Choosing a Provider

Selecting a qualified childcare provider is an important decision in your child’s life. An enriching and nurturing childcare environment will set the stage for the healthy growth and development of your child. SNCS is here to support you through your childcare planning process. We provide free childcare resource and referral services to all families throughout Sierra and Nevada counties, including consultation on local early education and childcare programs.To learn more about childcare provider options, please review Types of Providers page.

Child Care Referral Assistance in Nevada and Sierra Counties

For assistance in finding a provider in Nevada and Sierra Counties please call 530 272-8866, toll free 888-306-7627 or complete and submit this form.
Para Assitencia En Español

Types of Providers

When parents begin the search for child care, they are often confused and unsure of what options are available to them. Listed below are several different options, including both licensed and license-exempt care. Each of these types of care has distinct features, differences, and licensing requirements, along with conditions on size and adult-to-child ratios. Knowing what these features and differences are can assist you in choosing the option that best fits your needs, as well as your child’s.

Licensed child care can occur in either a Family Child Care Home or in a Child Care Center.

A Family Child Care Home (FCCH)

  • May be licensed for up to 8 (for a small FCCH) or 14 (for a large FCCH) children, depending on the license.
  • Is a program where care is provided in the licensee’s home.
  • Is licensed, along with the child care provider, by the California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division (CCL).

Each Family Child Care Home…

  • Has health and safety requirements that must be maintained and which are monitored by CCL.
  • Must maintain specific adult-to-child ratios.
  • Is required to have the licensee certified in EMSA approved CPR/First Aid and Preventive Health and Safety Practices. In large family child care homes, any additional staff that may be left alone with the children must also complete EMSA approved CPR/First Aid and Preventive Health and Safety Practices.
  • Is required to have the provider, as well as anyone who lives in the home and is over 18 years of age, tested for TB, fingerprinted with a criminal background check, and cleared in the California Child Abuse Index.

A Child Care Center

  • Can be found in public/private schools, religious facilities, or a building owned/leased by the provider.
  • Is issued a license for a specific capacity (the maximum number of children that can be cared for at any one time).
  • Can be licensed for varying ages of children from infancy to school age with a separate license issued for each age component.

Each Child Care Center:

  • Is licensed by the State of California and has health and safety requirements that must be maintained by the provider and monitored by CCL.
  • Is required to maintain specific adult-to-child ratios.
  • Is required to have at least one director or teacher at the center who has been trained in Preventive Health and Safety Practices, including EMSA approved CPR/First Aid.
  • Must have a staff member with certification in EMSA approved CPR/First Aid and Preventive Health and Safety Practices present at all times.
  • Must employ staff that meet the specific educational requirements for each position.

State Preschool

State preschool programs are part-day comprehensive developmental programs for 3 to 5 year old children from low-income families. The programs emphasize parent education and encourage parent involvement.

State Preschool Full-Day Program

The Budget Act of 1997 allowed state preschool program contractors the opportunity to extend their half-day programs to full-day programs with certain restrictions. Some current state preschool providers chose this wrap-around of their existing half-day programs to provide families with the extended services parents needed to maintain employment, meet work participation requirements, or participate in education or job training. Agencies providing full-day services continue to operate in a half-day mode as a state preschool program, but must follow general child care rules and regulations for the remainder of the program day.

Head Start

Head Start is a US Department of Health and Human Services program designed to support low-income families through child care centers and schools in their local community, by providing services for the comprehensive development and promotion of school readiness to young children ages 3 to 5 years old. Head Start services include early learning, health, nutrition, and family well-being.

Early Head Start

Early Head Start programs support low income families with pregnant women, infants, and children up to age 3 years old, by providing comprehensive services and high-quality early learning environments in child care centers and schools.

Early Head Start Child Care Partnership

Early Head Start Child Care Partnership programs support low income families with infants and toddlers by providing comprehensive services and high-quality early learning environments in family child care homes and child care centers. EHS_CCP Brochure

License-Exempt Care

There are also various types of License Exempt Care. License Exempt Care:

  • Is when a license is not required by the State of California.
  • Can include child care programs in a school district (on the school’s site), cooperative care (parents rotate care but no money is exchanged), and temporary on-site child care (conference, activity, special events).
  • Also includes relatives or TrustLine registered providers.
  • Some license exempt providers can only care for the children of only one family (and their own children if appropriate).
  • If a family receiving state assistance for child care through Sierra Nevada Children’s Services chooses a license exempt provider other than a relative, that provider is required to be TrustLine registered and to complete EMSA approved CPR/First Aid.

