How to Start a Daycare in California

how to start a childcare business california

Opening a daycare center can be a rewarding, profitable career choice. Done right, you can help a lot of families in your area while experiencing the joys of nurturing children. In the state of California, it’s not always easy to open a business — there’s a lot of paperwork, applications, and licensing requirements to complete first.

Let’s be honest: As one of the top 10 most expensive states for childcare, there’s a lot of complexity surrounding the California childcare system. Whether it be parents trying to find affordable childcare or schools striving to pay teachers more, California education is not all sunshine and beach waves.

This, however, doesn’t mean that opening a daycare business in California is a burden. In fact, we need more qualified childcare providers to step up and fill this important role. If you want to open a daycare and make a living you can be proud of, keep reading. Here’s how to start a daycare business in California. 

Know the Childcare Licensing Requirements in California

One of the most important things you need to do correctly when working in childcare is to get licensed. Legally, you must obtain a childcare license if you plan to offer childcare services to more than one family. It’s against state law to operate a childcare business without one.

If you want to nanny for several families at a time or open a small home daycare in your area, you’re obligated to complete the California Childcare Licensing Program. It’s necessary to abide by California’s state laws surrounding childcare, health and safety standards, and business expectations. 

There are two types of childcare licenses for daycare centers in CA:

  1. Family Childcare Home License for a smaller daycare that you operate in your home. This business model is called a family childcare home (FCH).
  2. Childcare Center License for actual childcare centers (CCCs) that are held at a facility, organization, or commercial building. 

Depending on what type of daycare you plan to start, prepare to get licensed before opening your doors. There are specific requirements and laws to follow for obtaining a license for either a FCH or CCC business.

Apply for a California Childcare License 

You know that you need a childcare license to start a daycare business, but how do you actually get one? Here’s the step-by-step process you can expect. 

1. Take the Orientation

Attend a CA childcare licensing orientation either in-person or online. Remember to select which type of license you’re pursuing (FCH or CCC), as the orientation processes differ. Here, you will learn the requirements of starting a daycare business. You’ll also learn more about the next steps. There is a small, non-refundable fee to receive an orientation. 

2. Study California Childcare Laws and Regulations

After your orientation, you need to study the licensing laws for your type of daycare. This way, you can know the important health codes, safety procedures, and legal responsibilities to uphold in your business. 

3. Complete All Licensing Fees and Forms 

Once you know the laws and requirements for your daycare, it’s time to apply for licensure. Both FCH and CCC childcare applications require you to complete and submit several forms. You’re also required to pay a few application fees that vary in price. As part of your application, you’ll sign an agreement to pay annual fees to renew your license. 

For a detailed list of California childcare license forms, visit the state Department of Social Services page for childcare licensing.

4. Prepare for a Daycare Inspection

If you apply to open a family childcare home (FCH), you’ll need to accept a licensing inspection from a state program analyst. This inspection makes sure that your home is safe, clean, and suitable for children. 

5. Anticipate License Approval

The last and hardest step in the California licensing process is to wait for approval. Someone from the licensing program will deliver your status within 60 to 90 days. 

Have a Daycare Business Plan

In addition to licensure, a childcare business plan is integral to your success as a provider. A business plan covers everything you’ll need to open and operate your daycare center, from finances and learning objectives to marketing and customer management. 

A daycare business plan includes things like: 

  • Financial planning
  • Scheduling
  • Pricing and tuition 
  • Hiring staff
  • Marketing 
  • Curriculum 
  • Education software 

Every daycare is unique, so your business plan might look different. To learn what to include in your business plan, read this free guide: How to Write a Childcare Business Plan

Include California Learning Frameworks in Your Curriculum

Planning involves writing a daycare curriculum for your students. In California, you need to include the state learning frameworks for early childhood education (ECE). 

California’s Learning & Development Foundations cover which skills and knowledge students are expected to achieve. Depending on which age group(s) of students attend your daycare, you’ll likely focus on foundations for toddlers and foundations for preschool

Read through these learning frameworks carefully when developing your curriculum. Part of being a successful daycare provider is making sure you support the learning and development of children in your care. If you help kids aim for age-appropriate learning outcomes, the families you serve will be grateful. They may also support you by recommending your daycare to others.

Set Yourself Up for Success With Daycare Policies & Procedures

Completing the licensing requirements, having a business plan, and finalizing your learning frameworks might seem like a lot, but you’re just getting started! The real work is all in how well you comply with the rules and regulations. Your license requires you to follow these rules every day in order to maintain a safe learning environment. 

To set your customers and yourself up for success, implement thoughtful daycare policies and procedures. These help you, your staff, and your students understand the necessary actions to take at your daycare. 

Download Daily Connect: Software for California Daycare Centers

Hundreds of California childcare centers trust Daily Connect to support every aspect of their business. As a California-based childcare management software, it’s one of the most helpful tools to adopt when opening a daycare. 

From parent-teacher communication to documentation storage, the features from Daily Connect save you time and money every day. Features include:

  • Parent Billing
  • Childcare Center Management
  • Child Attendance
  • Learning Assessment Records
  • Parent and Staff Communication
  • Daycare Management 
  • Daycare Lesson Plans
  • And more

To get a free trial of the full Daily Connect app, click here to get started. 

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