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California Family Child Care Licensing: Licensing process

This post is a part of our series on California family child care licensing. For more on licensing in California, see the following posts:

California Family Child Care Licensing: An Overview
Types of Licenses
Training Requirements
Home Requirements

Once you have looked at the different types of family child care you can open in California, you’re ready to get started on the licensing process. Here we break down what that process looks like so you can get started becoming an in-home child care provider.


California has 14 local Regional Licensing Offices across the state. Questions can be directed to your local regional office.

Step 1: Orientation

Prior to filing an application, the applicant shall attend an orientation provided by the licensing agency. If you are interested in obtaining a California license to operate a family child care home you have the option to attend either an online orientation, or an in person orientation. Orientations are scheduled at the local regional offices on a regular basis, statewide. To register for an upcoming orientation, you must contact the regional office, please click on the Online Orientation for Family Child Care Homes or In-Person Orientation link. The orientation fee is $25, plus a processing fee of $2.43 (for a total of $27.43). This fee is non-refundable and non-transferable.

Step 2: Submit Complete Family Child Care Home Application

To apply for a license to operate a family child care home, an applicant shall file a written application with the Department, on the Application For A Family Child Care Home License Form provided by the Department. The applicant shall provide all of the following information at the time of submission of the application:

  • Applicant’s information: Name, address, telephone number and confirmation that the applicant is 18 years of age or over.
  • Children’s information: Age and number of children to whom care will be provided.
  • Home residents information: Name and age of every person residing in the home where care is to be provided.
  • Compliance statement: A statement that the applicant will comply with all regulations and laws governing family child care homes.
  • Financial stability statement: A brief statement confirming that the applicant is financially secure to operate a family child care home for children. The Department shall not require any other specific or detailed financial disclosure.
  • Tuberculosis clearance: Evidence of a current tuberculosis clearance, not more than one year prior to or seven days after initial presence in the home, for any adult in the home during the time that children are under care.
  • Fingerprints: the fingerprints of any applicant for a family day care home license, and the following adults:
    • Any person, other than a child, residing in the facility.
    • Any person who provides care and supervision to the children.
    • Any staff person or employee who has contact with the children.
  • One year of experience to operate as a large family child care home: When applying for a license as a large family child care home, substantiation that the provider has at least one year of experience as a regulated small family child care home operator; or one year of experience as an administrator or director of, or as a teacher at, a licensed child care center. Waiver of this requirement shall be considered by the director upon finding that the applicant has sufficient qualifying experience.
  • Compliance with the State Fire Marshal standards: Evidence that the small family child care home contains a fire extinguisher and smoke detector device which meet standards established by the State Fire Marshal under Section 1597.45(d) of the Health and Safety Code or evidence that the large family child care home meets the standards established by the State Fire Marshal under Section 1597.46(d) of the Health and Safety Code.
  • Local fire department contact: Name, address and telephone number of the city or county fire department, the district providing fire protection services, or the State Fire Marshal’s Office having jurisdiction where the family day care home is located.

Criminal Record Clearance

  • Prior to the Department issuing a license, the applicant(s) and all adults residing in the home shall obtain a California criminal record clearance or exemption. All individuals subject to a criminal record review shall prior to working, residing or volunteering in a licensed facility:
    • Obtain a California clearance or a criminal record exemption or
    • Request a transfer of a criminal record clearance or
    • Request and be approved for a transfer of a criminal record exemption, unless, upon request for a transfer, the Department permits the individual to be employed, reside or be present at the facility.
  • All individuals subject to a criminal record review shall be fingerprinted and sign a Criminal Record Statement under penalty of perjury.
  • The licensee shall submit these fingerprints to the California Department of Justice along with a second set of fingerprints for the purpose of searching the records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation prior to the individual’s employment, residence, or initial presence in the child care home.
  • Fingerprints shall be submitted by the licensee or sent by electronic transmission to the California Department of Justice by a fingerprinting entity approved by the California Department of Social Services.
  • The licensee shall maintain documentation of criminal record clearances or criminal record exemptions of employees, volunteers that require fingerprinting and non-client adults residing in the facility. Documentation shall be available for inspection by the Department.

Child Abuse Central Index

Prior to issuing a license for a family child care home, the Department shall check the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) for the applicant and all individuals subject to a criminal record review and shall have the authority to approve or deny a facility license, employment, residence or presence in the facility based on the results of the review.

