Licensing a Daycare

A Step-by-Step Guide

Licensing a daycare varies from state to state. Whether your state refers to it as licensing or registering, you need to complete this process before you actually start caring for children.  A good place to start would be contacting your local social services or human services department to find out specific regulations for your state. All states vary concerning what conditions must be met in order to become a licensed or registered daycare and some states don’t require a license at all. You may look up state-by-state regulations on the internet at the National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance website.  The department responsible for supervising child care facilities in your state will have an information packet they can mail to you which will give you all the legal requirements needed to open an in-home daycare.

When applying for your license or registration, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Complete the application.
  • Submit your licensing fees.
  • Attend to possible physical changes needed on your house to pass a safety inspection.
  • Complete required training, including Early Childhood Education courses, CPR and First Aid.
  • Have an up-to-date physical on record.
  • Provide background checks on everyone living in your household or substitute providers you plan on using.
  • Arrange for a premise inspection by a fire marshall and county official.
  • There are different types of licenses to apply for depending on how many and what ages of children you are planning on caring for.

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    Home Inspection

    At some point after you apply for your daycare license, the licensing agency will send someone to your home for an inspection to be sure it is properly set up and that it is a safe environment for children to be in.

    When you get your information packet on licensing a daycare, you will receive the specific items they will be looking for while inspecting your home. Since regulations vary from state to state, I have compiled a general list. Your inspection may include, but not be limited to:

    • Is your house large enough to handle the number of kids you are licensing for?
    • Is your yard a large enough play area for that number of kids?
    • Is the outdoor play area safe and free of debris?

    As they perform the inspection, they may watch for:

    All Around the House:

    • Outlet covers on all outlets
    • Electrical cords inaccessible to children
    • Staircases have proper railings and baby gates are in use
    • Proper sleeping arrangements for all children in care
    • Furnace, water heater, fireplace, space heater, etc. inaccessible to children
    • Every room has two means of emergency escape
    • Decks and balconies must have proper railings
    • Trash receptacles out of the reach of children
    • If you have pets, food and litter boxes must be inaccessible to children.
    • Rabies shots must be up-to-date

    In the Kitchen:

    • Water temperature at 120 degrees
    • Refrigerator temperature of 40 degrees or below
    • Food handled and stored properly
    • Trash receptacle out of children’s reach
    • All sharp objects and matches out of children’s reach
    • No medication within children’s reach
    • Plastic bags out of reach
    • Cleaning supplies, chemicals and liquid soaps out of reach
    • Separate drinking cups for water throughout the day

    In the Bathroom:

    • Separate washcloths and towels for each child or disposable single-use towels
    • Proper diaper changing area with appropriate supplies, cleaners and disposal system, all out of the reach of children
    • Trash receptacle out of reach of children
    • Medications and sharp objects out of reach
    • Any cleaning products, chemicals or liquid soap out of children’s reach

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    In Case of Emergency

    You must have:

    • A written fire escape plan posted
    • Monthly fire and storm drills
    • A fire extinguisher in the kitchen and maintenenced once a year
    • Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors on all levels of the house and in each bedroom
    • Parents’ and emergency facility phone numbers listed by the telephone
    • A working flashlight, a battery operated radio or television and an operable telephone 
    • Arrangements made for a substitute provider if you have to leave the premises
    • A fully stocked and updated first-aid kit

    At your initial home inspection, the county agent will not be checking enrollment files since you are not caring for children yet. Subsequent visits will include inspection of child enrollment files.

    Again, this list is only a compilation of common state-by-state requirements for licensing a daycare. Your individual state may differ from this list. When licensing a daycare, you need to find out specific regulations and guidelines for your specific state.

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    Marcia Reagan is the creator of DaycareAnswers and lives in Central Minnesota with her husband and two children.  She's been an in-home daycare provider for over twenty years and loves to share her experience and passion for daycare with other providers.  

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