Know the Law for Planners

Is Your City or County Compliant with California Law for Family Child Care Homes?

Many planners are unaware that local requirements imposed on large family child care homes are unnecessary and may conflict with The California Child Day Care Facilities Act. This FAQ page will help you understand local governments’ obligations under state law and how family child care administrative policies can be streamlined.

Printable version – Know the Law for Planners: Is Your City or County Compliant with California Law for Family Child Care Homes?

(1) What is the state law that sets the requirements for family child care in California?

The California Child Day Care Facilities Act (“the Act”), Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.70 et seq., is the comprehensive law that establishes a statewide system for licensing child care, and aims to ensure a supply of affordable, quality licensed child care, which is critical to the well-being of parents and children in the state.[i]  The Act preempts (supersedes) local zoning, building, and fire codes and regulations that conflict with its provisions.


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.70; 1596.73 (e); 1597.40. The California Child Day Care Facilities Act also includes requirements pertaining to child care centers.
(2) What is a family child care home?

A family child care home is “a home that regularly provides care, protection, and supervision for 14 or fewer children, in the [child care] provider’s own home, for periods of less than 24 hours a day, while the parents or guardians are away.”[i] Family child care homes are considered “accessory uses of property in residentially zoned and occupied properties and do not fundamentally alter the nature of the underlying uses.”[ii] Family child care homes must be licensed by the California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division (“Licensing”).[iii] Parents with young children typically prefer family child care homes because of their convenient locations, flexible hours, and home-like environment that is conducive to a child’s development.


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1596.78(a). Family child care homes are also referred to as “family day care homes.” The law and many child care advocates prefer the term family child care home, “The term “Family Child Care” supersedes the term “Family Day Care” as used in previous regulations. Cal. Code of Regs. tit. 22, § 102352 (f)(1).
[ii] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.43(a).
[iii] Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1597.53, 1596.80; Types of child care that are exempt from state licensing are listed under Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1596.792.
(3) What is the difference between a small and large family child care home?

A small family child care home usually has only one adult child care provider who is the person living in the licensed home, but some may have an assistant. Small family child care homes may enroll six children, and have the option of enrolling up to two additional children, or a total of eight, with no additional adult, if four conditions are met.[i] Small family child care homes must “be considered a residential use of property for the purposes of all local ordinances.” Therefore, cities and counties cannot require small family child care providers to obtain a zoning permit or business license.[ii] Local governments cannot apply any requirements to small family child care homes that are not applied to all other single-family residences.[iii]

A large family child care home has two family child care providers, at least one who must be living in the licensed home, and an assistant. Large family child care homes may enroll up to 12 children, and have the option of enrolling one or two additional children, for a total of 14, if the similar four conditions are met.[iv] State law places strict limits on local authority to impose requirements on large family child care homes.

Cities and counties may not prohibit the operation of either small or large family child care homes in single-family dwellings.[v]


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.44 (conditions include “(a) At least one child is enrolled in and attending kindergarten or elementary school and a second child is at least six years of age. (b) No more than two infants are cared for during any time when more than six children are cared for. (c) The licensee notifies each parent that the facility is caring for two additional schoolage children and that there may be up to seven or eight children in the home at one time. (d) The licensee obtains the written consent of the property owner when the family day care home is operated on property that is leased or rented.”).
[ii] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.45(a)-(c).
[iii] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.47.
[iv] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.465.
[v] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.40.
(4) What state law sets the licensing and health and safety requirements for family child care?

The California Child Day Care Facilities Act (“the Act”), Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.70 et seq., is also the law that governs state licensing and health and safety requirements of all child care facilities, including family child care homes. The regulatory requirements that carry out the Act are found in the California Code of Regulations, tit. 22 §§ 101151 et seq. (child care centers) & 102351.1 et seq. (family child care homes).

(5) What state agency regulates child care?