The applicant shall submit the Child Abuse Central Index checks for all individuals required to be checked directly to the California Department of Justice at the same time that the individual’s fingerprints are submitted for a criminal background check.

Fire Safety ClearanceA fire clearance shall not be required for a small family child care home. A fire safety clearance approved by the city or county fire department, the district providing fire protection services, or the State Fire Marshal shall be required for a large family child care home.

  • Nonambulatory persons: “Nonambulatory persons” includes the following persons who would be unable to leave a building unassisted under emergency conditions:
    • Any person who is unable, or likely to be unable, to physically and mentally respond to a sensory signal approved by the State Fire Marshal, or an oral instruction relating to fire danger; and
    • Persons who depend upon mechanical aids such as crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs.
  • The Director of Social Services or his/her designated representative, in consultation with the Director of Developmental Services or his/her designated representative, shall determine the ambulatory or nonambulatory status of persons with developmental disabilities, as well as, the status of all other disabled persons who are not developmentally disabled.

Licensing Fees

An application fee adjusted by facility and capacity shall be charged by the department for the issuance of a license to operate a child day care facility. Licensed family child care homes are required to pay an annual licensing fee, as well as other fees such as for a change in location, change in capacity, late fees, probation fees, and dishonored check fees.

After initial licensure, a fee shall be charged by the department annually, on each anniversary of the effective date of the license. Fees shall be assessed as follows:

Fee Schedule

Facility Type Capacity Original Application Annual Fee
Small Family Day Care 1-8 $73 $73
Large Family Day Care 9-14 $140 $140

Step 3: Home Inspection

You must undergo a pre-licensing inspection. A Licensing Program Analyst will contact you to schedule an inspection of your home. During the inspection, an analyst from CCLD will be evaluating whether your home has been child-proofed, that you have the appropriate safety precautions in place (fire alarm, smoke alarm, fire extinguisher), and that you have materials and equipment available for children (age-appropriate toys, cots or cribs, child toilet or changing table, etc.). You can use this Pre-Licensing Readiness Guide – Family Child Care Home or this self-assessment guide to make sure you are prepared for the inspection.

Initial Licensing site visit: The department shall conduct an announced site visit prior to the initial licensing of the applicant.

Annual unannounced visit: Every family day care home shall be subject to unannounced visits by the department. The department shall visit these facilities as often as necessary to ensure the quality of care provided. The department shall conduct an annual unannounced visit to a facility under any of the following circumstances:

  • When a license is on probation.
  • When the terms of agreement in a facility compliance plan require an annual evaluation.
  • When an accusation against a licensee is pending.
  • In order to verify that a person who has been ordered out of a family day care home by the department is no longer at the facility.

The department shall conduct random annual unannounced visits to no less than 10 percent of facilities not subject to an evaluation under conditions mentioned above.

  • Under no circumstance shall the department visit a licensed family day care home less often than once every five years.
  • The department or licensing agency shall make an unannounced site visit on the basis of a complaint and a follow up visit.
  • An unannounced site visit shall adhere to both of the following conditions:
    • The visit shall take place only during the facility’s normal business hours or at any time family day care services are being provided.
    • The inspection of the facility shall be limited to those parts of the facility in which family day care services are provided or to which the children have access.

Step 4: License Application Processing

Once your complete application is received, it will be reviewed by the application unit. A license remains in effect until it is forfeited or surrendered, suspended or revoked.

Denial of a license:When the requirements for licensure are not met, the Department shall deny the application within 30 days after receipt of a completed application. Immediately upon the denial of any application for a license, the Department shall notify the applicant in writing. Within 15 days after the Department mails the notice, the applicant may present his or her written petition for a hearing to the Department. Upon receipt by the Department of the petition, the petition shall be set for hearing. The hearing shall be conducted in accordance with the Government Code.

Sources: California Department of Social Services (CDSS)Title 22: Family Child Care HomesPre-Licensing Readiness Guide – Family Child Care Home , self-assessment guide


Wonderschool is a network of quality in-home early childhood programs. Our mission is to ensure that every child has access to a home away from home that helps them realize their full potential. We work with experienced educators and child care providers to help them start their own child care or preschool out of their homes, whether they live in apartments, condos, or homes that they rent or own.