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California Child Care License: 4 Things to Know as a Parent

There are many factors to consider when selecting a quality preschool for your child. What are the teacher’s qualifications and the employee turnover at the school? What is the teacher-to-child ratio? How will my child’s developmental progress be assessed and communicated with me? What developmentally appropriate activities will help support the growth of my child?

While you may have numerous questions, the most important is regarding your child’s safety. When choosing child care, choosing a licensed facility assures you that your child is in a safe and developmentally stimulating environment. 

1. What is Child Care licensing?

You know that child care licensing ensures a safe and stimulating environment. But what really is child care licensing? The Child Care Licensing Program is one of many divisions under the California State Department of Social Services. This program ensures that child care facilities operate in accordance with the California Health and Safety Code, as well as Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations. Essentially, licensing serves to assist families in finding quality child care, and manages provider licensing all the while promoting the health, safety, and wellbeing of children. 

While licensing requirements vary from state to state, a child care license provides a setting that is safe and stimulating. There are countless aspects of a licensed center, both behind the scenes and visibly, that ensure the safety of a preschool facility. In order for a daycare to be licensed, it must follow numerous safety regulations.

This covers everything from adequate square feet per child and classroom design to the distance a sink is from a changing table and the number of air changes per hour for proper classroom filtration. Every classroom is designed around a strict set of regulations to ensure the safety of your child. In addition to the facility itself, rest assured that your child is in safe hands. All educators in a licensed child care setting must have background checks conducted and must be fingerprinted in California. 

Licensing is granted through a multi-step process. Owners of a facility must attend orientations to review the qualifications for a license, be familiar with all of the Family Child Care Home and/or Child Care Center licensing laws and regulations, complete and submit forms, and go under a pre-licensing inspection. A Licensing Program Analyst (LPA) will conduct this inspection to ensure that the environment is safe. 

2. What types of licensed child care facilities does Licensing oversee?

Child care licensing focuses on child care centers and family child care providers that operate out of their homes. Both of these centers provide non-medical, age-appropriate care and supervision of infants to school-aged children for less than 24 hours at a time. 

Licensed Child Care Facilities

Licensed child care facilities operate by grouping children by age and developmental stage. They are typically commercial centers that are open for set-schedule hours and have a standard curriculum for the children in their care. Children are grouped by developmental stages, typically by distinct classrooms, under specific teacher-to-child ratios.

Family Child Care Providers

Family child care settings provide care to a group of children in a residential setting such as a house, apartment, or condo. This includes small family child care homes that care for no more than 8 children, and large family child care homes that care for no more than 14 children. This form of care can have mixed or separated age groups, flexible hours, and other variabilities, but must still follow the same licensing requirements in the state of California.

The following are examples where child care licensing is not required.

  • Child care in the child’s own home (i.e. nanny, babysitters) 
  • Family Day Care programs that care for the children of only one family other than the provider’s family 
  • Informal child care arrangements such as co-ops, shares, exchanges, and play groups where no money changes hands for care and supervision. 
  • Certain school-age care programs (parks/recreation programs, on-site run by school district) 
  • On-site Military care programs are regulated separately by the military or programs located on federal property. 

When considering unlicensed forms of care, make sure to note what steps the facility is taking to ensure the safety of your child. Some guiding questions can be seen on our Identifying a High-Quality Preschool in your hunt for high-quality care. 

3. How does Licensing ensure the health and safety of children in child care?

Licensing ensures that children are in a safe environment. This is completed through initial licensing inspections, as well as maintained by periodic, unannounced site visits by Licensing Program Analysts (LPAs) to make sure centers are in compliance. These site visits include assessing the entire classroom and beyond – activity areas, cabinets, closets, storage, locks and latches, and all exterior areas and equipment.  

Licensing violations have the potential to put children at risk and jeopardize their safety. Therefore, state officials will work with centers to address necessary changes and conduct follow-up visits to address any and all violations. In addition to inspections, LPAs will also investigate any complaints about a facility and consult the center to navigate and resolve the issues. 

4. How does Licensing work together with Parents?

In addition to ensuring safety and compliance with the child care facility itself, licensing serves an important role in linking parents and families to services. Licensing serves as a resource for parents, and by understanding licensing regulations, parents can make more informed decisions for child care. Licensing can help you explore different questions you may have, such as a facility’s licensing history, or what a family may need to know about license-exempt care. Learn more about their resources for parents here.  

We encourage parents to learn more about what to look for when choosing child care, understand the difference between licensed care and license-exempt care, and parents’ rights in child care. By working with parents, licensing serves a crucial role in linking parents and families to services. 

Going Above and Beyond Licensing at Kids’ Care Club Child Development Centers

Kids’ Care Club, NAEYC Accredited centers, prides itself on being a child development facility dedicated to providing a learning and nurturing environment that supports the development of each child.

We have been licensed since opening in 1996, and are committed to the safety and well-being of your child. By adhering to accreditation and licensing standards with highly qualified staff, each child is supported through developmentally sound activities that support their social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. We believe that early years are learning years, and we are here to help your child develop a love of learning for life! 

Additional Resources

Find more information and tools on our.  Parent Resources page »

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