For more information on the definition of license exempt care, click on this Child Care Law Center link.

Quality Counts California

Quality Counts California (QCC),Nevada County is a part of Quality Counts, California, a statewide network of locally implemented quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS). QRIS supports programs in raising the quality of early care and education and helps families identify programs who demonstrate a commitment to quality. In Nevada County, QCC is administered by Child Care Coordinating Council. In Sierra County, EQM is administered by the Child Care Coordinating Council.
Click here to learn more
Any child care program (license-exempt or licensed) can take part in EQM. Participating programs commit to meeting standards above and beyond basic licensing requirements to improve the quality of care and education that they provide. They partake in ongoing professional development training, mentoring, coaching, program assessments, and accountability. EQM programs are dedicated to improving quality environments, teacher-child interactions, and child learning outcomes. 
Choosing child care for your infant, toddler or preschooler is a big decision and quality is one of the most important factors to consider. Knowing the key elements of quality can help you make an informed decision when choosing an early care and education setting for your family:

  1. Teacher-Child Interactions: Teachers talk, play, read, laugh and interact positively with the children in their care. Teachers develop children’s critical thinking and social skills, language, self-confidence, and curiosity.
  2. Physical Environment: Teachers provide a rich learning environment with varied materials, activities and routines. Areas are healthy, clean, and safe.
  3. Child Development: Teachers closely monitor children’s development and ensure they receive health screenings.
  4. Curriculum: Teachers use an engaging curriculum with developmentally appropriate activities to meet children’s learning needs.
  5. Staff Qualifications: Staff are knowledgeable and caring with training and/or degrees in Early Childhood Education; they continuously participate in professional growth activities.
EQM programs are voluntarily rated according to the above elements and receive continuous support to provide positive learning experiences for children. Programs earn a rating between 1 and 5 representing their participation in quality:

Additional Resources

Child Care Licensing - Resources for Parents
Early Child Care Philosophies
Comprehensive Parent's Guide to Choosing Child Care
NAEYC-What to look for in a child care program
Finding Child Care for a Child with Special Need
Is This the Right Place for My Child (NACCRRA Checklist)
First 5 Nevada County
Child Care Advocate Program (CCAP)
Laws and Regulations
Megan’s Law
National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care
Public Complaint Form
Nevada County Superintendent of Schools CPR and First Aid
TrustLine is the California registry of in-home and license-exempt child care providers (babysitters and nannies) who have passed a background check. TrustLine was created by the California Legislature to give parents an important tool to use when selecting a caregiver for their children. It is the only authorized screening program of in-home and license-exempt caregivers in the state with access to fingerprint records at the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI and access to California’s Child Abuse Central Index. TrustLine is endorsed by the California Academy of Pediatrics. TrustLine can be reached at 1-800-822-8490 or

Getting Started

SNCS is proud to offer financial assistance programs to Sierra and Nevada County residents. These programs are designed to help income-eligible families cover the expenses associated with childcare services. Funding is provided through a combination of federal, state and local agencies. When funding allows, SNCS will open enrollment to new families based on our Childcare Eligibility List (CEL).
Families that receive, or have received Cash Aid in the last two years through CALWORKs click here to learn more about how to get a referral

Childcare Eligibility List (CEL)

  • The Childcare Eligibility List (CEL) determines which families should be served first.
  • The family is ranked by gross family income, family size and other needs. Income is verified prior to enrollment.
  • Children receiving CPS, or children at risk of being neglected or abused are given priority.
  • If a child lives with a guardian/foster parent only the child’s income is used to determine the family’s rank. Please only include income received on behalf of the child and their siblings. Please submit separate applications if you need care for both a foster/guardianship child and a biological/adopted child.
  • Please include all children under 18 years of age in the household regardless of whether they need care.
  • Children who are 18 years old should be included on the application if they live in the home and are currently enrolled in high school.
  • Do not include dollar amounts for food aid, it does not count as income.
  • Do not include your expenses on the application. Only child support paid out is deductible from your gross income.
  • Please include average gross monthly income if you are an employee, and monthly net business income (after documented business expenses) if you are self-employed.

