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How To Become a Licensed Child Care Provider in CA

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Guide to Becoming a Licensed Child Care Provider in California

The need for child care is high in California, where there are not enough child care spaces available for the children who need care. This shortage leaves families struggling to find reliable, quality care for their children. Without consistent child care, many families are forced to make difficult decisions about their careers, which has broader impacts on our state’s economy. This is especially true as more parents return to the work place following the pandemic restrictions that allowed them to work remotely.

CCRC supports prospective child care providers on their path to becoming a provider, whether that’s as a small business owner or being compensated for the care of a family member or friend’s child. Child care providers not only do rewarding work in supporting a child’s early development, but they can often work flexibly and from their own home. Many people find that they could be getting paid for child care they’re already providing for free.

Who needs a license to care for children?

There are many different types of child care providers and each one has different requirements. Not all child care providers need to be licensed.

If you provide care for your own children or those of a relative, and children from only one other family, then a license is not required. This is considered “license exempt.” Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) child care providers typically fall under this category.

But if you are providing care for children from more than one family in your home or a child care center, a license is likely required. There are some specific exceptions to this requirement, which are outlined by state law.

License-Exempt Care

An FFN does not need a license to provide care. Caregivers who supervise their nieces and nephews, cousins, or grandchildren would qualify as “license exempt.” They may also provide care to children from one other family outside their own. Families who are eligible for subsidized child care may be able to place their children with a relative who is paid through CCRC’s Alternative Payments Program.

Mandatory Licensing Requirements

Any individual or facility that provides child care and supervision to non-relative children from more than one family must obtain a license. There are two different kinds of licenses: Family Child Care Home (FCCH) and Child Care Center. A Family Child Care Home license is required for providers offering child care from their home, while a Child Care Center license is required for providers who supervise children at a facility.

Family Child Care Home Licensing

A Family Child Care Home license is required for providers who supervise children at their home child care setting. Just like in a center, FCCH are held to strict licensing standards. After attending an orientation on licensing, a provider must undergo a pre-licensing inspection of their home. The inspector will provide guidance on any changes that are required, such as fencing around a swimming pool. Once the inspection is completed and approved, paperwork about the business must be submitted before obtaining the license to operate.

Basic Requirements

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and must reside in the home where the child care is provided.

All members of the household must undergo a background check.

A tuberculosis (TB) test is required for the child care provider.

A mandatory 16 hours of Pediatric Health & Safety training must be completed.

Applicants for Large Family Child Care Home licenses need to demonstrate one year of experience, either as a licensee of a Small Family Child Care Home or as a teacher/director at a licensed Child Care Center.

The California Department of Social Services offers more information on these requirements.

Child Care Center Licensing

Licensing for Child Care Centers includes providers who operate out of commercial buildings, catering to larger groups of children including:

Child Care Centers

Infant Care Centers

Toddler Programs

School-age Centers

Basic Requirements

Director Qualifications: Directors need a combination of educational units in early childhood education and administration, along with several years of teaching experience in a supervised group Child Care Center setting. Specific requirements vary slightly depending on the focus, such as general, infant, or school-age care.

Teacher Qualifications: Teachers must have completed a minimum number of semester units in early childhood education and have practical experience in a licensed child care center. There are additional qualifications for those specializing in infant care or school-age child care.

Aide Qualifications: Aides are typically required to be in ongoing education in early childhood education and must meet basic age and educational prerequisites.

CDSS has more detailed information on this type of license.


All potential providers must attend an orientation session, which can be completed online or in-person. The orientation covers critical licensing information, rules, and the application process.

There is a non-refundable fee required when registering for the orientation.

Get Help

The Child Care Initiative Project (CCIP)

Through the Child Care Initiative Project (CCIP), CCRC offers free group training and individual support for caregivers interested in caring for infants and toddlers. There are many comprehensive services offered, such as health and safety training, business and marketing strategies, and technical assistance with the licensing process. CCIP is designed to help child care providers become licensed.

CCIP Offers:

  • Free workshops including, health and safety training and child development training
  • Free virtual support group and networking opportunities
  • Business and marketing strategies to help you keep your program growing
  • Technical support and assistance with the licensing process
  • Pre-licensing visit of your home-based child care

This training is available in LA County and San Bernardino County. Contact us for more information.

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