The California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division (“Licensing”) is responsible for licensing family child care homes and child care centers, and for all aspects of the children’s health and safety.[i] Licensing is tasked with duties such as, evaluating whether a family child care home meets the state health and safety standards required to be licensed, conducting unannounced inspections of child care facilities, and ensuring child care providers meet the training qualifications to care for children.[ii]


[i] “The Child Care Licensing Program licenses and monitors Family Child Care Homes and Child Care Centers . The core mission of the Child Care Licensing Program is to ensure the health and safety of children in care. The Child Care Licensing Program is mandated by law to provide preventive, protective, and quality services to children in care by ensuring that licensed facilities meet established health and safety standards through monitoring facilities, providing technical assistance, and establishing partnerships with providers, parents, and the child care community.” Cal. Dep’t of Soc. Serv., Community Care Licensing Division, Child Care Licensing, available at http://www.ccld.ca.gov/res/pdf/CCFacilityCategoriesFactSheet.pdf (last visited Dec. 13, 2016).
[ii] See Cal. Dep’t of Soc. Serv., “Welcome to the California Child Care Licensing Program” at http://www.ccld.ca.gov/pg411.htm. (last visited Dec. 13, 2016).
(6) Does the California Child Day Care Facilities Act allow my city or county to impose any requirements on small family child care homes?

No. Small family child care homes must “be considered a residential use of property for the purposes of all local ordinances.” Cities and counties cannot apply any additional requirements to small family child care homes that are not applied to all single-family residences. For example, your local government cannot “impose a business license, fee, or tax” or a zoning permit on small family child care homes.[i]


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.45 (b). See Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.45 (a).
(7) Can my city or county require a large family child care home to obtain a business license?

Yes, local governments may require large family child care homes to obtain a business license, but they are not required to do so. If your city or county chooses to require a business license, we suggest charging a low, flat fee or basing the cost on net income, rather than gross, which is consistent with federal income tax law. Large family child care providers have a limited income based on child care fees from a number of families capped by the California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division (“Licensing”). After paying an assistant’s wages and workers’ compensation insurance, and child care-related expenses to operate the child care, they net very little income. A 2003 Los Angeles survey found that the average annual net income for a large family child care provider (caring up to 14 children) was $19,254, and for a small family child care provider (caring up to 8 children) was $11,968.[i]


[i] Alice Burton, UCLA Center for Improving Child Care Quality Research Team, et al., A Profile of the Family Child Care Workforce in the County of Los Angeles, California, Findings from the 2003 Survey of Family Child Care Income and Working Conditions, 7 (Dec. 20013) (available at http://ceo.lacounty.gov/ccp/pdf/Family%20Child%20Care%20Workforce%20Survey%20Report-final.pdf.)
(8) Does the California Child Day Care Facilities Act allow my city or county to impose zoning requirements on large family child care homes?

Yes, cities and counties may impose limited zoning conditions on large family child care homes, but they are not required to do so.  Many cities have found that no or very minimal regulation best serves their community, encouraging the development of this key service for working parents. If your city or county chooses to impose zoning requirements on large family child care homes, it can promulgate reasonable zoning standards in the four limited areas of: (1) spacing and concentration, (2) traffic control, (3) parking, and (4) noise control.[i] Further, noise requirements must beconsistent with local noise ordinances implementing the noise element of the general planand must take into account the noise levels of children. [ii]  See questions 9-21 for additional detail on permissible regulation of large family child care homes.


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(a)(1)-(3).
[ii] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(a)(2)-(3).
(9) Can my city or county require a large family child care home to obtain a zoning permit?

Yes, local governments may require a large family child care home to obtain a zoning permit, but your city and county have limited flexibility regarding the conditions of the zoning permit. The California Child Day Care Facilities Act (“the Act”), Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.70 et seq., states that the operation of small and large family child care homes “constitute accessory uses of residentially zoned and occupied properties and do not fundamentally alter the nature of the underlying residential use.”[i] Below is a summary of the three zoning options your city or county may impose on large family child care homes:

(1) Classify these homes as permitted use of residential property (no zoning permit);

(2) Grant a nondiscretionary permit to these homes that are zoned for use as a single-family home, without a hearing. The permit must be granted if the home complies with reasonable local standards, restrictions, or requirements related to spacing and concentration, parking, traffic control, and noise.

