Opening a Child Care Center

Are you interested in opening a licensed child care center? Licensed center-based care is offered in a facility other than a home (typically a commercial building), has capacity to care for more than 14 children, and complies with specific requirements for safety, staffing and other elements.

Other terms frequently used for "child care center" include: preschool, nursery school, parent co-operative and infant/toddler center. All child care centers and family child care homes must be licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division (CCL). Licensing is intended to assure minimal standards of health and safety protection for children. CCL is the regulatory agency that oversees the implementation of State Law related to child care, Title 22.

Child care center programs are typically divided into:

  • Infant Program (birth to 24 months): Provides care for up to four infants with one teacher, or up to 12 infants with one fully qualified teacher and two aides.
  • Toddler Option (18-30 months): Provides care for up to six toddlers with one teacher, or up to 12 toddlers with one teacher and one aide.
  • Preschool Program (2 years to entry into first grade):Provides care for up to 12 children with one teacher, or up to 18 children with one teacher and one aide.
  • School Age Program (4 years, 9 months and older): Provides care for up to 14 children with one teacher, or 28 children with one teacher and one aide.
  • Mildly III Program

Please note: Separate licenses are required by the state for serving different age groups.

Steps to Opening a Child Care Center

  • Create a business plan.
    • Describe business mission, philosophy results of market analysis, marketing plan, managment and operations plan, and five-year cash flow statement (budget).
  • Attend a mandatory Community Care Licensing (CCL) orientation to become familiar with licensing regulations and requirements. Both applicant and center director should attend. Participants have one year from attending an orientation to prepare and submit an application to Community Care Licensing.
    • View current CCL orientation schedules here
    • View the Child Care Center's Self-Assessment Guide here. The Self-Assessment Guide is a user-friendly tool to assist child care center providers in performing periodic reviews on their facility operations to achieve compliance with licensing regulations. 
  • ​Create a development budget including the entire costs associated with project, and secure funding if necessary.
  • Assemble a site development team. This includes, but is not limited to, a/an: architect, construction manager, project manager, and attorney.
    • Obtain and secure a detailed scope of work, plans and cost estimates for renovation or new construction from a variety of licensed, insured/bonded contractors.
    • Architectural drawings will be required with submission of City of Irvine Conditional Use Permit application.
  • Select an appropriate site for your program (purchased or leased).
    • Keep CCL facility requirements in mind when investigating and selecting a site. View a brief summary of basic licensing requirements for a child care center or preschool here. This is a brief summary only; you are responsible for meeting all requirements outlined in Title 22.
    • The City of Irvine has Child Care Center Standards in addition to CCL requirements. View these standards here (click "Zoning Ordinance," select "Division 3-10").
    • Within the City of Irvine, child care is allowed as a "Conditionally Permitted Use" in most areas of the City. Once you have identified a potential site for your program, contact City of Irvine Community Development Zoning and Planning at 949-724-6308 to ensure the site you've selected is located in a planning zone that allows child care. Be prepared to provide the address of your proposed site.
  • **Prepare and submit a Conditional Use Permit application through the City of Irvine Community Development Department.
    • Read more about the Conditional Use Permit application process here.
    • View a Conditional Use Permit application here. (For viewing issues, please download the application to your desktop and open the file from there.)
    • View a current fee schedule for the Conditional Use Permit application here.
  • Complete and submit “Application for a Child Care Center License” (form LIC200A) and all other required documentation to: California Department of Social Services Community Care Licensing Division, Orange County Child Care Regional Office, 750 The City Drive, Suite 250, Orange, CA 92868. 714-703-2800.
    • Please note No. 11 on the LIC200A form: “If providing care to non-ambulatory children, check here/number of non-ambulatory ________.”
    • “Non-ambulatory” as it relates to child care means children who have a physical disability that affects their ability to walk independently, regardless of age.
    • Accordingly, for fire clearance purposes, all children (including infants) are considered ambulatory unless they are diagnosed with physical disabilities.
    • In order to serve a non-ambulatory child (e.g., a child in a wheelchair) at any time, you must check the box on item No. 11 (form LIC200A) and must indicate the maximum number of non-ambulatory children you would like to be able to serve at one time, taking into consideration staff-to-child ratios and safety during an emergency exit/evacuation.
    • The number of non-ambulatory children will not decrease your overall licensed capacity and will not require you have enrolled the licensed number of non-ambulatory children at all times. Sample license: “Total capacity: 64, includes up to two non-ambulatory children.” This means the licensee is licensed for up to 64 children and no more than two of them can be non-ambulatory.
    • If you do not check No. 11 and do not indicate the maximum number of non-ambulatory children you wish to serve, you will not legally be allowed to serve non-ambulatory children. This includes a child already enrolled in your program who becomes non-ambulatory due to illness, surgery or an accident, even if the non-ambulatory status is temporary (i.e., during recovery from surgery).
  • **Apply for a business license through Irvine Police Department. Visit the Irvine Police Department website for more information.
  • Prepare and open for business.
    • Utilize a marketing plan, hold an open house, and register children.

**Please note: These steps are required by the City of Irvine.

Technical assistance is available through the Irvine Child Care Coordination Office. Please call 949-724-6632 to request additional information or a meeting to discuss your project.