After reading our article about the infrequency of preschool and child care inspections, a father with a two-year-old emailed me to ask: How can we check out a preschool or child care program and see what issues it has had?

Unlike many other states, California doesn’t put information about child care licensing violations online. This is one of the things that it gets dinged for when child care licensing here is compared with other states. California doesn’t rate preschools, either, though it’s beginning to explore the idea.

Inspection reports must be available for public review at the sites for three years. If serious problems are found, the report is supposed to be publicly posted for 30 days and copies should be given to all parents who are currently enrolled or enrolling over the next year.

But if you want to know the full story, the best way is to check out the complete file kept by the department that licenses and inspects preschools and child care programs.

If you know the name of a preschool or child care program that you want to check out, you can phone 619.767.2200 to set up an appointment to view a facility file at the Mission Valley offices of the Community Care Licensing Division. The file includes any investigations and inspection reports.

Here in San Diego, it often includes an informal log of every time the program has been contacted, which will tell you when the last state inspection was and why (for instance, whether state evaluators were checking out a specific complaint or doing a routine visit).

If the facility has ever been on probation, the file will include reports about what led up to it and how it was resolved. Looking at the whole record can show you if the program has had a history of problems with cleanliness, for example, or if it has often overrun the required teacher-to-student ratio or had even more serious violations.

Got more questions about preschool and child care licensing? Thoughts about what we should explore next? Please let me know!

Update: Public information officer Oscar Ramirez also sent along this link to the licensing division’s website, which provides more tips for parents who are trying to find licensed care for their kids. Thanks Oscar!

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter:

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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