Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

CACFP Administrative Manual Section 1.4

Child and Adult Care Food Program Administrative Manual Section 1.4: Licensing Requirements.
Important Notice: CACFP Program Moved to CDSS

The Early Childhood Development Act of 2020 (Senate Bill (SB) 98, Chapter 24, Statutes of 2020) authorized the transfer of child care and development programs administered by the California Department of Education to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) effective July 1, 2021. The content on this page may not be current and involves the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) that has moved to CDSS. Visit the CDSS CACFP web page External link opens in new window or tab. or call 1-833-559-2420 for more information.

Table of Contents
Terms, Definitions, and Acronyms

Section 1: Program Eligibility

1.4 Licensing Requirements

Child Care (CC) Centers

A CC center must be licensed in the following manner:

  • Either have a current license to operate a CC center from the California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division (CDSS, CCLD). For a nonprofit center, the license must be issued in the name of the nonprofit. For a for-profit center, the license must be issued to the current owner, individual, business, or corporation.

OR

  • Possess a Certification of Operation from the CDE’s Early Education and Support Division providing temporary approval to operate pending the transfer of license by the CDSS.

However, exceptions to the licensing requirement are:

  • CC centers may be license-exempt if they meet the exemption requirements described in the Child Care Center General Licensing Requirements, Title 22, Division 12, of the California Code of Regulations.
  • CACFP regulations do not require ARA center, SA center, or emergency shelters to be licensed; however, they must meet state or local health and safety standards.
  • CC centers on military bases may provide a Department of Defense child care license or a letter from the base commander or appropriate military official stating that the center meets Department of Defense child care requirements.
  • CC centers on Indian reservations may provide appropriate documentation from the Bureau of Indian Affairs or other applicable federal agency.

All license-exempt agencies that prepare food on site or have food delivered from a vendor are considered a food facility under the California Retail Food Code (CalCode), and are required to annually obtain a health and safety permit and fire inspection. However, according to the California Child Day Care Act, the Health and Safety Code (HSC) Division 2, Licensing Provisions [1200–1796.63], Chapter 3.4, California Child Day Care Act [1596.70–1596.895], Article 1. General Provisions and Definitions [1596.70–1596.799], HSC 1596.792, and HSC 1596.793, certain license-exempt agency types do not have to obtain health and safety permits and fire inspections. As a result, the following license-exempt agency types are not required to obtain a health and safety permit and fire inspection:

  • ARA centers, and SA centers, operated by, and located in, schools that participate in the NSLP or the SBP
  • Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Boy Scout sites
  • Campfire USA sites
  • Crisis nurseries
  • Girl Scout sites
  • Military organizations
  • Public (federal, state, county, and city) ARA centers
  • Tribal organizations
  • Young Men’s Christian Association sites
  • Young Women’s Christian Association sites
  • 4H Clubs

These exemptions are provided at the site level, rather than the sponsoring organization level. For example, if an SFA sponsors an unaffiliated site that is not included on the list of exempt sites above, that site must submit a health and safety permit and fire inspection to the CDE prior to approval. For further information, please see

MB CACFP-07-2016: Health and Safety Permit and Fire Inspection Requirements for License-exempt Centers located on the CDE CACFP Bulletin Web page

Incorporated School-age Licenses

The CDSS, CCLD may authorize CC centers to care for a limited number of SA children when issuing a Preschool-age Center license. While these CC centers are authorized by CDSS, CCLD to care for a specific number of SA children, these centers are not automatically approved by the CACFP to submit reimbursement for meals and/or snacks served to SA children.

The USDA requires the CDE to report meals and/or snacks for SA children participating in the CACFP separate from non-SA children. In order for agencies to report meals and/or snacks separately for the SA children, they must obtain approval from the CDE through the CNIPS for a SA Center program type. Meal counts, enrollment data, and eligibility rosters must also be maintained separately for SA children. For full information regarding this topic, please refer to MB CACFP-12-2015: Claiming Meals for School-age Children Approved for Care Under a Preschool License located on the CDE CACFP Bulletin Web page

Third-party Centers Operating on School District Grounds

Some unified school districts (USD) within California have a policy that states that third party agencies are required to obtain direct permission from them before they can operate the CACFP on USD grounds. Therefore, in accordance with the guidance the CDE received in formal correspondence with the USDA, the CDE now requires the following from each third-party agency that wants to operate the CACFP on USD grounds:

  1. A signed and dated letter from a designated official at the USD providing the third-party agency permission to serve CACFP meals or snacks on their grounds; and

  2. If the school district assists in the implementation of the program, a list of responsible principals.

Each third-party agency must submit this documentation to its assigned CACFP specialist prior to approval.