(3) Grant a use permit, subject to a hearing upon request. Notice by mail or delivery must be given to all owners within a 100-foot radius from the exterior boundary of the large family child care home, no less than 10 days prior to the date on which the decision will be made on the zoning permit application. A hearing may only take place if requested by the applicant or an affected person. The applicant or the affected person may appeal the decision, and the appellant must pay the cost, if any, of the appeal. The permit must be granted after the hearing if the large family day care home complies with local ordinances, if any, prescribing reasonable standards, restrictions, and requirements relating to spacing and concentration, traffic control, parking, and noise control.[ii]

Note that the last two options provide for a non-discretionary grant of the permit so long as the applicant meets those reasonable standards in the four limited areas.  Thus, your city or county may, but is not required, to promulgate reasonable zoning standards in the four limited areas of: (1) spacing and concentration, (2) traffic control, (3) parking, and (4) noise control.[iii] Noise requirements must beconsistent with local noise ordinances implementing the noise element of the general plan” and must take into account the noise levels of children. [iv]  Because your local government can only regulate in these four narrow areas, the zoning permit process should be uncomplicated and easy to administer. For example, your city and county may not require a family child care home to prove the home is compatible with existing residential land use in the area, because by definition, a family child care home is a residential use of property.

Local regulations that fall outside the above four areas are presumed in excess of local authority to regulate family child care homes, unless they are applied with equal force to all single family residences.[v]  Fees for a zoning permit must be processed as “economically as possible” and cannot “exceed the costs of the review and permit process.”[vi]


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code §1597.43(a).
[ii] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(a)(1)-(3).
[iii] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(a)(1)-(3).
[v] Cal. Health & Safety Code §1597.47.
[vi] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(a)(3).
(10) Which permissible zoning option is the most cost-effective and least burdensome for my city or county?

Option (1) in question 9  is the most cost-effective and least burdensome for city and county departments. Moreover, planners often note that the benefit of encouraging the expansion of child care outweighs the time and cost of administering a zoning permit. If your city or county decides to require a zoning permit, option (2) is the next best choice. An administrative use procedure without a hearing minimizes costs and time to process a zoning permit. Option (3) is the most costly and time consuming process for your city administrators and family child care providers. Moreover, option (3), which allows for a hearing, often gives neighbors the mistaken impression that they may block issuance of a permit when a child care provider meets all the reasonable standards related to the four areas of permissible regulation. When a child care provider meets the reasonable standards related to the four areas of permissible regulation, the permit must be issued.

(11) If my city or county selects option #3 in question 9, what kind of notice does state law require regarding the hearing on the zoning application?

The California Child Day Care Facilities Act (“the Act”), Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.70 et seq., requires that notice of the proposed use only be mailed or delivered to all real property owners “within a 100-foot radius of the exterior boundaries of the proposed large family day care home” no less than 10 days prior to the date on which the zoning application decision will be made.[i] The state legislature has balanced the need to notify nearby neighbors who may be affected by the zoning application with the privacy interests of parents who wish to avoid having the general public notified of the location where their young children are being cared for. Consistent with this balancing of interests, The California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division (“Licensing”) does not publicize the address number or street name of family child care homes on its website.[ii]


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code §1597.46(a)(3).
[ii] Cal. Dep’t of Soc. Serv., Community Care Licensing Division Facility Search, https://secure.dss.ca.gov/CareFacilitySearch/home/index (last visited Dec. 13, 2016).
(12) Who can ask for a hearing on the large family child care zoning application?

Only the applicant or another “affected person” may request a hearing on the proposed family child care use. To determine who is an “affected person,” hearing officers and judges will look to the extent to which this person is actually impacted. Given the Legislature’s desire that “family child care homes for children should be situated in normal residential surroundings” and the California Child Day Care Facilities Act’s (“the Act”), Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.70 et seq., overall goal of expanding child care availability by strictly limiting local governments’ authority to regulate family child care, a person would need to give a strong reason why he/she is affected by the large family child care home.

(13) If my city or county selects option #3 in question 9, can a hearing automatically be part of the zoning application process?

No. The California Child Day Care Facilities Act (“the Act”), Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.70 et seq., outlines the substantive and procedural zoning requirements. A hearing on a zoning application “shall not be held before a decision is made unless a hearing is requested by the applicant or other affected person. The applicant or other affected person may appeal the decision.[i] The appellant shall pay the cost, if any, of the appeal.” Consequently, a hearing cannot automatically be part of the zoning process and child care provider applicants cannot be charged upfront for hearing costs.


