Starting a daycare business in California can be a rewarding endeavor, allowing you to turn your passion for working with children into a profitable business. However, before you can get your daycare business off the ground, there are important steps you need to take to get the required licenses. This guide will cover the different types of licenses for childcare businesses in the state of California, provider requirements, and the steps to complete an application. We will also discuss how to stay compliant with licensing requirements.
Do I need a childcare license in California?
Yes, you need a childcare license in California if you provide care to children from multiple families. However, you are legally license-exempt and don’t need a childcare license if you provide care for only a relative’s children or children from one other family in addition to your own. Childcare licensing in California is managed by the Child Care Licensing Division (CCLD) of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). The department’s mission is to ensure that childcare providers abide by state health and safety standards set for daycare businesses.
Childcare licensing requirements in California
Family child care home provider requirements
Capacity regulations for small and large family child care home licenses in California are as follows:
To start a family child care home, you must be at least 18 years old, live in the home, have a clear criminal record, and have a TB test. You must also complete 16 Pediatric Health and Safety training hours from an Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) approved vendor or accredited college/university. If you plan to run a large family childcare home, you must have proof of at least one year of experience as a small family childcare home licensee or a teacher or director of a licensed childcare center.
Family child care home capacity requirements
The capacity regulations for small and large family child care home licenses vary. For a small family child care home, you can only care for four infants (0-24 months) or six children, with specific restrictions on the age mix. For a large family child care home, you can accommodate up to twelve children, including not more than four infants (0-24 months) and eight 2-year-old children. You’ll also need a qualified assistant, at least 14 years old.
Childcare Center Provider Requirements
Starting a childcare center in California requires meeting specific provider requirements. These requirements are designed to ensure that all staff members are adequately prepared to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the children in their care. Here are the qualifications for different roles in a childcare center:
Directors of childcare centers are required to have a background in early childhood education. This could be a degree in child development or a related field. In addition to this, they must have training in administration or staff relations. Furthermore, they should have at least four years of teaching experience. This ensures that they have a comprehensive understanding of the educational needs of children and the operational aspects of running a childcare center.
Teachers in a childcare center must have early childhood education training. This training equips them with the knowledge and skills to foster the cognitive, physical, and social development of young children. They should also have at least six months of experience in a licensed childcare center. This experience provides them with practical skills and understanding of the day-to-day operations of a childcare center.
Aides in a childcare center must also have early childhood education training. This ensures that they can effectively support teachers in providing care and education to children. They must also have a high school diploma or be enrolled in a Regional Occupational Program (ROP) at an accredited high school. This ensures that they have a basic level of education necessary to perform their duties.
These requirements are designed to ensure that all staff members in a childcare center are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to provide high-quality care and education to children. By meeting these requirements, you can ensure that your childcare center is staffed by qualified individuals who can contribute to the development and well-being of the children in your care.
Childcare Center Capacity Requirements
In California, the capacity of a childcare center is determined by the staff-to-child ratio, which varies depending on the age of the children. The state has set these ratios to ensure that each child receives adequate care and attention. Here are the specific ratios for different age groups:
For infants, which are defined as children under the age of 24 months, the ratio is one teacher for every four infants. If there are 12 infants, there must be one fully qualified teacher and two aides present.
For toddlers, which are defined as children between the ages of 24 months and 36 months, the ratio is one teacher for every six toddlers. If there are 12 toddlers, there must be one fully qualified teacher and one aide present.
For preschoolers, which are defined as children between the ages of 36 months and entry into first grade, the ratio is one teacher for every 12 children. If there are 15 children, there must be one teacher and one aide present. If there are 18 children, there must be one fully qualified teacher and one aide present.
For school-age children, which are defined as children who are enrolled in first grade or above, the ratio is one teacher for every 14 children. If there are 28 children, there must be one fully qualified teacher and one aide present.
These ratios are designed to ensure that each child receives adequate care and attention. By adhering to these ratios, you can ensure that your childcare center is providing a safe and nurturing environment for all children.
Childcare license application in California
To apply for a Family Child Care Home License or Child Care Center License in California, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Attend a childcare licensing orientation
The first step is to attend an online or in-person childcare licensing orientation. Depending on what type of childcare business you are starting, attend the Family Child Care Home License orientation or the Child Care Center License orientation. You’re also required to pay a non-refundable orientation fee.
Step 2: Familiarize Yourself with Licensing Laws and Regulations
Before successfully operating a daycare center in California, you must familiarize yourself with the relevant licensing laws and regulations. These laws and regulations are designed to ensure the safety and well-being of the children in your care. Here are some key areas you should focus on:
Health and Safety Codes
Health and safety codes are a critical part of the licensing laws and regulations. These codes cover a wide range of areas, including fire safety, communicable disease prevention and control, and environmental health.