Adult Day Care Centers

An ADC center must have a current license to provide ADC services from the CDSS or from the California Department of Health Care Services. A nonprofit center’s license must be issued in the name of the nonprofit. A for-profit center’s license must be issued to the current owner, individual, business, or corporation.

Day Care Home Providers

DCH providers must be licensed by the CDSS, CCLD. Acceptable license documents are:

  • License from CDSS

Below are the exceptions to the licensing requirement:

  1. Federal Certification:
    Providers under the jurisdiction of the federal government (i.e., military bases or Indian reservations) have a licensing approval process that is conducted under federal standards and not bound by CDSS requirements.

  2. TrustLine Registry:
    TrustLine is California’s registry of unlicensed day care providers. License-exempt providers are not bound by CDSS, CCDL requirements so long as they stay within the guidelines established by state regulation that allows them to care for children without a day care license. License-exempt TrustLine registered providers must be receiving funds through the Alternative Payment Program or the federal Child Development Block Grant Program, and be cleared by fingerprinting through the State Attorney General’s Office. License-exempt TrustLine registered providers that participate in the CACFP must provide the child care in their own homes.

    For all license-exempt TrustLine registered providers, sponsors must submit a copy of the provider’s TrustLine registry letter, and completed Health and Safety Self-certification form CCP 4 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) to the CDE.

References: 7 CFR, sections 226.6(d), 226.17(b)(1), 226.17a(d), 226.19(b)(1), and 226.19a; MB CACFP-07-2016 Health and Safety Permit and Fire Inspection Requirements for License-exempt Centers, MB CACFP-12-2015 Claiming Meals for School-age Children Approved for Care Under a Preschool License, MB 05-203 License Exempt (TrustLine) Provider, and MB 01-206 Questions and Answers from the USDA

Questions:   Child and Adult Care Food Programs Branch | 800-952-5609, Option 3
Last Reviewed: Monday, June 28, 2021
Related Content
  • CACFP Administrative Manual
    A guide to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) critical compliance standards for centers and day care home (DCH) sponsors.
  • CACFP Manual Terms, Definitions, and Acronyms
    Child and Adult Care Food Program Administrative Manual Terms, Definitions, and Acronyms.
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program
    This web page includes background information, steps on how to apply, the Administrative Manual, meal pattern requirements, claiming information, policy guidance, compliance, trainings, resources, and contacts for program operators.
  • How to Apply to the CACFP
    Information on how to begin the application process for the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
Recently Posted in Nutrition
  • April 1 CEP ISP Calculation Waiver (added 09-May-2022)
    This waiver adjusts the deadline to pull April 1 data for purposes of calculating the Identified Student Percentage (ISP) in order to apply for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
  • TN Resource: Nutrient Analysis Protocols Manual (added 09-May-2022)
    Announcement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Team Nutrition (TN) Nutrient Analysis Protocol Manual. The Nutrient Analysis Protocol Manual reviews steps to conducting a nutrient analysis using USDA-approved nutrient analysis software.
  • Summer Food Service Program Application Due May 15 (added 05-May-2022)
    The California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division (NSD) would like to remind you that your summer meal application packets for the SFSP are due May 15.
  • Nutrition and Social Emotional Learning Webinar (added 03-May-2022)
    The California Local School Wellness Policy Collaborative is hosting Winning at Wellness webinars every two months to provide an opportunity for schools to discuss updates in local school wellness policy requirements, best practices and resources.
  • Universal Meals Listening Session May 17, 2022 (added 03-May-2022)
    On May 17, 2022, at 2 p.m. the Nutrition Services Division (NSD) is hosting the seventh in a series of listening sessions for the newly established California Universal Meals Program.