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How Do I Start a Daycare in North Dakota

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Starting a daycare in North Dakota requires thorough planning and adherence to many state regulations and guidelines. Here is a list of some important details to get you started with your childcare center or in-home daycare.

  • Complete some research on licensing requirements. In North Dakota, this requires adherence to safety standards, staff-child ratios, and checks on the background of staff members and other personnel.
  • Compose a detailed, written business plan. This is desirable before setting up any venture and will detail what the daycare hopes to achieve for children, list the services it will provide, detail the individuals who it seeks to serve, and provide financial projections.
  • You will need to find a suitable building with enough space indoors and outdoors for the children to play and meet zoning laws.
  • Seek the permits required and arrange for premises insurance to protect from liability and any property damage.
  • Recruit qualified staff to oversee children, with relevant certifications, and ensure they are trained to meet mandates.
  • Devise health and safety protocols, from emergency procedures to sanitation practices.
  • Develop a curriculum and play activities for different age groups in order to promote child development.
  • Market the daycare through advertising in the local area, a listing on, social media, and through the community to gain interest and attract attention. Market your business, list your daycare on, and get in touch with prospective parents.
  • Regularly evaluate and improve your daycare’s operations to maintain a high standard of care and foster positive relationships with parents and guardians.
  • Finally, measure the outcomes and adjust the daycare accordingly to maintain as much consistency as possible and create a happy relationship with parents and carers.

Do I need a childcare license in North Dakota?

Starting a daycare center is an incredibly rewarding thing to do. If you’re looking to start one in North Dakota, its important to understand the licensing requirements you’ll need to meet, if applicable to your program type. The North Dakota Department of Heath and Human Services (HHS) mandates licensing for the majority of childcare providers in the state, ensuring adherence to essential quality, health, and safety standards. However, the specific type of license required depends on both the location of your establishment and the number of children you intend to care for. There are several distinct program categories:
  • Childcare Center: These programs are typically housed in standalone buildings, businesses, community centers, or places of worship. They may be privately owned for-profit ventures or non-profit entities governed by a board of directors. Childcare centers cater to 19 or more children, spanning from infants to 11 years old. Licensing capacity is determined by factors like available space, staff-to-child ratios, and local regulations.
  • Family Child Care: These programs operate within a private residence, often the provider’s own home. Providers can accommodate up to seven children, with no more than three under the age of 24 months. Additionally, they may include up to two additional school-age children, with the provider’s own children under 12 years old included in the total count.
  • Group Child Care: Group child care programs may hold licenses for up to 30 children, encompassing infants through 11 years old. These programs can be based in either a home or a non-residential building, with the actual license capacity determined by available space, staff-to-child ratios, and local regulations. Again, the provider’s own children under age 12 are included in the total count.
  • Preschool Program: Private preschool programs offer part-time care, typically limited to three hours per day. These programs serve children aged two through five years old and are commonly situated in standalone buildings, businesses, homes, community centers, or places of worship. Similar to childcare centers, they may operate as for-profit businesses or non-profit entities overseen by a board of directors. The number of children served varies depending on square-footage requirements.
Providers caring for five or fewer children, or three children under 24 months, in a home are not mandated to obtain licensure under North Dakota law. However, these self-declared providers and approved relatives must still meet essential requirements, including background checks and basic health and safety training.

Daycare in North Dakota

Exempt from Licensing Childcare

In certain scenarios, it’s possible to operate a childcare center without obtaining a formal license. This flexibility allows North Dakota families to exercise full discretion in determining the most suitable arrangement for their family’s needs, preferences, and experiences. In-Home Provider: In-home providers are caregivers who travel to children’s residences to provide care. This type of arrangement caters to children ranging from infancy to 11 years old. Additionally, the provider can oversee a maximum of five children, with no more than three under the age of 24 months. While providers must still comply with regulations and undergo background checks, they are not required to apply for a childcare license. Public Approval: Public approval programs are childcare facilities overseen by governmental organizations, including family child care, group child care, preschools, school-age child care, or childcare centers. These entities obtain approval by demonstrating compliance with the regulations specific to each type of childcare center. Such care facilities are typically situated in standalone buildings, serve children from infancy to 11 years old, and can accommodate varying numbers of children based on their specific type. Self-Declared Provider: Self-declared providers are monitored by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit and must meet various regulations, including background checks and safety standards. These programs are commonly operated in private residences and can cater to infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children, with a limit of no more than three children under the age of 24 months.

