Selecting a Child Care Center or Family Child Care Home

The majority of child care centers, including preschools, and family child care homes in California must be licensed by the Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD) of the California Department of Social Services if they care for children from more than one family not related to the licensee. Child care programs that are exempt from licensing are those on public school sites, Federal property, or at a private elementary school that cares for more than 95 percent of its own children.

This licensing is designed to ensure that facilities provide a safe and healthy environment for children in day care. A licensed facility will meet the CCLD’s standards for admission policies, daily practices and procedures, emergency plans, facility design and structure, indoor and outdoor space, equipment, nutrition, background clearances, staff qualifications, and adult-staff ratios. You should call the Division’s Mission Valley Regional Office at (619) 767-2200 to see if a child care facility in San Diego County you are considering meets these licensing requirements. You should also request to see the licensee’s facility file which will contain information from evaluation visits conducted by the Division and any complaints against the facility that were substantiated by the Department. Child care centers are inspected annually, while family child care homes are inspected prior to being licensed and every three years thereafter.

You can get assistance in finding quality care for your child from the YMCA Childcare Resource Service by calling (800) 481-2151 and asking to speak to a child care consultant. Before making a final selection of a child care center or home you should visit several more than once and follow the 5 Steps to Quality Child Care under For Parents and Looking for Child Care on this website. They are: Look, Listen, Count, Ask, and Be Informed.

A great deal of information for parents looking for child care is also available on the California Department of Social Services Child Care Licensing website. It will answer the following questions:

  • What types of licensed child care are available?
  • How can I find a child care facility for my child?
  • How do I choose a day care that’s right for my child?
  • What should I consider when looking for child care?
  • What should I look for if my child is an infant?
  • What should the facility provide for my child?
  • What should I look for in regard to basic health and safety practices?
  • What should I discuss with the day care provider?
  • What will the provider need from me in order to enroll my child?
  • How can I ensure a positive child care experience?
  • What rights do parents have?
  • What should I do if I have a concern regarding a provider?
  • How can I file a complaint against a facility?
  • How can I get help with day care costs?
  • Where can I find information on child health and safety?