How to Start a Daycare in Arkansas

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Starting a daycare in Arkansas involves several key steps to ensure compliance with state regulations and to create a safe and nurturing environment for children.

Whether you are performing in-home childcare or overseeing a large preschool and daycare facility, leveraging tools such as SimplySafeChild’s childcare management software can greatly benefit your operations. This software seamlessly manages alerts, payments, and automation, streamlining your daycare’s management process and reducing the need for additional staff, making it easier to run your daycare smoothly, regardless of its size.

  • First, familiarize yourself with the licensing requirements outlined by the Arkansas Department of Human Services, which includes obtaining appropriate certifications, clearances, and background checks for staff.
  • Next, secure a suitable location for your daycare facility, ensuring it meets zoning requirements and is equipped with the necessary facilities for child care, such as play areas, restrooms, and kitchen facilities. Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your daycare’s mission, services offered, pricing structure, and marketing strategies.
  • Additionally, invest in quality child care supplies, such as furniture, toys, and educational materials, to create an engaging and stimulating environment for children.
  • Finally, prioritize safety by implementing policies and procedures for emergency preparedness, health and hygiene practices, and child supervision. By following these steps and utilizing efficient management tools like SimplySafeChild’s software, you can lay a strong foundation for a successful daycare business in Arkansas.

As always, use Daycare.com as a resource for any and all of your daycare needs.

The Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE) in Arkansas oversees the implementation of the Child Care Facility Licensing Act. This legislation grants the DCCECE authority to establish regulations governing the issuance, revocation, denial, and suspension of licenses for childcare facilities, as well as regulating their operations within the state.

The division has outlined criteria to determine which childcare facilities fall under the minimum licensing requirements outlined in the Act. Any facility open for more than five hours within a 24-hour period, or exceeding 10 hours over a seven-day span, must obtain licensing or registration. However, facilities meeting these criteria but operating for no more than three weeks per calendar year, such as summer bible schools and camps, are exempt from licensing requirements. Additionally, part-time programs operating for no more than 10 hours weekly are also exempt from licensing.

Daycare in Arkansas

The division supervises various types of early childhood childcare facilities and programs, including:

  • Licensed childcare centers: These facilities cater to six or more children from multiple families.
  • Licensed childcare family homes: These are setups where care is offered for six to 16 children within a caregiver’s residence. If the care provided in a licensed home is for 11 or more children, it necessitates approvals from health and fire departments.
  • Registered childcare family homes: These facilities accommodate fewer than five children within a caregiver’s residence.

Arkansas Childcare Licensing Requirements

Before launching a daycare center, securing the appropriate license is paramount. Childcare facilities in Arkansas must consistently adhere to licensing stipulations governing their operations. This ensures they uphold vital standards aimed at safeguarding the well-being, safety, and welfare of the children under their care. Moreover, childcare centers must promptly report any suspected instances of child maltreatment and maintain adequate childcare liability insurance, tailored to the center’s licensed capacity.

The Child Care Licensing Act delineates numerous categories of licensing requirements applicable to licensed childcare centers, licensed childcare family homes, and registered childcare family homes.

Outlined below are examples of some of the licensing prerequisites each type of facility must satisfy.

Licensed childcare centers

Personnel requirements

Arkansas mandates that licensed childcare centers adhere to specific standards regarding staff-to-child ratios, caregiver qualifications, and professional development criteria.

For licensed childcare centers, staff members are required to uphold the following staff-to-child ratios:

  • Under 18 months: One staff member for every five children (1:5)
  • 18 months to 36 months: One staff member for every eight children (1:8)
  • 36 months to three years: One staff member for every 12 children (1:12)
  • Four years: One staff member for every 15 children (1:15)
  • Five years: One staff member for every 18 children (1:18)

Licensed childcare center directors must be a minimum of 21 years old and hold a degree in a field related to childcare.

A director, assistant director, or site supervisor who fulfills the qualifications of a director must be present for at least half of each operational day at the childcare center.

All newly appointed directors, assistant directors, and site supervisors are required to participate in staff training through the Arkansas Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) within six months of commencing employment.

