Types of Available Child Care and Preschool

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Child Care & Preschool Centers

Child care centers are group education and care settings for infants, toddlers, preschool-age (2-5 years), and school-age (5-12 years) children. Most provide services weekdays between around 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., though many preschool programs operate part-day and/or part-week sessions. They are usually located in school or church rooms, community centers, or commercial buildings. They are required to be licensed by California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing, under Title 22 Regulations, though certain programs are license-exempt. Regulations for centers cover staff qualifications and ratios, building and playgrounds, health and safety standards, food services and many other aspects.

Referrals to child care/preschool programs in other communities in San Mateo County can be obtained from the Child Care Coordinating Council: 650-517-1460 (para Espanol 517-1461).

Family Child Care Homes

Family child care homes are operated by individuals who are licensed, by Community Care Licensing, to provide care in their residence (owned or rented). Family child care is licensed as either:

  • Small Family Child Care Home--for up to 6 children (with an additional 2 school-age, under certain conditions), or
  • Large Family Child Care Home—for up to 12 children (with additional 2 school-age), with an assistant present.

The home is inspected for health and safety standards, and all adults living in the home must obtain background and TB clearances. Family child care providers must complete 15 hours of health training, including Pediatric First Aid & CPR. No college education is required, but many family child care providers enroll in Early Childhood Education/Child Development classes and some have college degrees.

Read more about this important option for families!

Contact the Child Care Coordinating Council: 650-517-1460 for referrals to licensed Family Child Care Homes in San Mateo County.

In-Home Care

You may hire someone (babysitter, nanny, au pair) to care for your child in your home. You set the hours, responsibilities, rules and pay. In-home providers can be located through nanny/employment agencies, newspaper ads, local parent magazines, etc. There is no training or licensing of such caregivers, though ‘nanny schools’ exist in some areas. Caregivers should at least receive training in Infant/Child First Aid and CPR, available through many hospitals, Red Cross, etc. It is recommended that, for the safety of your child, you obtain a TrustLine fingerprint clearance for the person, which is a background check through State and FBI criminal records and State Child Abuse Index. Contact the TrustLine Registry for information: 1-800-822-8490 or Information on employers’ responsibilities regarding in-home care providers (taxes, etc.) is available from the Child Care Coordinating Council: 650-517-1460.

Relatives and Other Caregivers

You may hire a relative or other person to provide child care either in their home or yours. These arrangements can be of equal or lower cost, or free. (Note that caregivers providing care to non-relative children from more than one family, other than their own, are required to be licensed.) There are no State requirements for training. The recommendations above regarding TrustLine clearance and First Aid/CPR training apply here. License-exempt caregivers who are paid through public subsidy funds are often required to obtain a TrustLine background clearance.


For more information about child care/early education, see Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Parents.