Know Daycare Center Requirements

Starting a daycare requires organization and planning. Before starting the process of collecting toys for your daycare, recruiting and hiring staff or applying for grants, it's important to know daycare center requirements. This allows you to find out if you are able to meet those requirements before putting any more time and work into this new business venture.

Reasons for the Requirements

Licensed and registered daycares must meet a minimum set of standards that can vary from state to state in the United States. These standards are set to protect the health and safety of children as well as to make sure children with special needs are properly cared for. The requirements include the ratio of children to adults (how many adult caregivers per child), food standards, staff qualifications and guidelines for learning and play.

Even if you plan to start a home-based, unlicensed daycare, it's a good idea to know the requirements of licensed daycares so that you can provide the same level of service.

With registered and licensed daycares, the government monitors the establishment to make sure requirements are met. There are consultants and inspectors who visit centers unannounced to inspect the facilities, staff and programs to make sure all the minimum regulations are being met. This information is documented and is available for the public to see. Parents looking at these reports and daycares with consistently good reports tend to be high in demand.

To find out what the minimum standards are for your state or country, contact your country's National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education or a comparable organization. In the United States, the number is 1-800-598-5437. The Resource Center will be able to provide you with child care licensure regulations and requirements by area.

General Requirements

In most states, the child-staff ratio is three to one for infants under a year. Fewer adults are required to supervise and care for older children so a single adult can care for up to 12 children age nine or older. If you're planning on starting a daycare with mixed ages, the child-staff ratio needs to be based on the age of the youngest children. If you're running a home-based daycare center and you are also caring for your own children, then you need to include your own children in the ratio.

Licensed daycares require that the primary caregiver be licensed. Other caregivers must receive a minimum of 12 hours of child development training and submit to background checks.

Daycares are required to provide children with healthy food in intervals of about two hours daily. Children must have access to clean drinking water.

Freestanding daycare centers need to be structurally sound, free of hazards, handicap-accessible and structurally sound. A home daycare must have a section in your home specifically for the center. Home-based and freestanding daycare centers need to have an indoor and outdoor play area, natural light and adequate ventilation.