Directors, assistant directors, and site supervisors must accumulate 15 clock hours of training in early childhood education annually. This training is logged with Arkansas’s Professional Development Registry or the Department of Education, or it must be approved by the Department of Higher Education.

Program requirements

Licensed childcare centers in Arkansas are required to possess adequate supplies, resources, and both indoor and outdoor equipment to cater to children’s needs and facilitate diverse activities throughout the day.

Every classroom must display a schedule that outlines developmentally suitable activities, incorporating alternating intervals for active play and quieter pursuits throughout the day.

Childcare personnel must curate experiences for children that address their requirements and align with Arkansas’s learning standards across various domains, encompassing physical, social, emotional, creative, aesthetic, cognitive, intellectual, and language development.

Building requirements

Licensed childcare centers are obligated to provide a minimum of 35 square feet of usable floor space per child for indoor activities, exclusive of bathrooms, kitchens, or hallways.

Furthermore, licensed childcare centers in Arkansas must adhere to the minimum standards stipulated by the Arkansas Fire Prevention Code and retain documented confirmation of annual approval. Additionally, they must adhere to the requirements outlined by the Arkansas State Department and the Boiler Inspection Division of the Arkansas Department of Labor.

Safety requirements

Licensed childcare center directors are required to submit a duplicate of the center’s floor plan to the local Office of Emergency Management within 30 days of any alteration to the plan. Additionally, childcare centers are mandated to collaborate with local emergency management authorities to strategize for emergency situations. The childcare center must also possess and regularly review a current version of the Arkansas Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, overseen by the center’s director.

Furthermore, a licensed childcare center must establish a comprehensive disaster evacuation plan outlining its emergency protocols. The center is also obliged to conduct monthly fire and tornado drills and maintain records thereof.

General health requirements

Licensed childcare centers are prohibited from admitting children or staff members with contagious or infectious diseases. If a child exhibits symptoms necessitating removal from the facility, their family member must be promptly notified.

Medications must be stored out of children’s reach, and administration requires explicit permission from a family member. The authorization should detail the medication type, correct dosage, and administration duration. Medications should either be returned to the family member or appropriately disposed of upon expiry or the child’s program withdrawal.

Within 15 days of enrollment, childcare facilities must confirm a child’s immunization status as per the requirements of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). Failure to comply with these regulations may result in the child’s exclusion from care.

Playground and outdoor learning equipment

Licensed childcare centers must adhere to safety regulations concerning playgrounds and outdoor learning equipment, including features like sandboxes and slides located on the premises.

A detailed diagram of the playground, delineating its perimeter with measurements and specifying each piece of equipment utilized by the enrolled children, must be submitted.

Furthermore, the play area or outdoor learning space must be enclosed by a fence or another appropriate barrier and provide a minimum of 75 square feet per child present on the playground at any given time.

Licensed childcare family homes

Personnel requirements

A licensed childcare family home in Arkansas must meet standards for personnel which cover requirements for staff-to-child ratios, caregiver qualifications, and professional development.

A Licensee shall not have more children in care at any one time than the maximum specified on the license.

The following staff child ratios shall be maintained:

Ages of Children Number of Staff Number of Children
Birth – 18 months 1 5
18 months – 36 months 1 8
2 ½ – 3 years 1 12
4 years 1 15
5 years to Kindergarten 1 18
Kindergarten and above 1 18

Children ages thirty (30) to thirty-six (36) months may be placed in the group most suited to their social, emotional, and developmental maturity.

Infants and toddlers shall not be mixed with preschool children, except as listed in the following requirement.

When a total of eight (8) or fewer children are in care at a licensed site, age groups may be mixed according to the following ratios:

Number of Staff Number of Children Ages of Children
1 6 No more than 3 under the age of 2 years
1 7 No more than 2 under the age of 2 years
1 8 No more than 1 under the age of 2 years

 

Daycare in Arkansas

In a group containing children of different ages, the staff to child ratio shall meet the requirements for the youngest child in the group.

During lunch or outdoor play activities, if children of different age groups are together, the staff to child ratio for the respective age groups shall be maintained.