- Division 12: Fires and Fire Protection – This division covers the regulations related to fire safety. It includes rules about fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and evacuation plans. You’ll need to ensure your facility meets these requirements to pass the pre-licensing inspection.
- Division 105: Communicable Disease Prevention and Control – This division outlines the measures you need to take to prevent and control the spread of communicable diseases in your daycare center. This includes proper handwashing techniques, cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and immunization requirements.
- Division 104: Environmental Health – This division covers the environmental health standards your daycare center must meet. This includes regulations related to air quality, water quality, and waste disposal.
Child Care Provider Registration and the California Child Day Care Act
The Child Care Provider Registration and the California Child Day Care Act are two key pieces of legislation that govern the operation of daycare centers in California. These laws outline the requirements for obtaining a license, the responsibilities of daycare providers, and the penalties for non-compliance.
By familiarizing yourself with these laws and regulations, you can ensure that your daycare center operates within the legal framework set by the state of California. This not only helps to protect the children in your care but also helps to protect your business from potential legal issues.
Step 3: Complete and Submit Your Application
After familiarizing yourself with the licensing laws and regulations, the next step is to complete and submit your application. The application process varies depending on whether you’re applying for a Family Child Care Home License or a Child Care Center License.
Family Child Care Home License Application:
For a Family Child Care Home License, you’ll need to fill out six forms:
- Application for a Family Child Care Home License
- Current Children in Your Home
- Criminal Record Statements for all adults living in the home
- Emergency Care and Disaster Plan
- Statement Acknowledging Requirement to Report Suspected Child Abuse
- Facility Sketch
In addition to these forms, you’ll need to submit:
- Proof of completing the orientation
- Proof of completing or enrollment in Preventive Health Practices training
- Proof of childcare experience
- Proof of TB clearance (not more than one year old) for all adults living in your home
- Payment (check or money order) for the nonrefundable application fee
Child Care Center License Application:
For a Child Care Center License, you’ll need to fill out 15 forms:
- Application For Child Care Center License
- Applicant Information
- Criminal Record Statement
- Designation Of Facility Responsibility
- Administrative Organization
- Monthly Operating Statements
- Balance Sheet
- Financial Information Release and Verification
- Personnel Report
- Personnel Record
- Health Screening Report–Facility Personnel
- Emergency Disaster Plan
- Earthquake Preparedness Checklist
- Facility Sketch
- Local Fire Inspection Authority Information
You’ll also need to include the following documentation:
- Partnership Agreement, Articles of Incorporation, or Articles of Organization, depending on what applies to your business
- Verification of director qualifications such as transcripts from an accredited school/college and reference letters confirming required experience
- Job descriptions for every position at your daycare center
- Personnel policies
- Parent Handbook
- Daily activities schedule
- Enrollment agreement
- Staff training plan
- Sample menu
- List of furniture and play equipment
- Control of property such as proof of ownership or copy of lease or rental agreement
- Bacteriological analysis of private water supply (if applicable)
Once you’ve completed and gathered all the necessary forms and documents, you can submit your application to the Child Care Licensing Division (CCLD) of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). The entire application process typically takes between 60 and 90 days.
California family child care home and child care center licensing fees
Family child care home
- Orientation fee: $25
- One-time application fee: $73 (small) or $140 (large)
- Yearly licensing fee: $73 (small) or $140 (large)
Child care center
- Orientation fee: $50
- One-time application fee: $484-$2,420 (based on capacity)
- Yearly licensing fee: 50% of one-time application fee (based on capacity)
Step 4: Pre-Licensing Inspection for Family Child Care Home License
Once you’ve submitted your application for a Family Child Care Home License, the next step is to prepare for a pre-licensing inspection. This inspection is conducted by a Licensing Program Analyst from the Child Care Licensing Division (CCLD) of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). The purpose of this inspection is to ensure that your home meets all the health and safety standards set by the state.
Here are some of the key areas that the Licensing Program Analyst will check during the inspection:
- Overall Cleanliness: Your home should be clean and free from hazards. This includes ensuring that floors are free from tripping hazards, surfaces are clean and sanitary, and the home is free from pests.
- Fire Safety: You should have working fire extinguishers and smoke alarms in your home. The location of these devices should be clearly marked, and all adults in the home should know how to use them.
- Telephone Access: There should be a working telephone in the home that can be used to make emergency calls.