To be placed on our Childcare Eligibility List, please submit an application, If you are not sure of your eligibility view Income Ceilings Here.

Apply Here

CEL Application
Para aplicar en español seleccione Inglés en la parte superior derecha y cambie a español.

Program Specifics

Subsidized Child Care Programs

SNCS administers several programs to help eligible families pay for child care services while they work, look for work, attend school or recover from incapacity. SNCS child care payment assistance programs provide full or partial payment for child care services for enrolled families depending on eligibility. Exact reimbursement amounts are limited to the Regional Market Rate Ceilings (RMR/RMC) as determined by CDE.

In addition to SNCS subsidy programs, there are preschool and after-school child care programs funded directly by the State of California. Head Start is a Federally funded program offering educational, nutritional, health, social and other services for income eligible families. Although these programs are not part of SNCS, they will still be included when you request referrals for child care providers.

Subsidy Programs Description Funding
CalWORKS Stage 1 Child Care Referral must be received from CalWORKS Nevada and Sierra Counties and California Department of Social Services (CDSS)
CalWORKS Stages 2 & 3 Child Care Referral must be received from CalWORKS California Department of Social Services (CDSS), Federal, Early Education & Support Division (EESD)
Alternative Payment Program (CAPP) Families may choose from child care options such as Family Child Care Homes and Child Care Centers, TrustLine child care providers, or Relative Care child care providers or other license-exempt providers
Family Child Care Home (FCCHEN) “NetworkLicensed Family Child Care Home (FCCH) Families must select a participating Network provider. Support, training, and education are available to both parents and providers in the program


All families completing enrollment at our Grass Valley office are required to attend an on-site group orientation. Similar orientation must be repeated annually upon recertification. Families in Truckee and Loyalton can schedule individual orientations by contacting their Family Support Specialist. The orientation presentation can also be reviewed at any time by following the link below.
Orientation Presentation

Parent Guide

From an explanation of Family Fees to a detailed breakdown of our reimbursement procedures, our Parent Guide contains in-depth information covering the childcare programs that SNCS has to offer.
Parent Guide - English
Guia Para Padres - Spanish
Parent Appeal Letter Spanish Parent Appeal Letter

Family Portal

Complete documents electronically and manage your enrollment using our Family Portal.
Access your Family Portal
Tutorials Available
Family - Receive and Complete Documents
Family - Submit eForms with Care Connect
Family - Receive and Complete Documents-Web
Family - Receive and Complete Documents-Mobile

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are the providers on your database all licensed?
Are all licensed programs the same?
What is child care accreditation?
How do I find out the licensing history of a program?
Will child care make your child more likely to get sick?
How many children can a provider care for at one time?
Whom can I contact about child care if I move to another county?
What can I do if I don’t agree with a decision made by SNCS?
How do I file a child care provider complaint?
What is subsidized child care?
How do I apply for subsidized child care assistance?
Who accepts subsidy payments?

Are the providers on your database all licensed?

When you call us for referrals, we will provide the most current and up-to-date information on licensed child care providers in our community. The majority of child care centers and all family child care homes are licensed by the California Department of Social Services (DSS) Community Care Licensing division. License-Exempt programs are exempt from licensing regulations. Some examples of License-Exempt programs include:

  • A provider who cares only for his/her relatives
  • A provider who only cares for the children of one other family (other than the provider’s own children)
  • Public recreation programs
  • Before- and after-school programs run by schools

Are all licensed programs the same?

The Child Care Licensing Program of California’s Community Care Licensing Division licenses and monitors both Child Care Centers and Family Child Care Homes in an effort to ensure that programs offer a safe and healthy environment for children. All licensed programs are required to meet specific criteria and adhere to various regulations. These criteria and regulations pertain to the facility and the provider, not the educational program. Specific programs vary on their philosophy of early childhood education, style of curriculum, types and amount of educational materials, and structure of the learning environment.

There are also specific and different licensing requirements for child care center programs and family child care homes. The differences range from educational requirements to staffing ratios related to the available physical space per child.

Because the child care needs of each family vary, it is important to speak with and visit several programs before making a decision.

