How to get a daycare license in California

Congratulations! You are considering or have decided to open a daycare facility in California. You know you can offer a safe and nurturing place for children to grow and learn. Many steps need to occur before opening day.

Steps to obtain a daycare license in California depends upon the type of license you require. There are three groupings of daycare licensing: exempt, Family Child Care Home (FFCH), and Child Care Centers (CCC). Each necessitates different licenses or no license.

Starting a business is an exciting time. Ensuring you are properly licensed is a key step to a successful venture. Continue reading for information on daycare licenses in California.


License Exempt Care

How to get a daycare license in CaliforniaBefore you embark on your daycare business, you need to decide on the scope of services you will offer. One way to step into the childcare business is to start small. You can begin providing care in your home. Limiting the number of children to whom you offer care lets you gradually learn the business.

In California, you are exempt from needing a license in certain situations. If you will be caring for your own child or children, a relative’s child, or children who are all from one other family, you are exempt from licensing. California categorizes these daycare settings as license exempt.


Family Child Care Home Licensing

Licensing in California is facilitated by the Community Care Licensing Office of the State Department of Social Services.

Another option to consider when starting a daycare business is a Family Child Care Home. Under California’s licensing provision, a Family Child Care Home or FCCH is a daycare that is operated in your home. Descriptors of this model include a facility that is like a child’s own home. It does not operate 24 hours a day. A FCCH does not provide medical care.

How to get a daycare license in CaliforniaHowever, any FCCH facility does need a valid license in California. There are a number of steps involved in obtaining your license. The first step you should follow is to ensure that you meet the state of California’s requirements. Some of the conditions are listed here –

  • The licensee must be at least 18 years old.
  • The home in which the care is provided, you must reside in.
  • Any criminal records must be cleared.
  • A TB clearance is required.
  • Pediatric Health and Safety training must be completed.

The next step is to attend an orientation session run by the Department of Social Services (DSS) for the State of California. These orientation sessions are offered frequently. Check the California DSS website for information on dates and locations. A nonrefundable fee is charged for the orientation session. Orientation will provide a wealth of knowledge for you.

There are many FCCH laws and regulations, which are intended to protect the children and daycare providers. It is vital that you have read all the materials pertaining to daycare. Any questions or clarifications you need, be sure to obtain.

Your next step is to acquire all the forms that are part of the application. Complete each form. Make a copy of the forms for your records. Then submit all the paperwork. Be sure to submit the application fee along with your paperwork. The fee is nonrefundable, so be certain you are ready for your new venture.

Once the State processes and approves all your forms, which can take some time, you will be contacted. The State will send a Licensing Program Analyst to your home. They will perform an inspection to ensure that you have readied your home to safely operate as a daycare. Spend time preparing for this inspection.

What are the costs to build a daycare center?

Child Care Centers Licensing

How to get a daycare license in CaliforniaKey differences between Family Child Care Home and Child Care Centers are the location and size. Child Care Centers (CCC) are not located in the homes of the licensee. Frequently, these facilities are in commercial properties. Or CCCs may be situated in large homes that have been renovated to offer childcare. The licensee can be an individual, a group, or a corporation.

Steps to obtain a license follow the same sequence as for Family Child Care Home approvals. You need to ensure you are qualified to obtain a license. Orientation is the next step. Read all applicable laws and regulations. Completing and processing the paperwork associated with the application is after a review of laws and regulations. After the approval of your paperwork, your facility will be inspected.

Then you are ready for business.


Other Considerations

After the steps in licensing, there are other factors that need to be addressed. Running a business requires a location, insurances, and employees.


How to get a daycare license in CaliforniaIf you are going to create a Child Care Center, you will need to find a location. The actual location of the building must be easily accessible for parents and guardians to drop off and pick up their children. Consider the traffic on the road and the building’s parking lot before signing any leases.

When exploring locations, do not forget outdoor space. You will be required to have a certain percentage of your space be available for the children to play outside. Be sure the outdoor space is easy and safe to access.

Additionally, in most areas you will need permits or the local zoning board’s approval to run a CCC in a location. As part of your research, check with your local land use boards on what approval processes might be needed.


Before opening your doors and welcoming in children, meet with an insurance agent. Check on the insurance required for the property and parking lot. You also want to explore what insurance is needed for the business. Some items to put on your check list are fire, theft, property damage, and personal injury insurance. See which insurances will protect you and your business the best. Get multiple quotes.


How to get a daycare license in CaliforniaBeing a business owner means you will need to hire employees. Many daycare centers have high turn over rates. How large you grow your business might be determined by the number of dependable people you can hire.

Another element of research to undertake is employment law. You will need to be updated on current employment laws. One key area to learn about is the hiring process. You want to hire the best people but ensure you have followed all the laws. Your applications, interview questions and reference checks should be vetted by someone with human resources experience.


Related Questions

Is there one daycare license that is valid for all fifty states? 

No, there is not one license for daycare that can be used in all fifty states. Each state has their own requirements to obtain a license. States have websites that will provide licensing information for you.

Do all states require licenses for their daycare providers?

Each state does require daycare providers to be licensed. However, each state also has their own exemptions for when homecare for children is exempt from licensing. All states are seeking to protect children and daycare providers with their licensing provisions. 

What happens if I do not get a license for my daycare in California? 

If you operate an unlicensed daycare facility in California, you will face fines and possibly criminal charges. Before you open your home to other children or open a daycare facility, check on the requirements to do so legally.


Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.

To learn more on how to start your own daycare checkout my startup course and documents here.