What are the laws and regulations for home child care in California?

An infant boy is dead after being accidentally strangled by a car seat seatbelt while sleeping in a walk-in closet at a babysitter's home, according to law enforcement officials.

Police in Fort Worth, Texas say the bottom strap of the car seat was not properly connected and the nine-month-old slid down the car seat, was caught in the chest buckle that was fastened and suffocated. Police say the babysitter left the baby to sleep in the closet of the master bedroom and discovered him dead two hours later. 

There were 10 or 11 children inside the babysitter's home when the little boy died and the location was not licensed for child care operation. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed the infant's death as accidental but the case is still being investigated by CPS and Child Care Licensing. The babysitter is currently not facing any charges.

Although the tragic accident happened in Texas, it's still sparking questions and comments on ABC10's Facebook page.

What are the requirements for running an at-home child care facility?

In the U.S., child care regulations vary from state to state. In California, a home child care business must be licensed through the Child Care Licensing Program to operate legally.

A person wanting to open a child care business in their home would have to apply for a license and attend orientations. Their homes would have to meet state regulations and be inspected for safety features, such as ensuring pools and outdoor play-areas are fenced off and making sure the home is free from fire or poisoning hazards.

Additionally, there are strict laws on who can operate at-home child care businesses. The person applying for the license must be at least 18-years-old and must pass a criminal background check as well as be cleared of any history of child or sex abuse. All adults living in the home would also have to submit fingerprints and pass criminal background checks.

Licensees would also have to go through preventative health training which may include sanitary food handling, child nutrition, emergency preparedness, how to spot signs of child abuse and more. 

Operating a home child care facility without a license is illegal and can result in a fine of $200 for every day a child care business operates unlicensed.

If there are cooperative agreements between parents providing child care where no payments are made, there is no requirement for a license. A license also isn't necessary if a child care program is once a week for no more than four hours. Relatives of children also don't need to apply for a license.

How many children are allowed at a home child care?

There are two types of home child care recognized in California- a "Small Family Child Care Home" and a "Large Family Child Care Home".

For a small family child care business, the maximum number of children allowed at one time, including children under 10-years-old living in the home, is:

a) four infants or,

b) six children, no more than three of who are infants or,

c) Between six to eight children are allowed without an additional adult present ONLY IF at least one child is enrolled in and attending kindergarten or elementary school and a second child is at least six years of age AND no more than two infants are cared for during any time when more than six children are cared for.

The licensee must notify each parent that the facility is caring for two additional school-age children and that there may be up to seven or eight children in the home at one time.

For a large family child care business, an assistant child care provider is required and the maximum number of children allowed at one time, including children under 10-years-old living in the home is:

a) 12 children, no more than four of who are infants; or

b) Between 12 and and 14 children ONLY IF at least one child is enrolled in and attending kindergarten or elementary school and a second child is at least six years of age AND no more than three infants are cared for during any time when more than 12 children are cared for.

The licensee must notify each parent that the facility is caring for two additional school-age children and that there may be up to 13 or 14 children in the home at one time.

If no assistant is available for the large family child care facility than the business must comply with the requirements for the small family child care. 

If you'd like more information on policies and procedures for Family Child Care Homes in California click HERE.

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