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About Childcare Licensing in California

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Childcare > About Childcare Licensing in California

Who Needs a License?

About Childcare Licensing

About Licensed Daycares & Preschools

See Also Reviews of Licensed Programs

Who Needs a License?

What kinds of programs need a license?

In California, whenever more than one child is being supervised in a place other than their own home, and their parents are not there, then that site is required to be licensed by the state. The license ensures that the site is safe for children, and that the caregiver has passed a background check and has basic knowledge about child safety and health. The State of California's Community Care Licensing (CCLD) is in charge of regulating this. BPN supports childcare licensing and does not accept postings for childcare that should be licensed but isn't.

There are two types of CCLD licenses that apply to postings on BPN:

  1. "Family Child Care Home"
    On BPN, these are called "Daycares" and "Home-Based Daycares" and "Home-Based Preschools." These are programs that are based in the home of the childcare provider or teacher. There are two levels: Small (up to 8 children) and Large (up to 14 children).

  2. "Child Care Center"
    On BPN, these are called "Preschools" and "Childcare Centers." These are programs that are based at a site that is not someone's home. These may be as small as a home-based daycare, or they may be quite large, accepting more than 100 children. Capacity depends on the individual site, staffing, and ages of children.

Babysitters, Nannies & Nanny Shares

The CCLD regulations do not specifically address a situation where the childcare provider comes to the child's home, even if she/he is caring for children from more than one family.

As long as the care takes place in the home of one of the children, and no one who lives in the home is providing supervision or care, then a CCLD license is not required.

However, if care takes place in the person's home who is providing care/supervision, and there are children present from more than one other family, then this is considered a "Family Child Care Home" and requires a license from CCLD.

Although the State does not license or regulate babysitters and nannies who come to your home, the State Legislature created Trustline, a database of nannies and babysitters who have cleared criminal background checks in California. Parents can check the database for no charge. There is a fee of $135-$170 for a nanny to register with Trustline. Nanny agencies are required to register their employees with Trustline. See the Trustline website for more information.

Playgroups, Exchanges, Shares, and Co-ops

For more information, see What is a babysitting co-op?

What kinds of programs do NOT need a license?

These are some of the kinds of childcare that do not need a license (check the regulations for details): Regulations can change so check the full regulations online on the State of California's website:

About Childcare Licensing

What's a childcare license?

The State of California's Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD) regulates child care in California as well as senior and disabled care, adoption agencies, shelters, and other facilities. Licensed childcare providers have completed classes on child safety and health. They have been fingerprinted and TB-tested, the site has passed an inspection, and they have paid a yearly fee. Childcare providers may also have a business license from their city or county, but this is separate from a childcare license.

It is illegal in California to operate an unlicensed home daycare or childcare center. There are fines of up to $200 for each day of unlicensed operation. Childcare facilities are required by law to display their license at their site, as well as on any advertisements or announcements they post about openings.

Why should I care whether my daycare or preschool has a license?

The point of the licensing procedure is to protect children. The regulations ensure that anyone caring for children meets some basic standards, and that the site where the childcare takes place is safe for children. Parents are also given certain rights under these regulations.

Here are some of the benefits of licensed childcare:

Why does BPN require license numbers on announcements?

In Nov 2010, Berkeley Parents Network began requiring license numbers on all postings about daycare in the Childcare newsletter, and on preschool postings in the Schools, Preschools and Camps newsletter. We made this change because we realized that BPN has become an important resource for parents for finding local childcare, and increasingly it is a primary resource for daycares and preschools to post about openings. Childcare providers in California are required by law to post their license number on any announcements or advertisements about their programs. While many daycares had been doing this when they posted an announcement in a BPN newsletter, many others had not, and we were concerned that we were allowing unlicensed daycares to advertise their programs in the newsletter. In addition, BPN has an extensive archive of parents' recommendations for local small daycares, some of which were not licensed. We did not want parents to have the mistaken impression that a daycare or preschool that other parents recommended was operating legally when it may not have been. We decided that we could no longer accept reviews of unlicensed daycares, and we updated all our reviews with license numbers, removing reviews for unlicensed facilities from our indexes.

Where can I find the license # for my daycare/preschool?

Here are some of the ways to get the license number for your child's daycare or preschool:

About Licensed Daycares & Preschools

What are the limits on the number of children in a daycare?

Capacity is displayed on the facility's license, which is required to be visible on site. You can also find out the capacity in the searchable database on the CCLD website, or at the Regional office (see below for contact info.) Check the regulations above for any changes and for exact details, but as of this writing (Jan 2011), here are general guidelines:

How can I file a complaint about my child's daycare or preschool?

For Alameda and Contra Costa counties, contact:
1515 Clay Street, Suite 1102, MS 29-04 
Oakland, CA 94612 
(510) 622-2602 
FAX (510) 622-2641 
For other California counties, and for more information, see Making a Complaint at the California Dept. of Social Services website.

I want to start a daycare at my home - what's involved?

For in-home care providers, the basic requirements are a 3-hour orientation and $25 application fee, followed by 15 hours of coursework on health and safety, fingerprinting and TB tests, and a home visit. You'll need to child-proof your home (including smoke alarms, fire extinguisher, etc.). As of 2011, the yearly license fee is $66 for Small daycares and $127 for Large.

Bananas in Alameda County offers help and support to people who want to become child care providers. See Bananas' Child Care Licensing page for information about who needs a license, how to get a license, and assistance that they can provide. They also have information sheets that you can download which explain the process step-by-step.

More information can be found at the CDSS website: Becoming a Licensed Child Care Provider

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