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(a)(3) (emphasis added).
(14) What are the zoning cost requirements and what information must be given to large family child care providers?

If your city or county requires a zoning permit for large family child care providers, the fees for review of the application cannot exceed the cost of review and the permit process.[i] If a deposit is required for the zoning permit, your city or county must give the family child care provider applicant the estimated final zoning permit cost, and procedures for receiving a refund from the unused portion of the deposit. [ii]  The zoning application must inform the applicant of her/his right to ask for a written fee verification of the permit.[iii]  Within 45 days of a request, your city or county must give the applicant a “verification of fees” and a “breakdown of any individual fees charged in connection with the issuance of the permit.”[iv] Upon request, your city or county must also give the applicant “a list of the permits and fees that are required by the city, county, or city and county, including information about other permits that may be required by other departments in the city, county, or city and county, or by other public agencies…[and] provide information about the anticipated length of time for reviewing and processing the permit application.”[v]


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(a)(3).
[ii] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(b)(3).
[iii] Cal. Health & Safety Code §1597.43(a)(3).
[iv] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(b)(2).
[v]  Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(b)(1).
(15) Can my city or county impose fire requirements on family child care homes?

Local governments cannot require small family child care homes to undergo a fire inspection, but your city or county may require large family child care homes to undergo one as part of the zoning process.[i] Your local fire department may only require large family child care homes to comply with fire standards adopted by the State Fire Marshal found in the California Code of Regulations Title 24, and the standards must be applied uniformly to these homes throughout the state.[ii] “No city, county, city and county, or district shall adopt or enforce a building ordinance or local rule or regulation relating to the subject of fire and life safety in large family day care homes that is inconsistent with those standards adopted by the State Fire Marshal, except to the extent the building ordinance or local rule or regulation applies to single-family residences in which day care is not provided.”[iii] The California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division (“Licensing”) also requires a fire inspection that must follow the Title 24 regulations, using the STD 850 fire inspection form.[iv] Consistent with processing the zoning application as economically as possible, planning departments that require a fire inspection should coordinate with the fire department to perform only one inspection for both the zoning permit and for Licensing.[v]


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.45(d) (small family child care homes are not subject to fire inspections, but Licensing must ensure they have a fire extinguisher, smoke detector, and carbon monoxide detector that meet the State Fire Marshal standards); Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(a)(2)-(3).
[ii] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.45(d); State regulations that the fire marshal enforces are found in Cal. Code Regs., Tit. 24, under the building, residential and fire codes.
[iii] Cal. Health & Safety Code §1597.46 (f).
[iv] Cal. Health & Safety Code §1597.46(f), Cal. Code of Regs., tit. 22, § 102371; Cal. Dep’t of Forestry and Fire Protection, Fire Safety Inspection Request STD 850, (April 2000), available at https://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/dgs/fmc/pdf/std850.pdf.
[v] See Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(a)(3) (zoning applications must be processed as economically as possible.).
(16) Can local governments require large family child care homes to obtain a building permit?

No. Large family child care homes are considered an accessory use of residential property and are considered single-family residences for purposes of the State Uniform Building Standard Code and local building ordinances. Use of a single-family dwelling does not constitute a change of occupancy for state housing law or local business codes.[i] For the same reason, an environmental review or engineering permit may not be required. Unless the family child care home undergoes a structural change that necessitates a building permit, your local government cannot require a building permit solely based on a small family child care home expanding to a large family child care home. Additionally, a family child care home provider must notify The California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division (“Licensing”) of any structural additions or alterations made to a licensed home.[ii]


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(d), (f).
[ii] Cal. Code of Regs., tit. 22, §102416.3.
(17) Can my planning department require a site plan drawn to scale?