What is child care accreditation?

Accredited programs undergo a rigorous process measuring the program against national standards on childhood education, health and safety. For most programs, it is a voluntary process. The Accreditation Status is the level of quality whereby the service provider demonstrates the capacity, commitment and competence to support high-quality learning and ongoing program improvement.

For more information about accreditation associations and their website addresses go to CDE Accreditation

How do I find out the licensing history of a program?

If you know the exact name of your Licensed Provider, you can look them up on the California Community Care Licensing website and view their citations, inspections and complaints. If you are not sure of the exact name on the license call SNCS at (530) 272-8866. The law requires that all licensees post and provide copies of any information about the facility's compliance with licensing regulations to all parents of children in care.

All parents should receive and sign a copy of the Notification of Parents' Rights form. To view these forms, click on the link below.
For Child Care Centers
For Family Child Care Homes

Will child care make your child more likely to get sick?

Infectious diseases among children in out-of-home child care settings have drawn considerable attention from researchers and the media.

Research has shown that:

  • Children who regularly participate in groups of six or more children have a higher incidence of infections compared with children in smaller groups.
  • Because of their close proximity and sharing of toys, food, and other objects, children in groups are prone to infectious disease outbreaks.

The good news:

  • More than 90% of infections in children who are in large groups are mild infections that are common in the larger community.
  • The effect of large group attendance on illness is most dramatic in the first year of birth and the first year of child care attendance. The effect decreases in the second, and disappears by the end of the third year of attendance, or by age three if children have been attending since infancy. This decrease is thought to be caused by increased immunity of children who have attended child care.
  • Recent studies have shown that children who participated in child care were less likely to experience respiratory illnesses and asthma in the early school years than children who were not exposed to group care during early childhood.
  • Proven methods for decreasing illness in group settings are hand washing, surface/toy sanitizing, and immunization.

Source: Aronson S, Shope T. Improving the Health and Safety of Children in Non-parental Early Education and Child Care. Pediatrics in Review. 2005;26:86-95 Retrieved from the American Academy of Pediatrics on 01/15/09.

How many children can a provider care for at one time?

All licensed Family Child Care Home providers and Center-Based programs are regulated by California state licensing laws. Specific adult-to-child ratios and capacity limits depend on the type of program. Small family child care homes can care for no more than 8 children and large family child care homes can care for no more than 14 children at any one time. Small family child care homes require only the owner/provider be present while large family child care homes require the addition of an assistant. Center-based program capacity limits and adult-child ratios vary by age group and program type. For more information on center capacities and ratios, visit California’s Community Care Licensing website.

Whom can I contact about child care if I move to another county?

Child Care Resource & Referral (R&R) agencies are located throughout the State of California, as well as the country. For R&R that serves your county in California go to Resource & Referral County Listing, click on your county to get the contact information.

What can I do if I don’t agree with a decision made by SNCS?

Sierra Nevada Children’s Services (SNCS) must comply with State and Federal laws and regulations when administering its programs.  A complaint is an accusation that in some fashion SNCS has not acted in compliance with State and/or Federal laws and regulations.

In order to file a complaint, a “Sierra Nevada Children’s Services Public Complaint Form” must be completed and submitted to SNCS.
View Complaint Procedure
Vea el Procedimiento de Queja
View/download Complaint Form

How do I file a child care provider complaint?

To file a formal complaint with Community Care Licensing (CCL) call: 1-844-LET-US-NO (538-8766)

What is subsidized child care?

The Child Care Subsidy Program helps income eligible families pay for all or a portion of their child care fees. This program is made possible by Federal and State funding and administered by Sierra Nevada Children's Services in Nevada and Sierra Counties.

How do I apply for subsidized child care?

Families must fill out and submit the Child Care Eligibility Application (CEL), available through the Parent's Getting Started page. Families that have been on cash aid in the last two years, meet the income guidelines and have a need for child care can request a referral from their eligibility worker at CalWORKS and bypass the CEL application. The next step is to choose the child care provider, request child care referrals from the Parent's Choosing a Provider page.

Who accepts subsidy payments?

Most child care providers are accustomed to and accept reimbursement from the state. Please call the SNCS office if you are looking for child care provider referrals or would like to know if your current provider accepts subsidized child care reimbursements.