather, aunt, or uncle of the child by blood or by marriage. A licensed-exempt relative must provide proof of the relationship by submitting documentation for verification, such as a birth certificate or marriage license.
  • Licensed-Exempt Non-Relative (TrustLine Providers): Eligible License-Exempt Non-Relatives are adults who care for an unrelated child. The State of California does not consider siblings, great grandparents, great aunts/uncles, or cousins as relatives for this purpose. These providers must register as TrustLine providers and may only provide childcare services for one family. If a provider’s TrustLine registration is ever denied, closed, or revoked, they will not be eligible for reimbursement, and their Service Agreement with Pathways LA will be terminated.

A Notice of Action indicating the approved child care hours will be sent to you and your child care provider upon the initial enrollment. It is important that you read the “comments” on the notice for the exact approved childcare hours. If you use hours outside the approved hours, Pathways LA does not assume responsibility for reimbursement of those hours.

  • Set Schedule: A Set Schedule is a fixed work schedule with constant days and hours. For example, a parent who works Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm works a Set Schedule. When a family is approved on a Set Schedule, the provider can confidently designate a spot for a child. A Set Schedule makes the provider eligible for reimbursement when the child is absent, and the facility observes its approved non-service days.
  • Variable Schedule: A Variable Schedule is a fluctuating work schedule. The days and hours worked may change from week to week. For example, a parent who works Monday from 9 am to 3 pm, Tuesday from 2 pm to 11 pm, and Friday from 10 am to 4 pm one week and a different schedule the following week works a Variable Schedule. Because of the unpredictable nature of the schedule, the family’s childcare service level will be limited to a maximum range of hours and days per week.

Child care services for Variable Schedules will be reimbursed based on actual hours of care as reflected on the attendance record submitted by the provider. Families on Variable Schedules are not eligible for reimbursement on days care does not take place, including established provider holidays.

Once a family establishes eligibility and need at the initial certification or recertification, the family is considered to meet all eligibility and need requirements for no less than 12 months and has the right to maintain their approved level of service regardless of a change in the family’s circumstances.

The only exception is if an income increase causes the family income to exceed 85% of the State Median Income (SMI), in which case the family must report the change immediately. 

Families may voluntarily report changes that would increase or decrease their child care service level at any time using the Family Request for Changes to Services Form. To initiate these changes, requests must be made in writing and include:

  1. the days and hours of the requested change;
  2. the effective date of the requested change; and
  3. documentation supporting the requested change. Changes will be processed within ten business days from the date documentation is received by Pathways LA. Retroactive changes cannot be made. 

Parents who disagree with a Notice of Action (NOA) can request an appeal by submitting a written request to Pathways LA within 19 calendar days of the date on the NOA.

During a Local Appeal hearing, the parent may speak for themselves or be represented by a representative of their choice (e.g., a friend or attorney) for whom the parent has submitted an Authorization for Release of Information form.

If necessary, Pathways LA will make an interpreter accessible to the parent. A Pathways LA representative will be present to explain the agency's reason for the action indicated on the NOA. The parent will be allowed to comply with any required documents to reverse the decision.

Pathways LA will mail a decision letter to the parent with the result of the Local Appeal within ten calendar days of the hearing.

Program Forms

Student Training Packet (Spanish: Paquete de Entrenamiento de Estudiante)

Employment Packet (Spanish: Información de Empleo)

Seeking Employment Policies (Spanish: Pólizas Sobre Búsqueda de Empleo)

Self-Employment Policies (Spanish: Declaración Sobre Mi Empleo por Cuenta Propia

Family Request for Changes to Services (Spanish: Solicitud Familiar de Cambios a mi Nivel de Servicio)


Please find the form that best addresses your needs – if you’re unsure, call us at (213) 427-2700, and we’ll help!