No. Only the state or local fire department, and The California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division (“Licensing”) can approve or disapprove the size of a large family child care home.[i] The facility sketch required by Licensing must be drawn “close to scale,” and should be sufficient for zoning purposes.[ii] The facility sketch includes a drawing of the floor plan and yard. The floor plan must label all rooms and “identify areas which will be ‘off limits’ to children. Door and window exits from the rooms must be shown in case of an emergency.” The yard plan must include its “overall size” and “garage and storage building, […] walks, driveways, play area, fences, gates.” It must also show all areas “off limits to children” and “any potential hazardous areas such as pools, garbage storage, animal pens, etc.”[iii] Requiring a professional architectural or engineer site plan in addition to the facility sketch required by Licensing is considered unreasonable and too costly under the California Child Day Care Facilities Act (“the Act”), Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.70 et seq. [iv]


[i] See Cal. Building Code § 1004.1.2 Table; Dep’t of Soc. Serv., Community Care Licensing, Form LIC 999A, (Feb. 2005), available at http://www.dss.cahwnet.gov/cdssweb/entres/forms/English/LIC999A.PDF; See Cal. Code of Regs., tit. 22, § 102369(a).
[ii] See Cal. Code of Regs, tit. 22, § 102369(a); Dep’t of Soc. Serv., Community Care Licensing, Form LIC 999A, (Feb. 2005), available at http://www.dss.cahwnet.gov/cdssweb/entres/forms/English/LIC999A.PDF.
[iii] Dep’t of Soc. Serv., Community Care Licensing, Form LIC 999A, (Feb. 2005), available at http://www.dss.cahwnet.gov/cdssweb/entres/forms/English/LIC999A.PDF.
[iv] See Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(a)(3)(Zoning permits requirements must be “reasonable” and the zoning application must be processed as “economically as possible.”).
(18) Can my city or county apply CEQA requirements to family child care homes?

No. Small and large family child care homes are exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).[i]


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(c).
(19) Are family child care homes subject to local environmental impact standards?

Your city or county may apply environmental impact standards that are required in a local ordinance only if the same requirement applies to all single-family dwellings.[i] For example, if your city requires a family child care home to conduct an environmental impact study on its ground water, the same requirement must be applied to all single-family dwellings that are not family child care homes. The California Child Day Care Facilities Act (“the Act”), Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.70 et seq., makes clear that neither a small nor a large family child care home is considered a change in occupancy for purposes of state or local building codes.[ii]


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.47.
[ii] Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1597.45(c)(small family child care homes); 1597.46(d)(large family child care homes).
(20) Can my city or county require a family child care provider to obtain permission from a landlord to obtain a zoning permit?

No. The California Child Day Care Facilities Act (“the Act”), Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.70 et seq., strictly forbids any restriction or prohibition on a condition related to “use or occupancy” of real property, either “directly” or “indirectly.”[i] Such restrictions or prohibitions are considered “void” under state law.[ii] Implementing a condition that allows landlords to decide whether a family child care provider can obtain a zoning a permit to operate a large family child care violates this provision. Similarly, landlords cannot prevent renters from operating a family child care.[iii]


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.40(c). See also § 1597.40(b).
[ii] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.40(c).
[iii] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.40(d) (requiring that family child care providers only need to notify a landlord of intent to operate a family child care home). Statutory language, legislative history, and public policy considerations all support the view that the Health and Safety Code protects tenants who operate family child care homes in both single-family houses and multi-unit dwellings. See Morrison v. Vineyard Creek, L.P. et al., 193 Cal.App.4th 1254 (2011); contact the Child Care Law Center for details of the settlement.
(21) Can my city or county require a family child care provider to submit a title report to obtain a zoning permit?

No. A title report is not reasonably related to one of the four areas where local governments are permitted to regulate (spacing and concentration, traffic control, parking, and noise control).[i] Moreover, a title report is unnecessary because the California Child Day Care Facilities Act (“the Act”), Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.70 et seq., declares any encumbrance on real property that prohibits or restricts the operation of child care void.[ii] A child care provider who rents her/his home must inform, but need not obtain permission from, her/his landlord to operate a family child care.[iii]  Your city or county may request a copy of Licensing Form 9151, “Property Owner/Landlord Notification Family Child Care Home” that must be submitted to The California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division (“Licensing”) with the family child care home licensing application.[iv]


