Childcare in San Francisco: The Struggle is Real, and Here’s What You Need to Know


When I was thirteen weeks pregnant with my first child, I put my fetus’s “name” on the waitlists of four daycare centers near our home. I recently received a call from one of them telling me that they had a spot open — My daughter is almost four years old. I never heard back from the other three, and this sums up the struggle many families have in finding affordable and reliable childcare in San Francisco. 

Two of my friends got lucky and kept tabs on a soon-to-open daycare in their neighborhood and were able to get their infants in immediately. Most of my other friends ended up doing nanny shares. Some preferred this choice straight out of the gate, but others saw it as their only viable option because the supply of daycare centers in San Francisco doesn’t match the demand of parents’ childcare needs. This makes the waitlists long (I was number 68) and the price tags high.

The good news is that I’m noticing more childcare facilities opening in the city, and family circumstances change regularly, making many waitlists fluid and fantastic nannies frequently available, if you know how to look for them. 

The right choice for childcare is a personal one, and we want to help you get the information you need to make it.

Stick with us for the rest of the week as we deep dive into more childcare topics: truths and tips for coordinating childcare, five topics to review with daycare providers, interviewing nannies, how to build a strong mommy-nanny partnership, and things to think about when setting up nanny contract and nanny-share agreements

Have valuable insights of your own? Share them with us in the comments below! 

 *Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article included a link to Nurturelist. That website is still accessible, but the daycare center and preschool data is no longer maintain. Winnie has incorporated all of the information into their site.


  1. An Au PIr is another great option that is flexible, less expensive than other options and great experience for all

  2. I have an in-home preschool for toddlers so I have a bit of insight into why infant care is so hard to find in the city. There are very few child care centers in the city because of the cost of renting or buying a property. Most of the centers in the city are owned by Bright Horizons, which is one of the only profitable network of child care centers. There are tons of in-home childcare programs in the city, but here is the problem- the potential spots for infants are simply too limited by the rules for family child care homes. There are two types of family child care homes – small and large. A small family child care home can have up to 6 children at a time but only 3 of those children can be under 24 months of age. A large family child care home can have up to 12 children at a time but only 4 of those children can be under 24 months. You can see how this severely limits the number of infant spots available!

  3. Hello, I will be moving to SFO and have a 6 year old and a 3 year old. I am moving from NYC where nanny services are great and letting go of our amazing nanny. Any tips or advise as to where I need to look to get a nanny? Thanks, Saima

    • Welcome, Saima! There are plenty of great nannies here, too! We have linked to some resources above like our Facebook neighborhood groups. These are a great place to start!

  4. This is disgusting and totally unacceptable. We have literally no decent options now other than to leave the city. Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this? Can’t the city give day care a break on rent or taxes? Can we reform our insurance laws? Can we make these in home laws less restrictive? I’m ready to cry about this.

  5. I continue to be depressed about this. What is the city doing to fix this problem? If it’s a matter of poorly thought out regulation then can’t we get rid of it? Can’t we provide some tax incentives to make the property cost issue more palatable? What do we need to tell our supervisors about this? It’s killing the city!


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