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Licensing vs. Accreditation (I)

Dear Debi,
What’s the difference between being “licensed” and “exempt,” and what are the pros and cons of both? I've also heard you can be “accredited.” Can you explain them all to me?
Nancy, Downey, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • A license is required if you take care of children from more than 1 family, besides your own
  • Licensing focuses on minimum health & safety requirements
  • Accreditation is voluntary
Expert Advice
Paulette Brown
Paulette Brown
CA Dept. of Social Services
Being a licensed child care provider means that you’re providing care for children from one or more families that are not related to you by blood or marriage. Licensing is a registration with the state that shows you are doing family child care in your home. It requires that a child care provider meets the minimum requirements to take care of children in the home. Those requirements include that the provider has cleared a TB test, taken 15 hours of health and safety training, passed a CPR course, and has cleared the fingerprinting process and the child abuse index.

When a child care provider is “exempt” that means they’re providing care or supervision for a family member. They probably have been given custody by the court. The state doesn’t grant exemptions or regulate exempt providers.

An exempt provider usually wants to become licensed because there are some agencies, such as GAIN or the R&Rs that will provide payments to a licensed provider.

There are additional benefits to obtaining a license. It lets parents know, this person has met all the requirements by the state to run this type of business. Plus, there are financial benefits. If you get licensed, you can qualify for many programs, including subsidized care. In fact, the government will pay a higher rate for child care providers who are licensed than those who are exempt. You can also get involved and qualify for food subsidy programs for your child care.

The first step to becoming licensed is to contact Community Care Licensing and attend an orientation. With your application, you submit your paper work for fingerprinting clearance. Not only the applicant, but any adult 18 years or older who resides in the home must be fingerprinted. Also, anyone who resides in the home who’s over 18, must provide proof of a TB test.

After the application is submitted, an in-home inspection is scheduled. The scheduled visit makes sure the home meets health and safety requirements. From the time you submit an application, to receiving your actual license usually takes about 45 days.

There is a fee associated with becoming licensed. The licensing fee for a small family home providing care for up to 8 children is $60 dollars. The licensing fee for a large family home providing care for up to 14 children is $115 dollars. There also is a $25 orientation fee.

Child care providers can be fined for not meeting certain standards. There’s a $200 dollar per day fee for providers who aren't licensed and there is a $100 fee for those who are not finger-printed. In fact, I just had to revoke a license for a family that had 26 kids. I’ve seen as many as 42 in a home. That’s a sign that they’re greedy and not concerned about the welfare of the children.

Accreditation is completely voluntary. The standards for accreditation exceed the minimum requirements for licensing. In order to be accredited, you must go through a self-study program at your own pace. Then you receive a home visit from an analyst. While the state governs licensing, the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) oversees the accreditation process in California.
Child Care provider Comments
Family child care provider for 2 years
To become licensed, I first attended an orientation, and then I got a packet and started the application process. Next, I prepared my house for inspection and had a visit from an inspector. I passed on my first try! Ultimately, I’m working toward becoming accredited. I want that stamp of approval from the NAFCC that I’ve surpassed standards for quality child care.
Sonnia Corzo
Sonnia Corzo
Child care provider for 6 years, mother of four
I wanted to become licensed for the benefits, such as attending classes, belonging to a food program, and providing children with the best possible care. Now that I have my license, I am thinking about becoming accredited. I want to be able to give the best service possible to the children. I want to be recognized not just by the organization, but by families that can see that I offer the best care in a safe environment.
Clarissa August
Clarissa August
Family child care provider for 21 years
I’ve worked in the child care field most of my life. I am considering getting my family child care license. In fact, my daughter and I have recently been talking about opening up a family child care business together.

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The National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC)
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California Department of Social Services – Title 22 Regulations pdf
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