Commonly Asked Questions

What is a Centralized Eligibility List?waving boy
The Centralized Eligibility List (CEL) is a list of income-eligible
families that need help paying for child care such as infant/toddler care, preschool or an after school program.
The CEL is an “eligibility list” rather than a “waiting list” because families are ranked in terms of their eligibility for services, rather than by length of time on the list. The benefits of the CEL include: 
  • Broadens parent choice by having access to other subsidized child care programs in San Diego County
  • Programs/Agencies can fill vacancies with the most eligible families 
The YMCA Childcare Resource Service operates the CEL for all families residing in San Diego County.

How long will I wait?

There is no estimated length of time that families wait before receiving assistance. Unfortunately, families must simply wait to be contacted by a subsidized child care program for an enrollment opportunity. Whenever one of the state subsidized child care programs (Casa De Amparo, Chicano Federation, Child Development Associates,  Educational Enrichment Systems, Inc. & YMCA Childcare Resource Service) in the county has an opening, they will use the CEL to fill their vacancy. Participating programs prioritize family enrollments according to State regulations. Therefore it is critical that you keep your application (including contact information and income) on the CEL up-to-date at all times because it may affect your eligibility.


Placing your name and information on CEL does not mean you qualify for immediate assistance. Generally, enrollment into subsidized child care programs is based on family size and income with lower-income families having a higher probability of being called for assistance followed by moderate-income families.  Being listed on the CEL does not guarantee child care assistance.



Can I get “bumped up” on the list?

There is no way to get “bumped up” on the list. However, the State grants preference to families that have an active Child Protective Services case in order to remove children from a harmful environment.


It is very important that you keep your family’s information current on the CEL when any changes occur. We encourage families to update their information every 3 to 5 months. If families do not keep their information updated their application may be inactivated from the list and risk missing an opportunity to receive child care assistance.


Information such as a phone number, address, family size or income changes, must be updated immediately. 



Kids raising handI’ve identified a child care center / family child care home that will accept my child. Can I receive help right away?

No. You must wait until a subsidized child care program contacts you. Families can be contacted by any type of program, including an Alternative Payment Program (APP) agency.  Alternative Payment Programs provide parents with the option of choosing any licensed or non-licensed provider in the county to care for their children and the program will cover all or part of the payment.  An Alternative Payment Program reimburses providers in the county for caring for your child(ren) as long as the provider is willing to accept payment.  These programs have limited funding and often do not have vacancies. 



How can I qualify for CEL?

Qualifying for CEL is based on gross monthly income (before taxes), family size, and need. In addition, families must work, live or attend school in San Diego County to qualify. In order to be considered income-eligible, families must meet State Income Requirements and have at least one of the following needs for child care:


(a)    Working

(b)    Looking for work

(c)    Medically incapacitated

(d)    Attending school or in training

(e)    Receiving Child Protective Services (CPS)

(f)    Part-day educational preschool

(g)    Seeking permanent housing


Family Size

1-2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Income 3283 3518 3908 4534 5159 5276 5394 5511 5628 5745 5863



Children in School

Can a family apply for CEL if their household income is zero?

Yes, a family can complete the application with zero income.  However, they will be required to submit a self-declaration form explaining how the family is financially supporting itself without income.



Do I pay for anything?

Child care services may be free or low cost to families. When families are enrolled in a subsidized child care program, they may be required to pay a parent fee. Discuss fees with the enrollment worker/case manager when you are called for an enrollment interview. In most cases, fees paid by families are a small percentage of the total cost of child care, thus it becomes low cost (affordable) child care.


What is Subsidized Child Care?

Subsidized child care is financial assistance offered to income-eligible families to cover part or all of their child care costs, depending on their financial and child care needs. Among the list of income-eligible families, priority for obtaining subsidized care is given to families and children referred for Child Protective Services (CPS). Priority for families with an open CPS case is given to natural parents.  Foster parents and relative caregivers are not included in this category.


Are there any programs that can help me with child care costs besides CEL?

Yes. Head Start is one such program. Head Start receives funding from the federal government to assist eligible families with a part-day and in some cases, full-day preschool for children.  Contact Head Start to inquire about program requirements.


NHA Head Start - Central: (888) 873-5145 

AKA Head Start - East County: (619) 444-0503

ECS Head Start - South Bay: (877) ECS-TOTS

MAAC Head Start – North County: (760) 471-4210 


I am receiving cash aid from the County CalWorks Program.  Can my information be listed on the San Diego County CEL database?

No. Parents who are receiving cash aid or who have received cash aid within the past two years are eligible for child care services and are not listed on the San Diego CEL. Current CalWORKs participants should contact their CalWORKs employment services worker (CWES) for child care assistance.


Families that have been discontinued from cash aid within the past two years and are no longer eligible for child care assistance through CalWORKs may contact any one of the two Alternative Payment Programs for immediate child care assistance.  Families who are within 24 months of their cash aid ending do not need to appy to the CEL.


Child Development Associates (CDA) 619.427.4411 ext. 234

YMCA Childcare Resource Service 619.521.3055 ext. 1710

What does rank mean?

Rank is an indicator of a family’s priority on the CEL to help identify the most eligible families for child care services. Generally, the lower ranks, such as ranks 1-5 have a higher priority of receiving assistance than higher ranks, such as ranks 6-10.


Rank is determined by family size and income. For example, a family of 3 earning $484 per month or less will rank 1, while another same size family earning $919 would rank 10. Many families can have the same rank due to similar family sizes and incomes.


Rank is not to be mistaken as a waiting number. Rank only identifies a family’s eligibility on CEL.   


How do I obtain a list of child care providers?

The YMCA Childcare Resource Service (CRS) is the local Resource and Referral (R&R) agency in San Diego County. They can help identify child care providers in your area. Contact YMCA CRS and speak to a R&R Consultant to search for providers near your home, school, or work area. They can send you a list of providers for you to visit and begin your search for care. 


YMCA Childcare Resource Service: (800) 481-2151


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