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Resources for Finding Affordable Child Care in California

The cost of child care has been high for years, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find affordable, quality care. We’ve put together helpful resources you can use to get connected to great child care options in California.

Kids in classroom

A great place to start your search for quality, affordable child care is the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network. This network has local resource and referral agencies (R&Rs) in every county across California that help families find and choose child care options that best meet their needs. They maintain a list of child care providers in each county, including licensed family child care homes and child care centers. R&Rs also track other helpful information about child care providers, such as the languages they speak, the age groups they serve, the schedules they offer, and the number of spaces they have available. 

R&R services are free and available to all families in California. As part of their service, they also help families understand child care options and resources they are eligible for based on various factors like location, income level, and more. No matter your circumstances, you can always reach out to your local R&R.

To start working with your local R&R, visit the Find Child Care web page, and enter in your zip code. Or you can call the toll-free number 1-800-KIDS-793 to speak to an information specialist who can answer your child care questions and find your local R&R. Both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking information specialists are available. From there, you will get connected to your local R&R, which will provide you with child care options that meet your needs.

There are also child care options the state offers and has helped fund that might be the right fit for your family. While you can apply to these programs directly, it’s still helpful to start with your local R&R so that you can review all of your options. Some state-subsidized care programs include:

  • California State Preschool Program: Available for children ages 3–5, state preschools are in a school-based setting, and they are designed to help children transition to kindergarten. To learn more about this program and find options near you, visit the California Department of Education website and find the Early Education Division Consultant for your county. They are available via phone or email.

  • California Head Start: Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide free learning and development services to children ages birth to 5 for qualifying families. They offer center-based, home-based, and family care options. To find options in your community, visit the Center Locator web page, or call the toll-free number 1-866-763-6481 to speak with an information officer.

  • Migrant Child Care and Development Programs: California also offers subsidized child care and education programs for children of migrant workers. For more information, call the California Migrant Education Office at 916-319-0851

Once you’ve identified child care options that are right for you and your child, you can learn more about those organizations at the Quality Counts California website. Quality Counts rates participating early learning and child care programs on how well they meet program standards for quality. Those ratings are available to families across the state. Quality Counts is also committed to helping child care providers continue to improve their programs.

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