How to Open a Daycare in San Francisco

by Kristen Hamlin; Updated September 26, 2017
All childcare facilities in San Francisco must be licensed and follow state regulations.

In San Francisco, there are two types of daycare facilities: childcare centers, which generally serve more than 15 children at a time and are located in commercial buildings; and family childcare homes, in which smaller numbers of children are cared for in a home-like setting. No matter which type of daycare you wish to provide, San Francisco and the state of California have specific guidelines and regulations for operating daycare facilities. To ensure the safety and well-being of children, all daycare providers must be licensed and trained.

Items you will need

  • Zoning approval for your location
  • Copy of California childcare laws and regulations
  • Proof of TB test
  • Physician statement
  • License application packets
Step 1

Check with the Zoning Center in the San Francisco City Planning Information Center to confirm that you can operate a daycare in your chosen location. You will need to provide information about the square footage of your space, the layout, the traffic considerations, parking, and expected utilities usage. Depending on the zoning consideration, you may be required to get a permit to operate your daycare in that location.

Step 2

Attend an orientation. Orientations are offered monthly by the Peninsula Regional Child Care Office in San Bruno, and in 2010, the registration fee is $25 for a family childcare center in your home or $50 for a childcare center in a commercial location. You can register by visiting or calling the Child Care Office.

Step 3

Familiarize yourself with California childcare licensing laws and regulations. You must print your own copy of the laws and regulations, as they are not available from the department of Social Services. Knowing the laws and regulations will help you throughout the licensing process, and will help you set up your daycare in compliance with California law.

Step 4

Visit your doctor. You must submit proof of a tuberculosis test and a physician’s statement certifying that you are physically able to care for children.

Step 5

Design your childcare facility according to California state guidelines. Purchase necessary equipment and safety gear. Make a sketch of the floor plan and a list of all of the furniture and play equipment. Develop sample menus for meal times, sample daily schedules and create a parent handbook that includes policies regarding admissions.

Step 6

Complete first-aid and CPR training, if you have not already done so. You may submit your application before you have completed the training, but you must provide proof of enrollment in a course. The training must be completed before your license is issued.

Step 7

Complete and submit the application packet. If you are operating a commercial daycare center, in addition to basic forms about the operators and location of the daycare center, you need to submit additional information, including financial information, details about the staff and training, sample menus and daily schedules, and other information about the operation of your daycare center. You must also authorize criminal background checks for yourself and any employees, or other adults living in the home, for family childcare homes.

Step 8

Pass an inspection. A representative from the childcare office will contact you to schedule an inspection. Upon passing the inspection, you will be granted a license to operate your childcare facility.

About the Author

Kristen Hamlin began writing professionally in 1998 and is the author of "Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College" (Capital Books). Her work has appeared in publications such as "Young Money," "Scrapbooks, Etc.," and "Creating Keepsakes." She holds a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing.

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