Do I Need a Day Care License?

Susan Grindstaff

Laws regarding licensing of day care vary depending on the location of the day care center. In addition, regulations for child care facilities often differ if the child care is taking place inside a residential home. To determine if you need a day care license, you should check with your local government. It should be able to provide you with a checklist to determine if your child care program needs licensing.

Usually, home day care for toddlers has strict guidelines for licensing.
Usually, home day care for toddlers has strict guidelines for licensing.

In the United States, regulations involving day care licensing are handled at the state level. Some states have very strict criteria for licensing, while other states may be more lenient. Though there are many differences, most jurisdictions have limits on the number of children who can be kept without a license. Licensing regulations can be so diverse, you should not rely on information other than what is provided you by state or local authorities.

One example of the diversity in licensing requirements can be found in day care license requirements in California. Unlike most states in the US, California does not generally base day care licensing on the number of children involved. Instead, licensing requirements typically depend on the number of families represented in the day care program. A day care program consisting of children who live in the home, with the addition of children from one other family is typically exempt from licensing. This is unusual, because most jurisdictions base requirements on the total number of children and the amount of time they spend in the program.

Sometimes the age of the children involved may have some bearing on licensing requirements. If you care for children above the age of 12, you may be able to care for more of them and for longer periods without becoming licensed. Typically, home day care involving infants and toddlers falls under much stricter guidelines.

Even if you find that you are not required to have a day care license, it may be to your advantage to go ahead and license your program. Many parents may feel hesitant to leave their children in the care of an unlicensed day care provider. By obtaining a license for your program, you may be able to attract more parents as customers. In some areas, licensing may also allow you to benefit from government child care subsidies

The ability to obtain liability insurance may also depend on operating a program with a day care license. It is unlikely you will be able to get the sort of coverage you need at an affordable rate unless you are certified and licensed. It is probably not a good idea to operate a child care program without carrying insurance on both yourself and the day care premises.

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