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How Do I Start My Own Daycare in South Carolina

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You have come to the best place for answers-! You see, starting a daycare in South Carolina requires careful planning and adherence to state regulations. If you do not meet these rules, you could be fined or shut down.  These rules are in place to make the children under your care safe!

  • Start by thoroughly researching the state’s licensing requirements for child care facilities. This includes understanding regulations regarding staff qualifications, health and safety standards, and facility guidelines. Its better to now these things now, before you run afoul any state, or local regulations.
  • Next, develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your daycare’s mission, target demographic, operating hours, curriculum (if applicable), and budget.
  • Secure suitable premises that meet state regulations and ensure they are equipped with necessary safety features and amenities.
  • Obtain the required licenses and permits from the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) and undergo any necessary inspections. Parents will also want to see inspection reports.
  • Hire qualified staff who are passionate about early childhood education and capable of providing a nurturing environment for children.
  • Market your daycare through local advertising. Create a free, or paid com listing, do community outreach, and try online platforms to attract clients.

Continuously prioritize the safety, well-being, and developmental needs of the children in your care to build a reputable and successful daycare business in South Carolina.

Do I need a childcare license in South Carolina?

Yes, you do in nearly all cases when you are caring for a child. You see, all childcare programs in South Carolina must adhere to licensing, registration, approval, or legal exemption requirements. The state defines four types of childcare facilities:

  • Child care centers: These are establishments licensed for 13 or more children, which can be commercial, school-based, or faith-based.
  • Group childcare homes: These are home-based facilities where an operator cares for seven to 12 children, including those residing in the home and children related to the operator. Group childcare homes must be licensed.
  • Family childcare homes: These are home-based facilities where an operator cares for up to six children, including those residing in the home and children related to the operator. While these facilities may opt for licensing, they must be registered.
  • Legally exempt operations: These are center-based childcare programs operating fewer than four hours a day and/or only on school holidays. Group childcare homes and family childcare homes cannot be legally exempt operations.

In South Carolina, childcare licenses are overseen by the South Carolina Division of Early Care and Education at the Department of Social Services. The specific requirements depend on the type of provider. If you intend to open a daycare in South Carolina, licensing is mandatory if you plan to:

  • Operate for four or more hours daily
  • Operate more than two days per week
  • Provide care for children in your home and care for more than one unrelated family.

Daycare in South Carolina

What are the Childcare licensing requirements in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, the oversight of childcare licensing requirements is conducted by the Division of Early Care and Education. This office is responsible for a large range of essential functions including inspections, comprehensive background checks at both state and federal levels, investigations, and regulatory enforcement.

To maintain and enhance the quality of childcare in South Carolina, a state advisory committee regularly evaluates licensing requirements and regulations. This ensures ongoing improvements in the care provided to children across the state. Both commercial and school-based childcare centers, as well as group childcare homes, must adhere to the state’s licensing requirements. Governed by the South Carolina Child Care Licensing Law these regulations establish minimum standards for conditions within each facility, ensuring adequate levels of protection and supervision for the children under their care.

General requirements for childcare centers and daycare operators

The general requirements that apply to all licensed and registered childcare facilities are outlined below as follows:

  • You must completion an orientation program provided by the Division of Early Child Care and Education. Every applicant has to complete this program.
  • Providers are mandated to submit their facility’s building plans along with accompanying pictures and diagrams.
  • All caregivers employed in licensed childcare centers must hold a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) diploma, along with a minimum of six months of experience as a caregiver in a licensed childcare facility.
  • State and federal background checks must be conducted for all individuals working within the facility.
  • Facilities must undergo yearly unannounced inspections in addition to regularly scheduled inspections.
  • Moreover, childcare programs must pass health and fire safety inspections conducted by the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
  • During operational hours, childcare facilities are required to have at least one caregiver possessing a current certificate in basic first aid and child-infant CPR.
  • In the event of an unexpected staff vacancy, the owner or operator of the childcare facility must notify parents and guardians and obtain signed statements indicating their awareness that the program may provisionally employ a new staff member.
  • Childcare facilities must provide evidence demonstrating compliance with county or municipal zoning ordinances regarding their grounds.

Whether children are present at the childcare center or participating in off-site activities, licensed facilities must adhere to specific staffing ratios as follows:

  • Birth to one year: One staff member for every five children (1:5)
  • One to two years: One staff member for every six children (1:6)
  • Two to three years: One staff member for every eight children (1:8)
  • Three to four years: One staff member for every 12 children (1:12)
  • Four to five years: One staff member for every 17 children (1:17)
  • Five to six years: One staff member for every 20 children (1:20)
  • Six to 12 years: One staff member for every 23 children (1:23)

Childcare centers and group childcare homes

When considering their specific requirements, one will notice a considerable overlap between childcare centers and group childcare homes. A thorough examination of South Carolina’s licensing law reveals that references to “childcare centers” are nearly always accompanied by mentions of “group childcare homes,” except where distinct definitions are provided.

