About Childcare Licensing in California
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About Childcare Licensing in California
Who Needs 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
There are two types of CCLD licenses that apply to postings on BPN:
- "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).
- "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.
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.
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.
For more information, see
What is a babysitting co-op?
- If they take place in someone's home, these DO need to be licensed if:
1) someone is being paid, AND 2) an adult who lives there is providing
some or all of the supervision. This means that if you host a playgroup or preschool
in your home that parents pay for, and you are responsible for some of the supervision or teaching,
then your home needs a site license from CCLD.
- If they take place at a site that is not someone's home, they
DO need to be licensed unless every child's parent is present
the entire time. For co-ops where parents take turns being on site,
a license is still required, and
CCLD regulations specifically address the adult-to-child ratio in
- Playgroups and other situations
where every parent remains on site with their child
the entire time
do not need a license, regardless of where they take place
or whether there is a fee.
- Babysitting exchanges, where parents take turns caring for each others'
children and no money changes hands, 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:
- Nannies and babysitters who come to your home to care for your child.
- Childcare you provide in your home for only one other family besides your own.
- Childcare provided by a relative (aunt, uncle, grandparent).
- Parent co-ops where parents take turns babysitting and no money changes hands.
- Playgroups and similar programs where every child's parent remains with their child.
- School-run before & after school programs where care is provided by school employees.
- City & county recreation programs, with certain restrictions.
- Once-a-week programs that are 4 hours or less.
- Temporary childcare where parents are on site.
- K-12 programs "of an instructional nature" during summer and school holidays
- Programs for teen parents and adult education.
About Childcare Licensing
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.
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
Here are some of the benefits of licensed childcare:
- All childcare providers must take a course on child health and safety issues,
including CPR and first aid.
- Directors of childcare centers and preschools must complete coursework in early
- Fingerprints and child abuse and criminal record
checks are required for the childcare provider and any other staff
or adults who live in the house or teach in the school, including participating parents.
- An Emergency Care & Disaster Action Plan is required for the site.
- On-site inspections are required to check for safety issues such as
covered heaters and fireplaces,
smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, ensuring hazardous materials are out of reach of
children, and that outdoor play areas are safe.
- Periodic unannounced inspections may be conducted by CCLD; site inspections
are required within 10 days of someone filing a complaint.
- For daycare centers and preschools, site requirements include a
specified amount of indoor and outdoor space based on the number of children.
Toilet and sink facilities designed for children are required.
- Parents can file a complaint, and view any past violations or complaints about childcare facilities.
- Providers must inform parents whether they have liability insurance.
- Providers must inform parents of their rights, such as the
right to enter and inspect the site at any time.
- Adult-to-child ratios are regulated; the number of infants under two is restricted.
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
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.
Here are some of
the ways to get the license number for your child's daycare or preschool:
- Ask your childcare provider for the license number, or look at the
site for the license (it is required to be displayed on site).
- Check to see if the license number is on the BPN website. You can google
its name in the "Search BPN" box above, or look for its name in BPN's lists of
Homebased Family Daycares,
or Childcare Centers.
- Look up the
license number in the
CCLD Licensing Database Lookup
- Contact the CCLD regional office in Oakland -
see below for contact information.
About Licensed Daycares & Preschools
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:
For Alameda and Contra Costa counties, contact:
BAY AREA REGIONAL OFFICE
1515 Clay Street, Suite 1102, MS 29-04
Oakland, CA 94612
FAX (510) 622-2641
For other California counties, and for more information,
see Making a Complaint at the California Dept. of Social Services website.
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
this page was last updated: Aug 4, 2014
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