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”. Families are ranked in terms of their eligibility for services, rather than the 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, Inc., Easter Seals Southern California-Leucadia, 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) up-to-date at all times because it will affect your eligibility.

Placing your name and information on the 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. Having an application 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 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.

Raising HandsI’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 San Diego 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.

What is Subsidized ChildCare?

Subsidized child care is financial assistance offered to income-eligible families to cover part or all of their child care costs, depending on their 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 on the CEL for families with an active CPS case is given to Foster, natural and/or relative caregivers.

How can I qualify for Subsidized Child Care?

Qualifying for subsidized child care assistance is based on your gross monthly income from all sources (before taxes), family size, and need. In addition, families must live 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 5,889 6,511 7,441 8,632 9,823 10,046 10,269 10,492 10,716 10,939 11,162

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 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.

 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: (619) 228-2800
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?

Families currently receiving CalWORKs assistance that includes adults and children should contact their county employment services worker for child care and/or call one of the agencies listed below. Families who have received CalWORKs within the last 2 years may call one of the agencies listed below to see if they qualify.

Child Development Associates, Inc.(CDA) 619.427.4411 ext. 1400

YMCA Childcare Resource Service 619.474.4707 ext.2485

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 $64 per month or less will rank 1, while another same size family earning $919 would rank 15. 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.

Can I call the CEL to get an update on the status of my application or information of my Rank Placement?

No, the CEL administrator is not able to give you that information. Your application status is determined by what you have entered initially and/or when changes have occurred. Your Rank is determined by your family size, gross income, need, etc., and in relation to other families on the list with similar information (see income chart above).How do I obtain a list of child care proivders?

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