[i] See Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(a)(2)-(3).
[ii] Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1597.40(c) (“Except as provided in subdivision (d), every restriction or prohibition entered into, whether by way of covenant, condition upon use or occupancy, or upon transfer of title to real property, which restricts or prohibits directly, or indirectly limits, the acquisition, use, or occupancy of such property for a family day care home for children is void.”), 1597.40(d) (requiring that family child care providers only need to notify a landlord of intent to operate a family child care home). See also Cal. Dep’t of Soc. Serv., Community Care Licensing Division, Family Child Care Self-Assessment Guide Tenant Rights 6-7 (2000) available at http://www.ccld.ca.gov/res/pdf/FamilyChildCareSelfAssessGuideTenantRights.pdf (last visited November 8, 14, 2016).
[iii] The California Child Care Resource & Referral Network, California Child Care Portfolio (2015), available at http://www.rrnetwork.org/california_child_care_portfolio. The California Child Care Portfolio data is also provided to the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, Kidsdata.org (2014), available at http://www.kidsdata.org.
[iv] Cal. Dep’t Soc. Serv., Property Owner/Landlord Notification LIC 9151, (August 2014), available at http://www.cdss.ca.gov/cdssweb/entres/forms/English/LIC9151.pdf.
(22) How should my planning department handle complaints about family child care homes?

If neighbors have concerns about a family child care home, you should encourage them to speak directly with the family child care provider to work out any problems. For health and safety concerns about a child care, such as the supervision of children in a child care, you should refer neighbors to the local child care resource and referral agency, Child Care Advocate Program, or regional Licensing office.[i]


[i] Anyone may contact the local child care resource and referral agency to help problem solve concerns or issues about a child care. The Child Care Advocate Program is a department of the California Department of Social Services. The child care advocate plays many roles, including educating the public about licensed child care and speaking with community members about child care complaints or concerns. Information on the Child Care Advocate Program is available at Cal. Dep’t of Soc. Services, Child Care Advocate Program, http://www.ccld.ca.gov/PG491.htm. The list of regional Community Care Licensing Division Child Care Offices can be found at http://www.ccld.ca.gov/res/pdf/cclistingMaster.pdf.
(23) Why does California law have special protections for family child care homes?

The California Child Day Care Facilities Act (“the Act”), Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.70 et seq., strictly limits city and county regulation of family child care homes in order to address the lack of child care availability, encourage the establishment of family child care homes in residential communities, and to ensure a simplified regulatory process that does not place undue burdens on providers.[i] Despite the high demand for family child care, it remains in very short supply. The scarcity of licensed child care in California is at a crisis level – only 25% of children with working parents who need child care can find it.[ii] And in some counties, the percentage of child care availability is even lower and continues to decline.[iii]

A major reason for this scarcity is that in all too many communities, family child care providers wanting to expand their capacity to care for more children are discouraged by onerous, expensive, and lengthy zoning, business, and fire inspection processes imposed by various local government entities.[iv] The costs of burdensome regulations are passed onto families, who typically pay over 30 percent of their income on child care, and keep children from receiving the care they need.[v] Another reason for the lack of child care is poverty-level wages for child care providers. On average, a child care worker in California earns just over $26,000 per year, and even less if the child care is operated in the provider’s home.[vi]


[i] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.30.
[ii] The California Child Care Resource & Referral Network, California Child Care Portfolio (2015), available at http://www.rrnetwork.org/california_child_care_portfolio. The California Child Care Portfolio data is also provided to the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, Kidsdata.org (2014), available at http://www.kidsdata.org.
[iii] The California Child Care Resource & Referral Network, California Child Care Portfolio (2015), available at http://www.rrnetwork.org/california_child_care_portfolio. The California Child Care Portfolio data is also provided to the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, Kidsdata.org (2014), available at http://www.kidsdata.org.
[iv] See Low Income Investment Fund, Responding to Child Care Facilities: A Practical Guide for City & County Planners 4-5 (2007), available at http://www.liifund.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/3-Responding_to_Child_Care_Facilities.pdf.
[v] Maya Sugarman, 89.3 KPCC, Child care costs more than college tuition in California (2015), http://www.scpr.org/news/2016/04/13/59477/childcare-costs-more-than-college-tuition-in-calif/.
[vi] US Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, 39-9011 Childcare Workers, (May 2015), available at http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes399011.htm; Alice Burton, UCLA Center for Improving Child Care Quality Research Team, et al., A Profile of the Family Child Care Workforce in the County of Los Angeles, California, Findings from the 2003 Survey of Family Child Care Income and Working Conditions, 7 (Dec. 20013) (available at http://ceo.lacounty.gov/ccp/pdf/Family%20Child%20Care%20Workforce%20Survey%20Report-final.pdf.
(24) How can my local government streamline the zoning process for large family child care providers?

