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Child Care Participant Eligibility Determination

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Eligibility Determination for Child Care Centers (CCC) online course.

Welcome to the California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division (NSD) CACFP Child Care Participant Eligibility Determination online course.

Course Description

This online course explains how to determine and document the eligibility of participants enrolled in CACFP CCCs. Eligibility documentation allows CCCs to determine how many of the enrolled participants are eligible for free, reduced-price, or base meal reimbursement through the federal CACFP.

Table of Contents

Instructions

  1. Read the Child Care Participant Eligibility Determination for CCCs online course located below.

  2. After reading the course content, you will:

    • Answer the Course Assessment questions related to the course content,

    • Print a certificate of completion, and 

    • Notify the CDE NSD that you have completed the Child Care Participant Eligibility Determination for CCCs online course.

A link to the Course Assessment and additional details are provided in the Course Assessment Instructions section at the end of this course.  

Training Objectives

The training objectives of this online course are for current and prospective CACFP Operators to:

  1. Understand the eligibility and enrollment requirements for children participating in the CACFP.

  2. Learn how to properly document eligibility of enrolled participants.

  3. Distinguish between the different eligibility categories.

  4. Learn how to create an eligibility roster.

CACFP Participant Age Requirements

Enrolled participants must be 12 years old or younger in order for their meals and snacks to be eligible for reimbursement. However, the following exceptions apply:

  • Migrant children may be 15 years old or younger

  • Disabled participants may be any age if the majority of the enrolled participants are 18 years old or younger

CACFP Enrollment Requirements

CCC staff must collect and maintain documentation of enrollment from parents or guardians. Per Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, sections 226.15(e) and 226.18(e) a child’s enrollment document must:

  • Be updated annually—the enrollment form is valid from the original date the parent or guardian signs the document until the end of the 12-month period (i.e., if a child enrolls on August 15, the enrollment form is valid from August 15 of the current year to August 31 of the following year)

  • Be signed and dated by the child’s parent or guardian

  • Include information about each child’s normal days and hours of care and the meals the child usually receives while in care

If a CCC maintains accurate, daily sign-in/sign-out sheets that identify the time a child arrives and leaves the center (as certified by the parent or guardian or authorized representative of the parent), enrollment forms do not have to state the normal days and hours that a child is in care or meals consumed at the center or home. For more information, please refer to the California Department of Education (CDE) Management Bulletin (MB) CACFP-11-2017: Enrollment Documentation in CCCs and Day Care Homes on the CDE CACFP Bulletins web page. School-age centers, also known as outside-school-hours centers, are exempt from enrollment requirements.

CACFP Eligibility Category Overview

The following three methods are used to determine a child’s eligibility category:

  1. Automatic eligibility–Children enrolled in a center are automatically eligible in the free category if they are documented as:

    • Enrolled in Early Head Start (EHS) or Head Start (HS)
    • The child of a migrant worker
    • Living in a homeless shelter
    • A foster child

    MBFs are not required for participants if documentation of automatic eligibility (i.e. HS roster) is available.

  2. Categorical eligibility–Children enrolled in a center are categorically eligible in the free category if their household is documented as having a case number for:

    • CalFresh (federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP])

    • California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids Program (CalWORKs)

    • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)

  3. Income eligibility–Children enrolled in a center are income eligible in the free or reduced-price category if their household size and income are within the USDA Income Eligibility Guidelines

A current, complete, and certified MBF is required for each child participant, and is utilized to capture the necessary information to determine which eligibility category (free or reduced-price) a child can be claimed at. Individual eligibility information must be collected once per year for each child claimed in the free or reduced-price eligibility category. Additional information on eligibility categories is described below.

CACFP Meal Benefit Forms

An MBF must be completed and certified for any child who is not automatically eligible for free meals and whose meals and snacks are claimed at the free or reduced-price (F/RP) rate. The MBF, along with a Letter to Parents, which explains the purpose of the MBF, should be distributed to the parent or guardian of each enrolled child. The MBF and Letter to Parents forms are in the Download Forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS), Form ID CACFP 29, Child MBF and Form ID CACFP 09, Letter to Parents (Nonpricing)/CACFP 10, Letter to Parents (Pricing).

The parent or guardian is not required to complete the MBF. However, if the parent or guardian does not complete an MBF, the meals and snacks served to a child must be claimed at the base rate. Also, if any of the required information is missing from the MBF, the center must claim the participant at the base rate.