Childcare licensing requirements in North Dakota

Whether your intention is to establish a licensed family child care home, a group child care home, or a child care center, North Dakota legislation mandates that businesses acquire fundamental certifications prior to receiving approval, or within 90 days thereafter. All licensed daycare and childcare providers are required to attain certification in pediatric first aid through a program sanctioned by the department. Additionally, they must obtain department-approved infant and pediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training, which includes proficiency in using an automated external defibrillator (AED). These certifications can be obtained through recognized training programs offered by organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, or similar entities specializing in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillator training. Also, all approved providers must be at least 18 years old and complete specified department-endorsed courses. These courses typically include a basic childcare course, a one-hour training session on sudden infant death prevention, and a minimum of nine hours of annual training related to childcare licensing. The comprehensive early childhood services rulebooks for licensed family child care, group child care, and child care centers can be accessed here. General requirements The general requirements for all licensed childcare facilities are similar. All applicants must:
  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Complete a department-approved basic childcare course within ninety days of obtaining licensure.
  • Provide a sketch, diagram, or blueprint of the facility, illustrating dimensions and layout of rooms designated for children’s use, as well as outdoor play areas.
  • Conduct background checks on all staff members working within the facility.
  • Complete a minimum of nine hours of department-approved training related to childcare annually. Courses previously taken may count toward annual requirements if at least three years have elapsed since their completion, except for sudden infant death prevention training, which must be completed annually.
  • Complete one hour of department-approved sudden infant death prevention training before commencing care for infants, with annual refresher training thereafter.
Facility requirements Additionally, every childcare and daycare program is obligated to adhere to minimum facility standards. You must follow these standards, and all facilities must:
  • Your daycare, or center, must maintain adequate lighting throughout the premises.
  • Ensure a safe and comfortable environment for children.
  • You must provide designated areas for play and sleep activities.
  • There needs to be access to running water that is safe for use.
  • Provide functional toilets and sinks for the use of occupants.
Ratio requirements Programs are required to maintain specific staff-to-child ratios and group sizes as follows:
  • Children under eighteen months old require a ratio of one staff member for every four children (1:4), with a maximum group size of 10 children.
  • Children aged eighteen to thirty-six months necessitate a ratio of one staff member for every five children (1:5), with a maximum group size of 15 children.
  • Children aged three to four years call for a ratio of one staff member for every seven children (1:7), with a maximum group size of 20 children.
  • Children aged four to five years require a ratio of one staff member for every 10 children (1:10), with a maximum group size of 25 children.
  • Children aged five to six years need a ratio of one staff member for every 12 children (1:12), with a maximum group size of 30 children.
  • Children aged six to twelve years necessitate a ratio of one staff member for every 20 children (1:20), with a maximum group size of 40 children.
  • Additionally, when mixed-age groups are present, the provider must ensure that the maximum group size aligns with the age majority or the highest number of children in the youngest age group. Moreover, if children aged zero to 18 months are part of the mixed-age group, the maximum group size cannot exceed 10 children.

