New fire guidance that clarifies the rules for family child care homes was released by the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) on March 19, 2021. Fire regulations for family child care homes unlawfully vary throughout the state. The law requires all fire regulations for family child care homes to comply with the state law and to be applied the same in each city and county. Local fire departments cannot create their own rules that do not comply with state law.
Here are some highlights from the OSFM – Guidance for Family Day Care Homes:
- Licensed family child care homes, regardless of capacity, are allowed in all residential neighborhoods and in single-family homes, apartments, condos, townhomes, duplexes, and all other multi-family buildings.
- The fire inspection process cannot require that family child care homes obtain a zoning permit or business license, because such requirements are prohibited by state law.
- City and county ordinances (local laws) for fire & life safety do not apply to family child care homes unless they apply to all dwellings of the same occupancy group.
- In order to use a garage as part of the family child care home, it must be converted into a habitable space with an approved building permit.
- Small family child care homes cannot be required to obtain a fire clearance. The Community Care Licensing Division under the CA Department of Social Services (“Child Care Licensing”) determines whether small family child care homes meet the fire requirements.
- Large family child care homes are required to obtain a fire clearance inspection (STD 850), but fire departments cannot charge for this inspection. Fire departments can charge for pre-inspections, which are optional.
- Annual fire inspections are not required for most large family child care homes. The only instance would be if a local law requires an annual fire inspection for all homes of the same type.
This Guidance for Family Child Care Homes from the State Fire Marshal will serve as a valuable resource for providers to know what to expect from the fire clearance inspection, and how to avoid paying extra fees to their city, county, and local fire departments. Family child care is a vital community asset, close to home, and provides a nurturing environment that parents want for their kids. When providers have the tools they need to care for children, it benefits everyone. Thanks to the collaborative work of the Child Care Law Center and family child care providers to get SB 234 passed, we now have uniform rules that must be equitably applied statewide and all children can be safer.
Why The Child Care Law Center Got Involved:
California has a child care shortage — especially after the pandemic, which caused many providers to close their doors. A key requirement to get a license for a large family child care home is to pass a fire inspection, which has been historically very difficult and unnecessarily expensive. Fire inspection barriers for providers have exacerbated the shortage. We urged the State Fire Marshal to issue the guidelines that would make requirements in all cities uniform. Now, thanks to our work with the State Fire Marshal, family child care providers have fewer barriers to opening and operating their family child care homes, and more families will have affordable, enriching child care close to home.
For more information, and to read the full guidance from the California State Fire Marshal, click here. For questions or concerns, please contact our Community Advocate, Toni Robertson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.