Before distributing the MBF, the center staff should fill in the following information at the top of the form:

  • Current program year

  • Name of the CCC

  • Phone number to call to receive help in filling out the form

  • Name of the place and person at the CCC to whom the completed form should be returned

Eligibility Categories

Categorical Eligibility for Free Reimbursement

As previously stated, a child is categorically eligible for free meal benefits if they are a member of a household that receives:

  • CalFresh benefits
  • CalWORKs payments
  • FDPIR benefits

A household is defined as a group of related or unrelated individuals who reside together and function as one economic unit, sharing living expenses. The MBF for a categorically eligible child must contain the following information:

  • The name of the child

  • A case number for CalFresh, CalWORKs, or FDPIR

  • The signature of the parent or guardian

  • Date of signature

  • Racial/Ethnic Identity—the person filling out the form does not have to complete this section. If they choose to complete this section, the race and ethnicity of the enrolled participant should be marked. If the parent or guardian declines to provide the information, the agency staff will complete this section based on visual identification or personal knowledge. In this case, the staff will record the information and inform the participant that it has been recorded

Household income and the last four digits of the parent or guardian’s Social Security number (SSN) are not required.

The MBF for categorically eligible participants must also contain the center’s certification in the For Agency Use Only section, which consists of the following:

  • In Categorical Eligibility, the center official must answer the following questions:

    • Does the child reside in a household that receives CalFresh (federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP]), California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs), and/or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) benefits and therefore are considered categorically eligible at the free rate?

    • Is the child a foster child and therefore automatically eligible at the free rate?

  • Certification of eligibility status

  • Name and signature of the eligibility official

  • Certification date of eligibility

Income Eligibility

A participant is income-eligible for meals reimbursed at the F/RP rate if the individual’s household size and income, as stated on the MBF, are within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Income Eligibility Guidelines (IEG), which are updated on July 1 of every year. An household is defined as a group of related or unrelated individuals who reside together and function as one economic unit, sharing living expenses. The current USDA IEG are on the CDE Rates, Eligibility Scales, & Funding web page.

A complete MBF for income eligible participants must contain the following household information:

  • Name of the child

  • Names of the household members, including children, and their sources and frequency of income, if applicable. If a household member does not have income, indicate $0 or no income

  • The last four digits of the SSN of the parent or guardian completing the MBF or, if applicable, the box Check here if no SSN should be checked

  • Signature of the parent or guardian

  • Date of signature

  • Racial/Ethnic Identity—the person filling out the form does not have to complete this section. If they choose to complete this section, the race and ethnicity of the enrolled participant should be marked. If the participant/adult household member declines to provide the information, the agency staff will complete this section based on visual identification or personal knowledge. In this case, the staff will record the information and inform the participant that it has been recorded

The MBF for income-eligible participants must also contain the center’s certification in the For Agency Use Only section, which consists of the following:

  • In Categorical Eligibility, the center official must answer the following questions:

    • Does the child reside in a household that receives CalFresh (federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP]), California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs), and/or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) benefits and therefore are considered categorically eligible at the free rate?

    • Is the child a foster child and therefore automatically eligible at the free rate?
  • Total household income—if the household reports sources of income with different pay frequencies (for example, weekly and monthly), all of the incomes must to be converted to annual income. To convert:

    • A weekly income to annual income: Multiple the weekly income by 52. For example, if a person receives $250 per week, the annual income is $250 multiplied by 52, which equals $13,000

    • An income received every two weeks to annual income: Multiply the income received every two weeks by 26. For example, if a person receives $500 every two weeks, the annual income is $500 multiplied by 26, which equals $13,000

    • An income received twice a month to annual income: Multiply the income received twice a month by 24. For example, if a person receives $500 twice a month, the annual income is $500 multiplied by 24, which equals $12,000

    • A monthly income to annual income: Multiply the monthly income by 12. For example, if a person receives $1,200 monthly, the annual income is $1,200 multiplied by 12, which equals $14,400

  • Certification of eligibility status: free, reduced-price, or base

  • Name and signature of the eligibility official

  • Certification date for eligibility

If any of the required information is missing from the MBF, the center must claim the participant at the base rate.

What Is Considered Income?