Daycare in North Dakota

Childcare license application in North Dakota

Establishing a successful licensed daycare or childcare center in North Dakota demands dedication and careful planning, typically requiring an average of nine to 12 months of preparation before commencement. For those aspiring to becoming a childcare provider in North Dakota, the following steps are crucial: Step 1: Complete early childhood units These units offer valuable insights into fostering high-quality early childhood experiences, laying a strong educational foundation for children aged zero to five. The curriculum covers five key areas:
  • Best in class
  • Family and school engagement
  • Licensing
  • Professional development
  • Quality
Step 2: Determine your program type It’s essential to identify the most suitable childcare program aligned with your business objectives. Refer to the previously outlined details to understand available options, licensing prerequisites, and regulatory compliance. Step 3: Understand all childcare regulations Engage with a childcare licensing specialist at your local county social services office to discuss your plans comprehensively. They can guide you through the application process and address any queries regarding childcare regulations, program types, or general procedural information. Step 4: Complete a criminal background check Upon completing the initial steps, you’ll be required to undergo a thorough criminal background check. This applies to you, all staff members, and any individuals aged 18 or above residing in the caregiving premises. Step 5: Complete required training Successful completion of pre-service training is mandatory post-background check, including
  • New Provider Orientation
  • Getting Started – ND’s Basic Child Care Course
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Pediatric CPR/AED and Pediatric First Aid
Step 6: Submit required paperwork Ensure submission of requisite paperwork as part of the initial application and renewal processes. Documentation requirements vary slightly based on provider type, and all necessary paperwork must be filed through the online Child Care Licensing system. Step 7: Utilize business resources Child Care Aware of North Dakota provides childcare providers with a set amount of pre-licensing business resources and support at no extra cost. Their consultants are available to aid in evaluating optimal business locations, crafting business plan  (including delineating proposed marketing strategies) and financial analyses, and examining details concerning building and fire inspections, safe food preparation, program policies, equipment and supplies, and other pertinent aspects. Although they lack the authority to issue licenses, their purpose is to serve as a guiding resource, assisting you in thorough preparation to ensure the approval of your daycare license by the state. Step 6: Provide Necessary Documentation Childcare providers must furnish specific paperwork as part of both the initial application and renewal procedures. Each provider type necessitates slightly varying documentation. All mandated paperwork must be submitted to your licensing specialist through the online Child Care Licensing system. Step 7: Access Business Assistance Child Care Aware of North Dakota extends childcare providers a range of pre-licensing business resources and aid at no additional cost. They are there to help you in your business. Their consultants offer guidance on selecting an optimal business location, drafting comprehensive business plans (including proposed marketing strategies), conducting financial analyses, and reviewing essential aspects such as building and fire inspections, safe food preparation, program policies, and procurement of equipment and supplies. While not authorized to issue licenses, they serve as valuable guides to ensure your daycare license meets state approval. Step 8: Learn about childcare provider support Recognizing the significant expenses and time commitments involved in opening a childcare facility, North Dakota offers various grant and support options to simplify the process. From general support resources to food programs, numerous initiatives are available to assist in launching your operation. Step 9: Watch online licensing system training videos It is imperative at this juncture to familiarize yourself with the necessary online licensing training videos provided by HHS. This training is divided into two segments, accessible through part one and part two links. Step 10: Submit your application Once you have meticulously planned your business, including aspects like location, facility size, staffing requirements, and a distinctive daycare name, reach out to your licensing specialist to arrange a pre-licensing site visit. This visit ensures your readiness before formal application submission. The following checklist outlines everything required for submitting your licensure application:
  • $40 application fee
  • Background check forms for all staff and volunteers aged 18 and above
  • Proof of liability insurance
  • Documentation verifying qualifications of staff and director
  • Copies of center policies, programming schedule, and emergency procedures
  • Copy of center floor plan
  • Copy of fire inspection report
  • Copy of health and sanitation report
  • Copies of TB test results for you and your staff
  • Copy of health information certification
  • Any other forms stipulated by administrative rule
Upon submission of your application and all necessary documents, anticipate a thorough review by your county licensing specialist, with a decision on approval or rejection communicated within 60 days.

Daycare in North Dakota

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in North Dakota

Upon obtaining your daycare license from the state, it becomes your responsibility to ensure that your home or facility adheres to North Dakota’s state licensing requirements. Current licenses must be conspicuously displayed within the applicable premises. Additionally, in cases of a change in provider or location, a new license application must be promptly submitted. It is imperative that licenses clearly specify the maximum number of children permitted in the center or group childcare home, and this limit must not be exceeded. To maintain compliance with North Dakota’s childcare regulations, annual fire and emergency inspections are mandatory. As a provider, it is incumbent upon you to ensure that your facility is equipped with adequate smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, as per recommendations from the local fire department and state fire marshal. Furthermore, essential aspects of compliance entail maintaining comprehensive records of enrollment, attendance, billing, and health for all children and staff in your facility, as well as undergoing annual monitoring visits. Although managing these tasks can be challenging, tools and can streamline record-keeping, reporting, and admissions processes, facilitating adherence to crucial compliance requirements. A comprehensive list of compliance regulations for family child care homes, group child care homes,, and child care centers equips you with the necessary guidelines to ensure ongoing compliance.

License renewal

To maintain your daycare license, it is necessary to initiate the renewal process by submitting an application along with the requisite documentation at least 45 days before the expiration date of your current license. Failure to complete renewal applications by the license expiration date may result in termination. Individuals whose licenses have been terminated are prohibited from operating a center or group facility until they have completed a new application process and obtained a childcare license anew. Childcare centers serve as vital pillars in the lives of numerous families and children while also presenting lucrative business opportunities. By employing organization, meticulous planning, and leveraging all available resources, your program can effectively make a positive impact within your community. The best way to market your daycare and utilize coming tools such as all-in-one waitlist management, payment processing, and single scan solutions for parent updates, sign up at

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