.

Child Care Licensing Tools and Resources

National Resources About Child Care Licensing

Within the early care and education system, licensing requirements apply to the largest number of providers who care for millions of children from buth to school age. Licensing helps prevent various forms of harm to children—risks from the spread of disease; fire and other building safety hazards; injury; and developmental impairment from the lack of healthy relationships with adults, adequate supervision, or developmentally appropriate activities.

Licensing is a process administered by state and territory governments that sets a baseline of requirements below which it is illegal for facilities to operate. States have regulations that facilities must comply with and policies to support enforcement of those regulations. The following tools and resources about child care licensing are designed to help states and territories improve their practices, strengthen provider requirements, and develop the skills of licensing staff.

Online Tools

National Database of Child Care Licensing Regulations
This tool helps users find state and territory child care licensing regulations and agency contact information. It includes licensing regulations for child care centers and FCC homes.

 

Data Explorer and State Profiles
State-level data about licensing requirements are available in the Data Explorer tool. Click the Explore ECE Data tab and select Health and Safety as the topic, and Licensing as the subtopic, and then choose from a list of data definers that include child-staff ratios and group sizes, criminal background checks, minimum preservice qualifications, ongoing training hours, types and frequency of routine licensing inspections, and many more.

 

National Program Standards Crosswalk Tool
This tool supports the alignment of program standards for licensing, quality rating and improvement systems, and prekindergarten programs. It is prepopulated with national early childhood program standards, including accreditation standards from the National Association for Family Child Care, Caring for Our Children Basics, and Head Start Program Performance Standards.

Issue Briefs on Licensing Topics

Licensing Caseloads: Finding the Right Ratio of Licensors to Providers (August 2018).
The ratio of child care providers to licensing inspectors differs among states, territories and tribes, depending on a variety of factors. This brief explores how these factors help determine the right ratio of inspectors to providers and how many child care providers a licensor can effectively monitor.

Professional Development for Child Care Licensors (December 2017).
This document provides a framework that can be used by state, territory and tribal licensing administrators, managers, and trainers in creating professional development opportunities for child care licensing inspectors and other licensing staff.

Key Competencies for Licensors of Child Care Programs (June 2017).
This technical assistance resource document outlines the knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and other characteristics that a licensor of child care programs needs to perform his or her job duties successfully.

Developing and Revising Child Care Licensing Requirements (February 2017).
This document presents steps for developing and revising child care licensing requirements, based on several states’ successful practices.

Interpretive Guides for Child Care Licensing Regulations (February 2017).
This document presents information about seven states that publish their interpretive guidelines on a public website. Interpretive guides generally help child care licensing staff understand the purpose of licensing requirements and the methods they should use to assess facilities’ compliance with the requirements.

Child Care and Development Fund Health and Safety Briefs (July 2016).
This series of nine briefs addresses health and safety requirements specified in Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) regulations for centers and family child care settings.

Contemporary Issues in Licensing Report Series (August 2014).
This series of licensing reports includes research as well as examples of innovative and diverse state practices aimed at state licensing agencies seeking to strengthen their programs and better protect children in out-of-home care. Topics include inspection policies, enforcement strategies, differential monitoring strategies, quality assurance in licensing, and others.

Planning Tools for Licensing Agencies

Monitoring Cost Estimation Calculator (January 2018).
This tool that aims to help child care licensing agencies and CCDF lead agencies project the annual caseloads and the cost of monitoring and supporting licensed and license-exempt child care providers. This document includes general guidance on using the tool and considerations regarding each cost category included in the calculator.

A Guide to Support States and Territories’ Use of Child Care Licensing Data (October 2017).
This guide focuses on administrative data related to child care licensing, which include information about individual children, families, service providers, and facilities collected and maintained as part of regular program operations. This guide will help CCDF administrators and licensing administrators assess current licensing data systems and identify needed changes. It explores new uses for licensing data, examines  strategies for dealing with common challenges, and provides additional resources for review and reference.

Best Practices for Human Care Regulation (January 2017).
This set of tools, developed with the National Association for Regulatory Administration (NARA) lays the foundation for licensing agencies to focus on and assess their resources and processes.

  • Best Practices for Human Care Regulation address two major areas—Organizational Management and Regulatory Management—and are divided into benchmarks that look at overall leadership; strategic planning; financial and human resources; professional development; communication; and statutory, rule, and policy responsibilities.
     
  • The Best Practices Self-Assessment Tool can be used by licensing agencies to look for improvement opportunities based on Best Practices for Human Care Regulation.
     
  • The Best Practices Self-Assessment Tool Follow-up Plan helps agencies develop strategic plans to improve their practices.
     