At no time shall children be left unsupervised or unattended. The child care center shall provide additional staff for any temporary absence of primary child caring staff for activities such as breaks, meal preparation, transportation, etc.

The use of cell phones by staff while supervising children shall be prohibited except in emergency situations.

Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) staff to child ratios shall be maintained during DDS program hours in all facilities that are licensed or certified by both Child Care Licensing and DDS.

Additional staff provisions shall be made for enrollment of children with disabilities who require individual attention.

During naptime for children two and one-half (2 ½) years of age and above, a minimum of fifty percent (50%) of the staff shall remain with the children, with a total of seventy-five percent (75%) of the staff remaining in the building.

Group size shall be limited to two (2) times the number of children allowed with one (1) staff member. This does not apply to periodic or special group activities. (Existing structures licensed prior to November 1, 2002 are exempt from this requirement. However, any expansions, additions, or any newly licensed structures effective November 1, 2002 shall be in compliance.)

For ages two and one-half (2 ½) and above, ratios may be exceeded momentarily as long as children are never left unattended and at least one (1) staff member remains in the classroom with the children. (This would apply to situations such as brief absences for bathroom breaks or to take a sick or injured child to the Director’s office.)

Program requirements

A licensed childcare family home is required to display a schedule outlining age-appropriate activities, with scheduled intervals for both active play and quieter activities throughout the day.

Children must undergo a supervised rest period lasting one to two hours. Those who do not fall asleep during this period should be permitted to engage in a quiet, supervised activity.

Additionally, children should receive a minimum of one hour of outdoor play each day, weather permitting.

Building requirements

Licensed childcare family homes are mandated to provide a minimum of 35 square feet of usable floor space per child for indoor activities, excluding areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, closets, or hallways.

Moreover, licensed childcare family homes in Arkansas must adhere to the requirements set forth by the Arkansas Department of Labor Boiler Inspection Division.

If natural gas or propane is utilized, the heating system of the childcare family home must undergo inspection and cleaning by a qualified Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) technician before each heating season.

Additionally, carbon monoxide detectors must be installed in licensed childcare family homes in accordance with state or local regulations. This is especially crucial if the home is heated by wood, propane, natural gas, or any other sources that could potentially produce carbon monoxide indoors or in an attached garage.

Safety requirements

Licensed childcare family homes are required to submit a duplicate of the home’s floor plan to the local Office of Emergency Management within 30 days of any alterations to the floor plan.

Additionally, a licensed childcare family home must establish a disaster evacuation plan outlining its emergency protocols. Providers of licensed childcare family homes are obligated to promptly inform their local licensing unit of any structural damage to the building or facility grounds.

General health requirements

Every day, all waste, including garbage, soiled diapers, and trash, must be cleared from the childcare family home, and it should be disposed of from the premises at least once a week. Additionally, licensed childcare family homes are required to maintain a first aid kit on-site, ensuring it is inaccessible to children.

Staff members of licensed childcare family homes who directly interact with children must either receive immunizations or provide proof of immunity. Moreover, staff members are obligated to adhere to any health or medical care plans or documentation provided by a child’s physician or family member.

Playground and outdoor learning equipment

A satellite image or diagram of the playground at the home, clearly delineating its boundaries with measurements and specifying each piece of equipment, must be provided to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education.

Registered childcare family homes

Personnel requirements

A registered childcare family home in Arkansas must adhere to personnel standards that encompass caregiver qualifications, responsibilities, and training requirements.

The primary caregiver in a registered childcare family home must be a minimum of 18 years old. Both primary and secondary caregivers are mandated to possess a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a general education diploma (GED).

Newly registered childcare family home providers must participate in family child care provider training within the initial six months of registration. Additionally, they must complete a minimum of 15 hours of annual training, inclusive of child development instruction, through the Arkansas Professional Development Registry.

Program requirements

A registered childcare family home is required to display a schedule outlining age-appropriate activities, with scheduled intervals alternating between active play and quiet activities throughout the day.

Building requirements

Registered childcare centers must comply with the Arkansas State Department and Arkansas Department of Labor Boiler Inspection Division’s requirements.

