Types of Child Care
Based on your budget or needs, Children’s Council is here to help you understand your child care options. Click below for details on what you can expect from various child care settings.
Family Child Care Homes
Description: Family Child Care (FCC) programs are licensed by the State of California to provide child care services in the program owner’s home. Each FCC program’s policies and curriculum/activities (play based and/or structured) are determined by the individual program owner. They reflect the wonderful diversity of San Francisco’s many cultures and communities.
Teacher training, education and qualifications: These programs must meet health and safety standards set by the state. Although not required by state licensing, many FCC educators have child development degrees and/or participate in ongoing professional development.
Availability: Privately funded and subsidized programs serve infants, preschoolers and school-age children. Some FCC’s have wait lists.
Schedule: Hours and days of operation vary, with some programs offering evening and weekend hours.
Capacity: State licenses are issued for small (6 or 8 children) and large (12 or 14 children) capacities. Most FCC programs provide child care services for mixed-age groups which may include a combination of infants, toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children.
- Family child care providers licensed for 6 children total can have no more than 3 children under 2 years of age
- Family child care providers licensed for 8 children total can have no more than 2 children under 2 years; 2 children must be 6 years or older
- Family child care providers licensed for 12 children total must have an additional caregiver present, and must have no more than 4 children under 2 years
- Family child care providers licensed for 14 children total must have no more than 3 children under 2 years; 2 children must be 6 years or older
Many San Francisco FCC programs participate in quality improvement projects such as the California Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) to ensure high quality programming for young children.
Child Care Centers
Description: These programs are commonly called “preschool.” They often emphasize school readiness with a focus on social and self-help skills.
Teacher training, education, and qualifications: 12-24 Early Childhood Education (ECE) units required for directors and lead teachers. Completion of 15-hour CPR, first aid and health and safety training required of at least one teacher on site. Fingerprint and TB test clearance is required for all teachers.
Availability: Privately funded and subsidized programs serve infants, preschoolers and school-age children. Only a small number of centers in San Francisco accept children less than two years of age. Infant and subsidized child care usually have a wait list.
Schedule: Each program usually has fixed hours of operation with rare flexibility, for example Monday to Friday 7am – 6pm. Most do not accommodate temporary, drop-in, evening or weekend care.
Capacity: Total number of children is based upon physical size of the facility; 35 square-feet of usable indoor space per child is required.
Ratios: Privately funded programs have a maximum teacher-to-infant ratio of 1:4 and teacher-to-preschooler ratio of 1:12. Subsidized programs have a maximum teacher-to-infant ratio of 1:3 and teacher-to-preschooler ratio of 1:8.
Some parents may find that their needs are best met by a nanny or babysitter, or by other alternative child care means in their own homes. See below for a description of these arrangements, as well as recommendations for screening in-home care providers.
Please note that Children’s Council only provides referrals to licensed child care providers. We do not provide referrals to nannies, babysitters, share-care arrangements or playgroups at this time.
If you plan to hire an in-home caregiver, you can request a TrustLine application to begin screening candidates. TrustLine is a background check that runs fingerprints through the California Child Abuse Index and California Criminal History System.
Description: Also called nannies, babysitters or au pairs, these individuals are legally license-exempt child care providers who work in the child’s home. Provider may live in or out of the home.
Provider Training and Education: No formal training, education or CPR/first aid certification is required of individuals hired privately, although you may choose to include these among the desired qualifications of your caregiver. Providers placed through agencies may be required to have CPR/first aid certification, nanny training, an early childhood background, and/or previous child care experience. Some agencies provide training and courses in conjunction with local community colleges. Agencies and parents can also pay to check the TrustLine registry.
Availability: Locate caregivers through agencies, online ads, parenting resource centers, local colleges and personal networking. Higher fees may be charged for additional services such as transportation, cooking and housekeeping. Employers must pay taxes and obtain employment eligibility documentation (I-9 form). You are more likely to secure and retain a quality in-home caregiver by offering health benefits and vacation.
Schedule: Varies depending upon needs of the family and availability of provider. In-home caregivers can often accommodate non-traditional evening and weekend hours.
Capacity: Typically child(ren) of one family only, unless sharing care (see below).
Ratio: Low caregiver-to child ratio. Small group (usually 1–3 children) with one caregiver.
Share care is a non‐traditional child care arrangement in which multiple families share the services of one in‐home provider. Sharing care is a legally license‐exempt form of child care. In‐home caregivers and the parents who hire them are not required to be licensed. This type of child care is especially attractive to parents with infants or parents who want the group size limited to two or three children.
Because multiple families are sharing costs, this type of job often offers better wages and working conditions to an in‐home caregiver. The resulting job stability benefits everyone—the caregiver, the parents, and the children involved. For more information, please see our Share Care handout.
An au pair is a domestic assistant from a foreign country working for, and living as part of, a host family. Au pairs typically take on a share of the family’s child care as well as some housework, and receive a small monetary allowance for personal use.
We suggest that you begin the au pair placement process approximately 6-12 months in advance. Matching and placement involves an application that may include a family essay, interview and/or a home visit. In addition to a weekly stipend, au pair program costs also include a yearly educational stipend and the cost of U.S. domestic travel to the host family’s community. A standard placement lasts one year. For more information, see In Home and Au Pair Agencies
Parent‐created child care is an option to consider when traditional choices don’t work for your family. The advantage of parent‐created care is that the parents involved can determine what works best for them. To learn more, please see our Alternative Child Care handout.
The locations, hours and other details of parent‐created care can vary according to the desires of the parents involved. Care may take place on a regular schedule or on an as‐needed basis. No matter what model of child care you choose, it is important that you feel confident that you are placing your child in a safe and healthy environment.