(A) Treat large family child care homes the same as small family child care homes – Your city and county should consider large family child care homes to be a residential use of property like small family child care homes. By not requiring a zoning permit for state licensed child care professionals, your local government will encourage small family child care providers to expand to large so that they can serve more children and keep child care costs down for working parents in your community.[i] Cities often acknowledge that the revenue gained from the zoning permit for family child care providers is far outweighed by the financial burden that it places on providers.

The next best option is to require an administrative use permit with reasonable standards related to the four permitted factors under state law, without a hearing.[ii] The price of the permit should be straightforward and low-cost. Moreover, without a public hearing, neighbors will not mistakenly believe they have a right to block final approval of a zoning permit for a child care provider who has complied with all the permit requirements.[iii]

(B) Encourage neighbors and family child care home providers to work out their differences – Generally, neighbors are very supportive of family child care professionals, working families, and children. However, if a problem arises between neighbors, encourage family child care providers and neighbors to talk about their differences and devise solutions together. Anyone may contact the local child care resource and referral agency to help problem solve concerns or issues about a child care home. The Child Care Advocate Program (CCAP), a department of the California Department of Social Services, also provides “a link between child care licensing and the community.” The child care advocate plays many roles, including educating the public about licensed child care and speaking with community members about any complaints or concerns about a child care, “the CCAP tailors its activities to fit the needs of the local community.”[iv]

(C) If your city or county requires a zoning permit, notify the child care provider upfront of all costs, anticipated time to obtain the zoning permit, and other requirements – To ensure family child care providers comply with all local standards, your city or county should give zoning permit applicants information regarding all zoning costs, anticipated time to obtain the zoning permit, and other requirements at the beginning of the zoning process. Many of these notice requirements are required by the California Child Day Care Facilities Act (“the Act”), Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1596.70 et seq., including a statement about an applicant’s right to request a written fee verification on the zoning application.[v] Moreover, if your city or county requires a deposit for the permit, the family child care provider must be given the estimated final zoning permit cost, and procedures for receiving a refund from the unused portion of the deposit. [vi] Family child care providers and planning departments also find it helpful to have an easy-to-read zoning permit requirement and fee checklist that child care providers and planners can use when processing a zoning application. See question 14 for more information.

(D) Create a zoning permit and process specifically for large family child care homes – Creating a zoning ordinance and application specifically for family child care homes will save your planning department time and money, and ensures that the requirements outside the Act’s permitted four factors (spacing and concentration, parking, traffic control, and noise) are not being applied to family child care providers.[vii]


[i] Statewide annual median income for child care providers is $26,050. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes399011.htm.
[ii] The four permitted areas of local regulation are: (1) spacing and concentration, (2) traffic control, (3) parking, and (4) noise control. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(a)(2)-(3).
[iii] A zoning permit must be granted if the child care provider meets the standards of the permit, which must be reasonable and related to spacing and concentration, traffic control, parking, or noise control, irrespective of a neighbor’s opposition. See Id. § 1597.46(a)(3).
[iv] Cal. Dep’t of Soc. Serv., Child Care Advocate Program, http://www.ccld.ca.gov/PG491.htm (last visited Dec. 13, 2016).
[v] Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 1597.46(a)(3), 1597.46(b).
[vi] Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1597.46(b)(1)-(3)(Applicants must also be given a list of all required permits and fees required by all city and county departments and other public agencies, a breakdown of all zoning permit fees, and the anticipated time to review and process the permit application, upon the applicant’s request.).
[vii] See Low Income Investment Fund, Responding to Child Care Facilities: A Practical Guide for City & County Planners 9 (2007), available at http://www.liifund.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/3-Responding_to_Child_Care_Facilities.pdf.