Additionally, carbon monoxide detectors must be installed in registered childcare family homes in accordance with state or local regulations. This is particularly crucial if the home is heated by wood, propane, natural gas, or any other sources that could potentially produce carbon monoxide indoors or in an attached garage.

Safety requirements

Registered childcare family homes are required to submit a duplicate of the home’s floor plan to the local Office of Emergency Management within 30 days of any alterations to the floor plan.

Moreover, a registered childcare family home must establish a disaster evacuation plan outlining its emergency protocols. Additionally, the childcare family home must conduct monthly fire and tornado drills, maintaining records of these drills. Providers of registered childcare family homes must promptly inform their local licensing unit of any structural damage to the building or facility grounds.

General health requirements

Registered childcare family homes are obligated to follow comprehensive regulations regarding hand washing, drinking facilities, diaper changing, and toileting.

Additionally, the registered childcare family home must ensure an ample supply of water that meets the standards for drinking water set by the Arkansas Health Department.

Playground and outdoor learning equipment

A satellite image or diagram of the playground at the home must be provided to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education. This image or diagram should clearly outline the perimeter of the playground, include measurements, and identify each piece of equipment present.

Daycare in Arkansas

Childcare license application in Arkansas

Whether you aim to establish a childcare center, licensed childcare family home, or registered childcare family home in Arkansas, the steps to apply for the suitable license remain consistent. Presented below are the steps to adhere to in the application procedure.

Step 1: Reach out to the childcare licensing personnel.

Contact the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education. You will receive the contact details for the childcare licensing specialist in your locality. Additionally, they will furnish information on scheduling the mandatory pre-application orientation class.

Step 2: Participate in the pre-licensing class

Here you will receive detailed guidance on the process of obtaining a childcare license in Arkansas. This includes understanding the applicable licensing requirements, undergoing necessary background checks, managing financial considerations and business liability, securing approvals from fire and health departments, addressing zoning requirements, and accessing state and federally funded programs.

Step 3: Review your documentation with a childcare licensing specialist.

Reach out to the childcare licensing specialist in your vicinity to discuss your plans and readiness to proceed with the application. It’s worth noting that the specialist will provide technical assistance throughout the application process, including reviewing plans and blueprints, conducting site visits, and offering zoning information.

Step 4: Submit a fully completed and signed application form.

Once you are within 60 days of your daycare’s anticipated opening date, submit your application to your licensing specialist either by mail or through the Arkansas Department of Human Services eLicensing platform. A comprehensive application should include:

  • A signed application form with a designated person who assumes legal responsibility for the facility
  • A named director and their qualifications
  • Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the Board of Directors, if applicable
  • Clear written guidelines of responsibility for the Board of Directors, if applicable
  • The building or facility diagram
  • Description of the provided services to the children
  • Criminal background check results on all owners, operators, and staff of the facility
  • Boiler inspection or verification that inspection has been scheduled
  • Approval from the Fire Department
  • Approval from the Health Department
  • Zoning approval
  • Proof of childcare liability insurance
  • A reasonable plan with a proposed budget that covers costs of staffing, building rent and repairs, utilities, equipment, safety, and nutrition

Step 5: Complete the payment of the license fee.

You will receive a notice by mail detailing the amount of the fee and the appropriate mailing address.

Step 6: Await contact from your licensing specialist.

Within two business days of submitting your application, your designated specialist will reach out to you to discuss your plans further and provide any necessary technical support. They are responsible for submitting a recommendation to the DCCECE within 60 days.

Starting a daycare in Arkansas requires careful planning, adherence to regulations, and a commitment to providing quality care. Key steps include obtaining licensing from the Arkansas Department of Human Services, securing a suitable facility that meets safety and space requirements, hiring qualified staff, and developing a curriculum that promotes learning and development. Additionally, implementing robust health and safety policies, fostering communication with parents, and effectively marketing your services are crucial for success. By following these steps and maintaining a focus on excellence in childcare, you can create a nurturing environment that supports the growth and well-being of children in your community.

Contact Information

Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE)

700 Main Street, Little Rock, AR 72203-1437

PHONE:501-682-1001

TOLL-FREE:800-445-3316

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