Child Care Slots in Licensed Facilities, by Facility Type

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Learn More About Early Care and Education

Measures of Early Care and Education on
On, indicators of early childhood care and education include: also provides the following measures of licensed child care in California:*
*The California Child Care Resource and Referral Network tracks licensed facilities (child care centers and family child care homes) providing care for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and/or school-age children during all or part of the day. Data are available only for licensed facilities. Many families use license-exempt care, such as child care provided by relatives or friends.
Early Care and Education
Family Income and Poverty
Impact of Special Health Care Needs on Children & Families
Why This Topic Is Important
Child care is a critically important need for many families in the United States (1). High-quality child care centers and homes deliver consistent, developmentally sound, and emotionally supportive care and education (1, 2). Research indicates that high-quality early care and education can have long-lasting positive effects; specifically, high-quality child care before age 5 is related to higher levels of behavioral/emotional functioning, school readiness, academic achievement, educational attainment, and earnings, with improvements particularly pronounced for children from low-income families and those at risk for academic failure (1, 2, 3).

However, finding affordable, high-quality child care is a major challenge for many families, and access differs based on geography, race/ethnicity, and income (3). In 2017, licensed child care was available for an estimated 23% of California children ages 0-12 with working parents (4). And the cost is high. For example, center-based infant care costs in California made up an estimated 19% of the median annual income for married couples and 60% for single parents in 2017 (1). In 2017, California was ranked the least affordable state for center-based infant care in the nation (1).
For more information about early care and education, see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Child Care Aware of America. (2018). The U.S. and the high cost of child care: A review of prices and proposed solutions for a broken system. Retrieved from:

2.  MacGillvary, J., & Lucia, L. (2011). Economic impacts of early care and education in California. UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. Retrieved from:

3.  U.S. Department of Education. (2015). A matter of equity: Preschool in America. Retrieved from:

4.  As cited on, Availability of child care for working families. (2019). California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.
How Children Are Faring
In 2016, an estimated 39% of California children ages 3-5 were not enrolled in preschool or kindergarten, similar to estimates from previous years. Over 43% of Hispanic/Latino 3- to 5-year olds were not enrolled in preschool of kindergarten, compared with less than 33% of their Asian American, white, and multiracial peers. Among counties with data in 2012-2016, the percentage of children in this age group not enrolled in preschool or kindergarten ranged from 22% (San Francisco) to 53% (Madera).

California's 38,394 licensed child care centers and family child care homes provided 992,425 child care slots in 2017. Overall, the number of licensed facilities and slots have been on the decline since 2008. Statewide, licensed child care slots were available for an estimated 23% of California children ages 0-12 with working parents in 2017; in some counties, however, availability was as low as 11%.

The average annual cost of licensed infant care was nearly $16,500 in child care centers and more than $10,500 in family child care homes in 2016. Care for preschool-age children was less expensive, but still more than $11,000 in child care centers and almost $10,000 in family child care homes.
Policy Implications
Early childhood is a critical period for biological, cognitive, and social development (1, 2). The quality of children’s environments and experiences during these years have lasting effects (1, 2). From infancy, children learn to relate to others and their environment while developing skills to successfully navigate social, emotional, and educational challenges (2, 3). Research has shown that quality early education and child care can have positive, long-term impacts on child development, especially for children with low family incomes or other disadvantages (1, 2, 3). For example, children who attend high-quality preschools tend to have better test scores, fewer behavioral problems, and higher rates of high school graduation, among other long-term benefits (1, 2). Without access to high-quality early learning opportunities, children can fall behind their peers, creating an academic achievement gap that has been shown to widen with age (1, 2). However, many families have difficulty accessing quality early care and education, often due to a lack of program affordability or availability (1).

Policies that could improve early education and child care include:
  • Increasing state funding for early care and education, tying funding to program quality and prioritizing care for infants/toddlers and children with the greatest needs (1)
  • Requiring early education programs that receive public funding to participate in a continuous improvement process that includes benchmarked quality ratings, action plans for improvement, accountability measures, financial incentives, program support, and parent education efforts (1, 4)
  • Creating adequate capacity for high-quality care and comprehensive learning programs for infants and toddlers, including full-day preschool for all low-income children ages 3-4, and integrating guidelines for easing the transitions from early care to preschool to the K-12 environment (1, 2, 5)
  • Improving the state’s professional development infrastructure to prepare and support an effective early childhood education workforce that includes accessible, coordinated, standardized, high-quality training for educators and caregivers that is research-based and focused on applying knowledge to practice (1, 2, 3)
  • Making the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit fully refundable at the state level, targeting low and moderate income earners, regardless of tax liability, and encouraging other federal solutions to address the high cost of child care (6)
For more policy ideas related to early care and education, visit the California Department of Education's State Advisory Council on Early Learning and Care and the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network. Also see Policy Implications under Family Income and Poverty on

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Governor's State Advisory Council on Early Learning and Care. (2013). California comprehensive early learning plan. California Department of Education. Retrieved from:

2.  Tout, K., et al. (2013). The research base for a birth through age eight state policy framework. Alliance for Early Success & Child Trends. Retrieved from:

3.  Allen, L., & Kelly, B. B. (Eds.). (2015). Transforming the workforce for children birth through age 8: A unifying foundation. Institute of Medicine and National Research Council of The National Academies. Retrieved from:

4.  National Center on Child Care Quality Improvement. (2012). QRIS in statute and regulations. Retrieved from:

5.  Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2013). The first eight years: Giving kids a foundation for lifetime success . Retrieved from:

6.  National Women's Law Center. (2015). 2015 supplement to "Making care less taxing: Improving state child and dependent care tax provisions." Retrieved from:
Websites with Related Information
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