According to South Carolina law, a childcare center encompasses any facility routinely catering to 13 or more children for childcare purposes. Meanwhile, group childcare homes are described as residential facilities that regularly provide childcare for a minimum of seven but no more than 12 children.

Although the requirements imposed on childcare centers, group childcare homes, and family childcare homes share many similarities, there are slight variations in the expectations for family childcare homes. Unlike the former two, which must ensure the presence of at least one caregiver possessing a valid certificate in basic first aid and child-infant CPR on-site during operational hours, this requirement doesn’t extend to family childcare homes.

The most conspicuous disparity lies in the licensing obligations: childcare centers and group childcare homes mandate licensing, whereas family childcare homes merely necessitate registration.

Daycare in South Carolina

Family childcare homes

Family childcare homes are residential-based establishments where a caregiver regularly provides childcare for no more than six children. Unlike childcare centers and group childcare homes, family childcare homes are obligated to be registered, although they have the option to pursue licensure.

Before aspiring to become a registered provider of a family childcare home, applicants must:

  • Acknowledge their familiarity with the suggested standards developed by the department by signing a statement.
  • Obtain signed statements from each child’s parent confirming receipt of the suggested standards for family childcare homes and the procedures for submitting complaints.
  • Complete and furnish documents to the Department of Social Services demonstrating completion of a minimum of two hours of annual training approved by the department.

The South Carolina Department of Social Services and the Division of Child Care Licensing and Regulatory Services have established the Child Care Licensing Law to safeguard children in childcare facilities and foster the enhancement of childcare programs. Utilize this guidance as you prepare to establish a childcare center or operate a preschool in your residence. Given the distinct standards for each childcare facility, consult resources provided by the SC Division of Early Child Care and Education to acquaint yourself with the licensing requisites pertinent to your specific program.

Childcare license application in South Carolina

Before initiating the establishment and operation of a daycare center, numerous essential tasks demand attention. Have you finalized the ideal name for your preschool? Is your business plan meticulously crafted? Ensuring the continual growth and retention of enrollment necessitates innovative brainstorming of marketing tactics to sustain your business operations.

Above all, obtaining a childcare license is paramount. The SC Division of Early Child Care and Education delineates the application process as follows:

Step 1: Orientation Attendance

Participating in the free orientation provided by the division is mandatory for all applicants. During the orientation session, you will be provided with a comprehensive packet containing all the necessary forms for your application. This session also presents an opportunity to seek clarification on any queries and gain insights into the resources available in your locality. To enroll for orientation, contact your local licensing office or utilize the provided link to view upcoming orientation sessions for all regions.

Step 2: Submission of Building and Architectural Plans

Forward images and diagrams of your facility to DSS Child Care Fire and Health Safety.

Step 3: Zoning Approval

Following your orientation session, receipt of your application packet, and obtaining building approval from the Chief Fire Marshal at Child Care Licensing, reach out to your local zoning office for approval.

Step 4: Document Submission

Forward your application, zoning approval, and fire inspection request to your local Child Care Licensing Regional Office.

Step 5: Assignment of Licensing Specialist

Upon submission of your documentation, you will be assigned a licensing specialist. They will assist you in completing any additional paperwork required, which you will then submit upon completion.

Step 6: Site Inspection

Upon approval of your submissions, your licensing specialist will arrange a site visit. If your facility meets all the licensing requirements, your case will be submitted for consideration of a provisional childcare license.

Step 7: Comprehensive Evaluation

Following 45 days of operation, the licensing department will conduct a thorough evaluation of your facility. Successful completion of this evaluation will result in the upgrade of your provisional license to a regular childcare license.

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in South Carolina

After obtaining a daycare license in South Carolina, maintaining compliance is essential to keep your license valid. Ensuring compliance entails adhering to the licensing stipulations outlined by the South Carolina Child Care Licensing Law and renewing your license prior to its expiration.

The Division of Early Care and Education conducts scheduled inspections throughout the year, with one unannounced inspection mandated annually. During these inspections, they verify that your childcare facility continues to meet the minimum licensing requirements mandated by the state.

Furthermore, compliance necessitates the active status of your daycare license. Regular licenses are typically issued for a two-year duration. You can request renewal to extend your license for an additional two-year period. To initiate the renewal process, your facility will undergo an investigation to confirm compliance with licensing regulations.

Daycare in South Carolina

Start your daycare in South Carolina

If you intend to establish a daycare enterprise in South Carolina that operates for four or more hours daily, exceeds a frequency of two days per week, offers home-based childcare for children, and caters to more than one unrelated family, acquiring a daycare license is mandatory. The Department of Social Services has implemented stringent and vital requirements for childcare facilities to ensure the well-being, safety, and welfare of the children under their supervision. Equipped with this guide and the resources furnished by the licensing division, you possess the necessary tools and support to realize your objective of launching a daycare business.

To best 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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