Daycare Licensing Offices

Welcome to the first special of our "Getting to know you..." series. Throughout the next few weeks we'll introduce you to the many child care agencies, organizations and related services who can help you with your child care needs and concerns.

The fact is, there are many services available to asssit parents, caregivers and employers. Most are as close as your computer or your telephone.


Before a parent begins the all encompassing task of choosing quality child care, they would be well advised to learn as much about daycare as possible.

Now that doesn't mean spending weeks in seminar sessions or reading every book there is on the subject, although that would be ideal. But it does mean doing a little research on the rules governing minimum staffing, health and safety regulations, and licensing of both center-based and family care in their area.

It is important to keep in mind that these regulations provide a MINIMUM standard of care and that in many instances enforcement is irregular at best. Quality care rises above this minimum standard. Once a parent has a basic knowledge of what the conditions of good care are, they can ensure it for their child.

Fortunately, licensing regulations are not difficult to understand, nor are they hard to get. The trick is knowing who to contact. To locate a local office, the government pages of your phone book are a great place to start, or parents could check out our Registry for their provincial/state Resource and Referral agency or Community Information Service. A local daycare operator may assist as well. These offices will be able to tell parents what standards apply to daycare centers, family daycare homes, and any other type of care under legislation. Some licensing offices will also give a complete list of licensed programs in their state or province, and in some cases inform parents of any complaints registered against a particular program.

Equally as important, licensing agencies will tell parents how to report a violation of local child care codes. In effect, licensing offers parents a certain amount of consumer protection, assuring their child's well-being by imposing restrictions on:

    * group size
    * staff/child ratios
    * and discipline, while at the same time reinforcing
    * health and safety standards
    * programming
    * staff training
    * and parent involvement, all of which are key components of quality care. (For a further breakdown of these components refer to the article: Components of Quality Child Care? in our Resource Centre.)


Although the licensing requirements noted above are, from a parent's perspective, the most important aspects of child care, they are far from conclusive. Indeed, as the list that follows indicates, there are many other factors to consider when choosing and monitoring daycare.

Physical environment - the actual building the children will be housed in should have adequate space, doors and windows. All equipment used for and by the children must meet national safety standards.

Health and safety issues such as immunization records, reporting of minor injuries, administering of medication, storing of poisonous substances are addressed in most state and provincial licensing requirements. (See our Business Forms section for these and other valuable reports.)

Nutrition is a major concern and many licensing boards require facilities to follow national food guides in their provision of both meals and snacks.

Parent involvement, which may include the establishment of a Parent Advisory Council, or in the very least give parents complete access to any part of the facility where care is provided, is not mandated in all states. Parents should pay close attention to this portion of their local licensing requirements.

Administrative procedures outlining hours of operation, staff names and telephone numbers, program objectives, and so on, are usually required to be posted where parents can view them. (These can also be found in our Business Forms section.)

Fire safety often falls under local jurisdiction (i.e. municipal Fire Marshall), and parents may have to contact their local fire inspector for more information.

Basic hygiene includes hand washing, food preparation, toilet training and diapering areas. These too, may be regulated by local health officials.

Other regulations may include a criminal background check, medical examination, and reference verification of anyone who is interested in providing care for children. Again, this may not be the case in certain areas. First aid and/or CPR training is usually mandatory.

If this list seems rather tedious, there is good reason - just as there is good reason for parents to learn about child care -to protect our children.

Should parents necessarily worry about each portion of their local licensing requirements? Perhaps that is too much to ask. After all, it took a great many years and a great many studies for even these few laws to be developed. Parents should, however, be aware of them, for only through knowledge can we understand what is and what is not good child care.


Current State Day Care Licensing Offices
Child Care Action Campaign
330 Seventh Ave., 17th Floor
New York, NY 10001
(212) 239-0138

by Catherine Pruissen
Self-Counsel Press