Parents and Families
Understanding Licensed Care and License-Exempt Care
Produced by the Community Care Licensing Division of the California Department of Social Services
[The series host speaks in a preschool classroom.]
California’s childcare regulations are intended to promote children’s health and safety in licensed childcare facilities. However, families and providers should understand that state regulations exempt certain types of providers from licensure, meaning they can operate legally without a license. So let’s look at the differences between licensed childcare facilities and license-exempt childcare.
[Two licensing representatives speak.]
Community Care Licensing Representative 1:
Families have a range of childcare options available to them.
Community Care Licensing Representative 2:
As consumers of these services, it’s important for families to know which individuals and facilities are governed by licensing regulations and which are exempt from licensure.
CCL Rep 1:
At the same time, families should be aware that some individuals provide care without a license or exemption, which means they are operating illegally. Not only will they be shut down if Community Care Licensing learns about them, but more importantly for you, it’s unlikely that they are following state health and safety regulations we’ve developed to protect children in care.
CCL Rep 2:
If you have questions about whether or not a provider is licensed to offer childcare, you can contact your local Community Care Licensing office and request this information.
[The host speaks, and the questions she asks are displayed on a white board.]
What is the difference between licensed childcare and license-exempt care?
Licensed providers have undergone an application and review process with Community Care Licensing and are required to comply with certain health and safety regulations. License-exempt care is not regulated by Community Care Licensing, although there may be other governmental agencies that monitor their activities.
Four main groups of childcare providers are exempt by the state from obtaining a childcare license.
[The host speaks as the corresponding content is displayed onscreen.]
- The first group includes individuals who care for the children of a relative, or who care for the children of one other family in addition to their own children. Certain parent cooperatives, in which families rotate care on an unpaid basis are also exempt.
- The second group includes public as well as private non-profit programs that offer recreational services. These programs include some community centers as well as most parks and recreation programs.
- The third group includes businesses that offer limited childcare to their clients and customers. These programs usually require that the parent or guardian remain on the premises and that they remove their children within a specified amount of time.
- A fourth group includes programs that are overseen by state agencies other than Community Care Licensing. For example, organized camps that are overseen by the Department of Public Health and heritage schools that are overseen by the Department of Education.
What do families need to know about license-exempt care?
License-exempt providers do not apply to Community Care Licensing to be declared exempt and do not receive any documentation to that effect. Although not required, license-exempt providers can join TrustLine, California’s registry of in-home and license-exempt providers who have passed a background check.
[The website briefly appears.]
Caregivers who are registered with TrustLine have been cleared through a fingerprint check of records at the California Department of Justice and the FBI.
When an individual or program is offering license-exempt care, it doesn’t mean that the care provided to children is inferior or inadequate compared to licensed care. But it does mean that families will probably benefit from knowing more before choosing a license-exempt provider. Because there is no official designation of exemption, nothing on the wall that documents it in the way a license on the wall documents having a license, families must take extra steps to determine if the provider is offering care legally. Ask the provider if he or she is licensed or license-exempt, and check the Community Care Licensing website to see if the facility is in the state’s database. You can also, for more information, call either the local Licensing office or statewide, 1-844-LET-US-NO, that’s 1-844-538-8766.
How does Licensing deal with childcare providers who operate illegally–that is, they operate without a license and are not legally exempt from licensure?
Licensing can only respond if they are alerted to an unlicensed and non-exempt childcare operation. When alerted, Licensing will take legal action against the facility if the person operating it does not take steps to obtain a license. Civil penalties may also apply.
Let’s review some key points about licensed childcare and license-exempt care.
- Licensing is an important component of California’s childcare system.
- Facilities that wish to provide licensed care must apply to Community Care Licensing and must meet minimum health and safety regulations.
- License-exempt care is permissible under certain circumstances, such as caring for a child that is a relative, providers caring for the children of only one other family, public and non-profit programs designed to provide recreation on a part-time basis, and commercial businesses that offer limited childcare to their customers.
Families are in a better position to choose appropriate childcare when they understand the different kinds of childcare available and whether or not the provider is required by law to maintain minimum health and safety standards.
State of California