Caring for Our Children Basics Health and Safety Standards Alignment Tool for Child Care Centers and Family Child Care Homes (June 2016).
This tool provides a simple format for states and territories to compare their current early childhood program requirements and standards against the recommended health and safety standards in Caring for Our Children Basics (CFOCB). CFOCB represents the minimum health and safety standards experts believe should be in place where children are cared for outside their own homes, whether in home-based programs or center-based facilities.

Products from the 2014 Child Care Licensing Study

The National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance and NARA collaborate on large-scale studies of child care licensing policies, programs, and regulations. These studies, published in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2014, provide descriptive data of the licensing policies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The following resources prove findings from the 2014 study. Data collection for a study that looks at requirements and Policies for 2017 is currently underway.

Research Brief #1: Trends in Child Care Center Licensing Regulations and Policies for 2014 (November 2015).
This brief examines the state of licensing child care centers in 2014 and identifies trends that have become apparent during several years of data collection. Data are from state child care licensing regulations and the results of the National Association for Regulatory Administration’s survey of state licensing agencies. The findings provide evidence that states are making positive changes in their licensing requirements and policies to protect the health and safety of children in out-of-home care.

Research Brief #2: Trends in Family Child Care Home Licensing Regulations and Policies for 2014 (November 2015).
This brief examines the state of licensing FCC homes in 2014 and identifies trends that have become apparent during several years of data collection. Data are from state child care licensing regulations and the results of the National Association for Regulatory Administration’s survey of state licensing agencies. The findings provide evidence that states are making positive changes in their licensing requirements and policies to protect the health and safety of children in out-of-home care.

Research Brief #3: Trends in Group Child Care Home Licensing Regulations and Policies for 2014 (November 2015).
This brief examines the state of licensing group child care homes in 2014 and identifies trends that have become apparent during several years of data collection. Data are from state child care licensing regulations and the results of the National Association for Regulatory Administration’s survey of state licensing agencies. The findings provide evidence that states are making positive changes in their licensing requirements and policies to protect the health and safety of children in out-of-home care.

Threshold of Licensed Family Child Care in 2014 (November 2015).
Each state specifies a minimum number of children in care (i.e., threshold) that determines when a license is required. Most states set the licensing threshold at three or four children. This document provides information about the thresholds at which states require a license and indicates that 10 states require FCC homes to be licensed if there is just 1 child in care that is not related to the provider. The remaining 41 states allow some number of children to be in FCC that is not required to be licensed.

Resources About License-Exempt Child Care

Monitoring and Supporting License-Exempt Care: Case Studies (November 2015).
This issue brief shares the experiences of six states (AR, AZ, IN, ND, NM, and UT) that have begun to address the challenges of monitoring exempt care. In addition to describing the structures of their monitoring systems, the issue brief highlights each state's differences in needs, cultural diversity, compliance levels, and efforts to retain exempt home providers. It also discusses each state's lessons learned, and how they cultivated support for policy changes.

Monitoring License-Exempt CCDF Homes (November 2015).
This issue brief explores decision points in developing a monitoring system, including requirements; inspections; and processes for responding to violations, complaints, referrals, and appeals. Caseloads, number of providers, and compensation and support systems for monitors and supervisors are discussed as factors that influence the cost of implementing a monitoring system. Four monitoring models are described and state examples are provided.

Supporting License-Exempt Family Child Care (November 2015).
This issue brief aims to assist CCDF Administrators and their partners in their work to support license-exempt family child care homes. By addressing the unique needs of exempt FCC homes, states and territories can better support the children in their care and their families. This brief is organized into two sections: the first provides an overview of terminology, characteristics, parental preferences, and child care assistance data, and the second provides examples of several state and national initiatives to support exempt FCC

Webinars and Presentations

Resources and Tools for Revising and Aligning Early Childhood Program Standards (January 2017).
This webinar explores tools and resources available to help states and territories revise their early childhood program standards—such as licensing regulations and quality rating and improvement system standards—and align them with national program standards.

Coordinated Monitoring in Early Care and Education: Benefits and Strategies (December 2016).
This webinar provides ideas for coordinating monitoring across funding streams, including goals, approaches, and frameworks for coordinated monitoring. Ohio and New Mexico share their strategies for coordinated monitoring.

Health and Safety Requirements: How Do You Maintain Compliance? (July 2016).
This presentation at the National Association for Family Child Care’s 2016 Family Child Care Institute includes a dialogue about the types of state, national, and federal standards that providers are required to meet. Presenters from the National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance and the National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness provide an overview of trends in licensing, subsidy, Head Start, and quality rating and improvement system standards.

Monitoring and Supporting License-exempt Child Care (October 2015).
This presentation includes an overview of licensing thresholds, common licensing exemptions, national data on monitoring, cost of monitoring, and supports for exempt family child care, including training.