How to Start a Child Care or Preschool Program in Redwood City

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Child care and preschools are important services in our community. If you would like to provide such services, here's how to get started.

Step One

  1. Decide whether you want to start a Family Child Care Home or Child Care Center (includes preschools, infant centers, and after-school centers).


    Child are Provider

    Family Child Care Homes

    Family child care is provided in the caregiver's residence. Anyone providing regular care for children from more than one family other than their own must be State licensed. Care of children related to the provider by blood or marriage and shared babysitting where no money is exchanged are exempt.

    • A small family child care home is licensed for up to six children, including those under 10 years of age who reside in the home; two additional school-age children, may be enrolled, if other specified conditions are met.
    • A large family child care home is licensed for up to 12 children, including the provider's children, and requires an assistant over 14 years of age. Two additional school-age children may be enrolled if other specified conditions are met. A provider must have operated a small family child care home for one year, or have qualifying experience, to apply.

Child Care Centers

A child care center is any facility other than a family child care home, and includes infant centers, preschools and extended day (school-age care) programs. All are required to be State licensed, except some public agency and private school programs, drop-in programs, and summer camps.

It is very difficult to find appropriate, affordable facilities to house these programs in Redwood City. "Finding Sites for Child Care Centers" provides some guidance.

Step Two

  1. Attend an Orientation Meeting held by California Community Care Licensing (CCL) to get the application and learn about State regulations. Meetings are held at CCL Peninsula District office, 851 Traegar Ave., Suite 360, San Bruno 94066. Bring a photo I.D. with you. You must pre-register! Call 650-266-8843 or see schedule (linked below) for information on how to register:

Orientation meeting schedule for Peninsula office in San Bruno 

Orientations for both Family Child Care Homes and Child Care Centers are now available online as well as in person.

More about State Licensing:
Community Care Licenses ensure that basic health and safety standards are met. For centers, licensing regulates staff qualifications and ratios, physical environment, program policies and other factors.  The Child Care Regulations (Title 22, Division 12) for both Child Care Centers and Family Child Care Homes are available on the website.

A Facility Search feature, with files on all licensed facilities, is available too.

The annual licensing fee is $73 for Small Family Child Care Homes, $140 for Large FCCH, and between $242-1,210 for a Child Care Center, depending on licensed child capacity. (The initial application fee is the same for Family Child Care but double the annual fee for Centers.) There are initial costs for fingerprinting and T.B. tests for all adults in the home or center. It takes at least three months to process your completed Family Child Care application, and longer for Centers.

Other Permits You May Need from Redwood City

(see requirements below for each type of facility)

  • City Fire Clearances/ Permits and Business Licenses
  • Planning (Use) Permits are required for some child care facilities, to be sure that the facility is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. City zoning laws specify where child care facilities may operate.
  • City Building or Architectural Permits are required if you want to structurally change the inside or outside of a home or other building (e.g. garage conversion), construct a new one, or put up signs.

Note: If the proposed facility will be located in an unincorporated area of Redwood City (outside City limits, though may have a Redwood City street address), contact the San Mateo County Planning Department for requirements: 363-4161.

Redwood City Permit requirements for:

Small Family Child Care Homes – Per California law, no permits are required besides Building Permits, sign permits, etc. that apply to all residences.

Large Family Child Care Homes

  • Note: the following requirement will not apply after 1/1/2020 due to AB234(Skinner) legislation: A 'modified' conditional use permit from the Planning Department. Conditions of the permit address neighborhood impacts such as parking and noise. Article 39.3 of the city Zoning Ordinance describes the conditions and process.  See "Use Permit, Large Family Child Care Homes" for more information.
  • State Licensing requires a Fire Clearance from the City Fire Department where the home is located. For information regarding the Fire Clearance Inspection requirements, please see R.C. Fire Department Guidelines for Large Family Day Care Homes.
  • City Business License which costs $68 plus $45 per owner and full-time employee (annual). (Also not applicable after 1/1/2020)

To start, review the conditions for the Large Family Child Care Home Permit before completing a new Licensing application.

Child Care Centers

  • State Licensing requires a Fire Clearance for a new center, an increase in capacity, or re-license (e.g. new ownership). An existing center may request a fire inspection at 780-7400; cost is $44/hr.(min.)
  • Planning (Use) Permit: This usually takes several months, to process the application, notify surrounding property owners and hold a public hearing. The one-time permit fee is $2868. Prior to submitting an application, you should discuss your project with the Planning Division. (See Planning Permit Application Form listed here.)
  • A Fire/Building Permit may be required for new /remodeled centers, change in ownership and increase in capacity. This may also take months depending on the scope of the project or size of the center. To schedule a preliminary review, call 780-7350. You may request that a Planner be present at the appointment.
  • Business License Tax: The annual cost is a $68 base fee plus $45 per owner and full-time employee. Agencies with non-profit status need a license but the tax is waived.

To start (before making any financial commitment):

  1. attend the Licensing orientation meeting, and
  2. talk to City Planning staff about zoning restrictions and other considerations
  3. talk to the City Child Care Coordinator and/or the Child Care Coordinating Council regarding the need for child care and preschool programs in Redwood City, and the feasibility of your project.

Where can I get help?

General Information about Child Care

Redwood City Child Care Coordinator
1400 Roosevelt Avenue
Redwood City, CA 94061-1499
(650) 780-7336 or

Child Care Coordinating Council of San Mateo County, Inc.(4Cs)
330 Twin Dolphin Dr., Suite 119
Redwood City, CA 94065
(650) 517-1400

Information about State Child Care Licenses

Community Care Licensing Division--Child Care Regional Office
California Department of Social Services
851 Traegar Avenue, Suite 360
San Bruno, CA 94066
(650) 266-8843

Information about City Permits

City Hall
1017 Middlefield Road
Redwood City, CA 94063

Planning (Use) Permits: 780-7234
Building Permits: 780-7350
Business Licenses: 780-7214

Fire Inspection/Permits: 780-7400

Information about San Mateo County requirements (for unincorporated areas)

San Mateo County Planning Department: 363-4161