- Storage of Hazardous Materials: Any hazardous materials, such as cleaning supplies or medications, should be stored out of the reach of children.
- Outdoor Play Areas: If you have an outdoor play area, it should be safe and secure. This includes ensuring that the area is fenced, free from hazards and has appropriate play equipment for the children.
- Sleeping Arrangements: If you will be providing care for infants or toddlers, you should have appropriate sleeping arrangements. This includes cribs that meet safety standards and are free from soft bedding that could pose a suffocation risk.
- Bathroom Facilities: You should have adequate bathroom facilities for the children. This includes having toilets and sinks that are accessible to the children and stocked with soap and paper towels.
- Kitchen Facilities: If you will be preparing meals for the children, your kitchen should be clean and equipped with a refrigerator for storing food, a stove for cooking, and a sink for washing dishes.
The Licensing Program Analyst will provide you with a full list of the requirements for the inspection. By ensuring that your home meets these requirements, you can increase your chances of passing the pre-licensing inspection and obtaining your Family Child Care Home License.
Step 5: Await Approval
After you’ve completed the pre-licensing inspection for your Family Child Care Home License, the final step is to await approval from the Child Care Licensing Division (CCLD) of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS).
The approval process typically takes between 60 and 90 days. During this time, the CCLD will review your application and the results of your pre-licensing inspection. They will also conduct background checks on all adults living in the home and any staff members you plan to employ.
If they approve your application, they will send your Family Child Care Home License to you in the mail. This license will allow you to legally operate a daycare in your home in the state of California.
If the CCLD does not approve your application, they will give you a list of deficiencies that you need to correct. You will have the opportunity to correct these deficiencies and resubmit your application.
While waiting for approval, it’s a good idea to continue preparing for the opening of your daycare. This could include purchasing necessary supplies, setting up your daycare space, and marketing your services to potential clients.
Remember, obtaining a daycare license is just the first step in operating a daycare business in California. Once you have your license, you will need to maintain compliance with all licensing requirements to keep your license active. This includes renewing your license annually and staying up-to-date with any changes in licensing laws and regulations.
How to Stay Compliant with Daycare Licensing Requirements in California
Once you’ve obtained your daycare license, it’s crucial to maintain compliance with all licensing requirements to keep your license active. Here are some key steps to ensure you stay compliant:
Annual License Renewal
In California, you need to renew your daycare license annually. This involves submitting your license renewal payment before your facility’s anniversary date. You can make this payment online, or via money order or check. If you don’t submit your annual fee on time, you’re liable for a late payment fee, which includes an extra 50% of the annual license renewal fee.
Changes to Your Facility
If you make any changes to your facility, such as changing its capacity or moving to a different location, you need to notify the Child Care Licensing Division (CCLD) of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). There is a $25 fee for changing your facility’s capacity and a fee equivalent to 50% of the application fee if you move to a different location.
Adherence to Health and Safety Standards
You must continue to adhere to all health and safety standards set by the state. This includes maintaining a clean and safe environment, ensuring proper storage of hazardous materials, and adhering to fire safety regulations. The CCLD may conduct regular inspections to ensure compliance.
Staff Qualifications and Training
Ensure that all staff members meet the required qualifications and receive ongoing training as required by the state. This includes early childhood education training and health and safety training.
Maintain accurate and up-to-date records for all children in your care. This includes enrollment records, immunization records, and emergency contact information. You should also keep records of any incidents or accidents that occur at your daycare.
By staying compliant with these requirements, you can ensure the continued success of your daycare business in California. Remember, the goal of these regulations is to ensure the safety and well-being of the children in your care.
Starting a daycare business in California is a rewarding endeavor that allows you to turn your passion for working with children into a profitable business. However, it’s a process that requires careful planning and adherence to the state’s licensing requirements. From attending a childcare licensing orientation and familiarizing yourself with licensing laws and regulations to completing and submitting your application and awaiting approval, each step is crucial in ensuring the success of your daycare business.
Once you’ve obtained your license, remember that staying compliant with the licensing requirements is just as important. This includes renewing your license annually, notifying the Child Care Licensing Division of any changes to your facility, adhering to health and safety standards, ensuring staff qualifications and training, and maintaining accurate records.
With careful planning, preparation, and a commitment to providing quality care for children, you can navigate all of California’s licensing requirements and successfully operate your daycare business in the Golden State. Remember, the journey to starting your daycare business is a marathon, not a sprint. Take each step at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be welcoming children into your daycare and making a positive impact on their lives.
This article was written by your friends at Meaningful Beginnings Early Development Center.