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Parents Earning,
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Child Care is Expensive

Paying for child care isn’t easy. The average cost of child care is often out of reach. But without it, you’re constantly depending on family and friends to help out, or missing work or school. Families need affordable, high-quality child care so that children can get a strong start and parents can build for the future.

We’re Here to Help!

CDA’s Alternative Payment Program provides subsidized child care assistance to families who live or work in San Diego County, have children ages 0-13 years or children with exceptional needs under 21 years of age, and meet eligibility requirements.

Free or reduced
cost child care

Afford the essential child care your family needs to thrive. 

Parental choice
child care

Pick what works best for your family — a licensed child care home, center, or a trusted friend, relative, or neighbor.

Maintain reliable child care

Develop stability while you work or complete your education, so you can create a better life for you and your family.

Here's How It Works

Step 1
Complete an Application

Get started by completing an application on the San Diego County Centralized Eligibility List (CEL).

Step 2
Begin Enrollment

A friendly team member will contact you to begin your enrollment for child care services.

Step 3
Documentation & Provider Approval

Submit all required documents and have a CDA approved provider for at least one of your children. 

Step 4
Attend Enrollment Appointment

Together, we will review our program guidelines and your application for you to sign.

Step 5
Child Care Is Approved

We will issue a notice with your approved schedule and the maximum reimbursement amount to your provider.

Step 6
Child Care Begins

Your child starts care and continues to receive care during the eligibility period.

Step 7
Submit Attendance Records

Attendance records are submitted to CDA monthly for provider reimbursement.

Step 8
Provider Reimbursements

We pay your provider monthly on your behalf.

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for subsidized child care services, your family must meet at least one of each of the following eligibility and need requirements:

  • Current CalWORKs aid recipient
  • Child Protective Services (CPS) or at risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation
  • Participating in a means-tested government program:

-Child Only Cash Aid




-Head Start

-Early Head Start

-The Federal Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations

-California Food Assistance Program

  • Homeless
  • Income eligible

To be eligible based on income, your family’s gross monthly income must be equal to or less than the amount shown in the table below. Gross monthly income is all income you and your family receive before taxes are taken out. If you are self-employed it is your income after deducting business expenses. Income eligibility is based on the State Median Income. Refer to the table below.


Family Size 1-2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Gross Monthly Income $6,128 $6,931

$8,025 $9,309 $10,593 $10,834 $11,074 $11,315 $11,556 $11,797 $12,037

Effective July 1st, 2023. Subject to change.

Each adult in the family size has one or more of the following need categories:

  • Working
  • Looking for work
  • In school or job training
  • Parental incapacity
  • Child Protective Services (CPS) or at risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation
  • Experiencing Homelessness
  • Seeking permanent housing

Apply for Child Care on the CEL

The San Diego County Centralized Eligibility List (CEL) is one application that connects families to different subsidized child care agencies across San Diego. CDA is one of these agencies and we are currently enrolling!

Get started by completing an application today.

Apply on CEL

Parents love CDA’s Alternative Payment Program

“I am very grateful for this program. Honestly don’t know what I would do without it. Being a single mother is not easy and this program not only helps me keep a roof over my son’s head but also helps him receive the education he deserves. Thank you CDA.”

– CDA Alternative Payment Program Parent

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