The following must be reported as income on the MBF:

  • Earnings from Work

    • Wages, salaries, or tips
    • Strike benefits
    • Unemployment compensation
    • Worker’s compensation
    • Net income from self-employment

  • Child Support or Alimony

    • Public assistance payments
    • Alimony or child support payments

  • Pensions, Retirement, or Social Security

    • Pensions
    • Supplemental Security Income
    • Retirement income
    • Veteran’s payments
    • Social Security

  • Other Monthly Income

    • Disability benefits
    • Cash withdrawn from savings
    • Interest dividends
    • Income from estates, trusts, or investments
    • Regular contributions from persons not living in the household
    • Net royalties, annuities, or net rental income
    • Military allowance for off-base housing
    • Any other income

Effective Date and Duration of Participant Eligibility

Effective Date

For all CACFP agencies, except school food authorities (SFA), the eligibility effective date may either be:

  • the date the parent or guardian signs the MBF; or

  • the date the MBF was certified by an agency official.

An SFA, which is the governing body that is responsible for the administration of one or more schools and has the legal authority to operate the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or be otherwise approved to operate the NSLP, may also participate in the CACFP. For all SFAs, the eligibility effective date may either be:

  • The date the parent submitted the MBF; or,
  • The date the MBF was certified by a school official.

SFAs may not use the date the parent signs the MBF as the effective date.

If the parent or guardian signature date is used, this date must be within the calendar month of certification or the immediately preceding month, otherwise the effective date must be the date of certification. For example, if a parent signs an MBF on February 1 and the agency completes certification on April 1, the effective date must be April 1.

For more information on MBF effective dates, please see CDE MB CACFP-01-2015; SFSP-01-2015: Guidance on Income Eligibility Determinations and Duration on the CDE CACFP Bulletins web page.

Duration

MBFs are valid until the last day of the calendar month in which they were originally dated one year earlier. For example, an MBF that was certified by an agency official on October 10, 2019, is valid from October 1, 2019, to October 31, 2020. A household is not required to report an increase in income, a decrease in household size, or ineligibility for benefits during the calendar year.

Participants that Decline the Child and Adult Care Food Program

If a parent or guardian does not wish their child to participate in the CACFP, it is only a best practice for the CCC to obtain a Declining Participation in the CACFP form, Form ID CACFP 11, which is located in the Download Forms section of the CNIPS. These children must still be included on the eligibility roster and, if the agency is using the fixed percentage claiming method, the participant must be included in the fixed percentages.

Child Care Center Eligibility Roster

Once a CCC has determined eligibility for all participants, the staff must create a roster that identifies each enrolled child and their eligibility category. A sample child care eligibility roster can be found in the Download Forms section of the CNIPS, Form ID CACFP 14, Child Care Eligibility Roster. Separate rosters and meal counts are required for:

  • EHS or HS programs

  • Wraparound programs—when a CCC claims meals for children enrolled in wraparound programs, the center must report meal count and eligibility data for the EHS or HS program portion of the day separate from the State Preschool or preschool portion of the day. Eligibility rosters must also be separate for both programs

  • Infant-toddler or preschool age programs (both programs may be under a single roster; however, if your agency has a separate license for these programs [i.e., infants], the licenses must be entered separately on the CNIPS site application)

  • School-age programs or participants, even if claimed under the same preschool age license. Agencies that have school-age incorporated licenses should refer to CDE MB CACFP-12-2015: Claiming Meals for school-age Children Approved for Care Under a Preschool License on the CDE CACFP Bulletins web page

The eligibility roster must include:

  • The month and year the roster was created

  • The name and certified eligibility category (free, reduced-price, or base) of each participant—this must include all CACFP enrolled children, even households that did not return an MBF or whose parents or guardians have declined participation

  • The total number of participants in each category

  • The total number of participants enrolled at the site

Centers using the fixed percentage claiming method must develop a roster each October and for any other months in which the enrollment or eligibility is updated on the claim. Centers using the actual count claiming method must develop a roster each month. All for-profit agencies, regardless of claiming method, must develop a roster each month they submit a claim. For more information on claiming methods and eligibility roster requirements, refer to Section 5.1 of the CACFP Administrative Manual on the CDE CACFP Administrative Manual web page.


This concludes the reading portion of the Child Care Participant Eligibility Determination for CCCs online course. Please follow the instructions below to obtain a certificate of completion and notify the CDE that you have completed the course.

Course Assessment Instructions

  1. Open the Course Assessment. You will be prompted to enter your contact information, answer assessment questions related to the course content, and print a certificate of completion.

  2. After printing a certificate of completion and before exiting the Course Assessment, you must select Submit to notify the CDE that you have completed this course.

Note: If you do not select Submit on the final page of the Course Assessment, you will need to once again select the Course Assessment link in Step 1, reenter your contact information, complete the course assessment, and select Submit to notify the CDE that you have completed this course. 

Questions:   Child and Adult Care Food Program Unit | CACFP@cde.ca.gov
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, August 11, 2020
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