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How to Start a Daycare in Delaware

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At, our articles are penned by a dynamic team of seasoned experts who've spent years in the trenches with kids and daycare center owners. Imagine a mix of laughter, learning, and aha moments distilled into every article! From playful tips for early childhood education to navigating the wild ride of daycare provider life, we're your go-to source for reliable info with a side of fun.

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

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  • Firstly, research the licensing requirements set forth by the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families (DSCYF). Obtain necessary permits and clearances, including background checks for all staff members.
  • Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your services, pricing, and target market.
  • Secure a suitable location that meets safety standards and zoning regulations.
  • Design the facility to be child-friendly, with appropriate play areas and educational materials.
  • Hire qualified staff who are passionate about childcare and ensure they receive proper training in CPR, first aid, and child development.
  • Market your daycare through local advertising, a listing, community outreach, and social media to attract families seeking quality childcare services.
  • Finally, prioritize ongoing communication with parents and continuous improvement of your daycare operations to provide a positive and enriching experience for the children under your care.

When contemplating starting a child care business, your initial destination should be the Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL). OCCL offers a plethora of services without any associated fees, including application processing, informational and orientation sessions, fingerprinting and criminal history reviews, licensing procedures, and technical assistance. These invaluable resources are readily accessible to individuals or organizations operating or aspiring to establish a child care business. Prospective business owners are required to partake in initial training sessions, which furnish essential insights into the licensing process, regulations, and available resources. OCCL personnel are available to address inquiries via phone, mail, or email. Delaware hosts five types of licensed child care facilities, each with its own set of characteristics and requirements. For further details on commencing a business, individuals can click on the relevant link corresponding to their area of interest.

  • Family Child Care Homes: child care in a private home for for up to nine children depending on the provider’s training and experience
  • Large Family Child Care Homes: child care in a private home or commercial (non-residential) setting depending on zoning codes for up to twelve children preschool-age or younger and one or two school-age children
  • Early Care and Education and School-Age Centers: (includes daycare centers, nursery schools, preschools, and before/after school care) child care in a commercial (non-residential) setting for thirteen or more children
  • Residential Child Care Facilities and Day Treatment Programs: services for children with behavioral dysfunctions; developmental, emotional, mental or physical impairments; and/or chemical dependencies
  • Child Placing Agencies: adoption and foster care services

daycare in Delaware

Family child care homes, large family child care homes, and childcare centers stand as prevalent types of childcare establishments. Continue reading to discover the criteria and application procedures for Delaware’s primary childcare business types.

Child care centers

Childcare licensing requirements in Delaware

Whether you’re considering launching a childcare facility in a center-based or home-based setting, it’s imperative to verify your eligibility and comply with the specific requirements corresponding to the type of childcare program you intend to establish.

Staff qualifications

Administrators of licensed child care centers must be a minimum of 21 years old and hold a bachelor’s degree. Those with bachelor’s degrees in disciplines unrelated to early childhood education must undertake a minimum of 15 credit hours from an accredited institution, comprising at least three credit hours in a childcare-related area and a further three credit hours in an early childhood elective.

Administrators employed within a Montessori program can attain qualification by obtaining either a Montessori Full or Associate Credential from a training program approved by MACTE (Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education).

Every childcare staff member responsible for directly caring for children must undergo annual training in CPR, first aid, and medication administration.

Staff-to-child ratios

Childcare centers in Delaware are required to adhere to the following ratios of staff-to-child and limits on group size for each age category:

  • Infants up to 1 year old: A maximum of 8 infants in a group with one staff member for every 4 children (1:4).
  • Young toddlers up to 2 years old: A maximum of 12 young toddlers in a group with one staff member for every 6 children (1:6).
  • Older toddlers up to 3 years old: A maximum of 16 older toddlers in a group with one staff member for every 8 children (1:8).
  • Young preschoolers up to 4 years old: A maximum of 20 young preschoolers in a group with one staff member for every 10 children (1:10).
  • Older preschoolers up to 5 years old: A maximum of 24 older preschoolers in a group with one staff member for every 12 children (1:12).

Staff-to-child ratios and group size requirements for mixed-age groups are determined by the presence of the youngest child.

Building requirements

Childcare centers are obligated to fulfill specifications regarding both indoor and outdoor space.

  • You need to obtain written certification confirming compliance with zoning regulations, building construction standards, safety measures, sanitation guidelines, and fire safety protocols, which includes certification from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. If your center relies on well water, you will also require certification from the Department of Health and Social Services Office of Drinking Water.
  • Childcare centers are required to allocate a minimum of 35 square feet of usable floor space for each child in every area or room designated for children’s use. This measurement excludes restrooms, kitchen areas, spaces for isolating sick children, offices, storage areas, hallways, furnace rooms, gymnasiums, and other areas not designated for classroom purposes.
  • Children must be provided access to an outdoor play area that offers a minimum of 75 square feet per child.

Health and safety requirements

Childcare centers are required to adhere to health and safety standards.

  • Should a child display symptoms of illness, they are required to be relocated to a designated area.
  • Staff members are obligated to notify the Department Division of Public Health of any occurrences of infectious diseases.
  • At all times, there must be a staff member present at the center who is certified to administer medication to children and holds a valid Administration of Medication certificate from OCCL.
  • Radon testing should be conducted every five years, specifically during the period from October to March, and within six months following any remodeling, renovations, or construction projects.

Family child care homes

Staff qualifications

A family child care provider must be at least 18 years of age, possess a high school diploma or its equivalent, hold certifications in medication administration, first aid, and CPR, and successfully complete pre-service as well as annual health and safety training.

Family child care homes are divided into either Level I or Level II classifications. Providers have the ability to seek written approval from OCCL to transition from a Level I to a Level II family home.

Capacity requirements

Family child care homes must adhere to specific capacity regulations. The individuals living in the family child care home are exempt from counting toward the capacity requirements.

  • In a Level I family child care home, a maximum of six children may be present, with the provision that up to two of them can be under the age of 12 months.
  • A Level I family child care home is authorized to offer care for a maximum of five children under the age of 5.
  • In a Level I family child care home, a maximum of two children under the age of 12 months are permitted, and additionally, up to three children under the age of 24 months can be accommodated.
  • A Level II family child care home has the capacity to care for a maximum of six children under the age of 5, as well as up to three additional school-age children who require care before and after school, during school holidays, and throughout school vacations.
  • In a Level II family child care home, a maximum of two children under 12 months old are allowed, and up to four of the children may be under 24 months old.

Building requirements

Family child care homes are required to adhere to particular building regulations.

  • A minimum of 25 square feet of indoor space must be allocated for each child. This measurement excludes areas such as bathrooms, storage spaces, hallways, furnace rooms, and any other areas not utilized by children.
  • The outdoor play area must be enclosed by durable fencing to safeguard children from potential dangers such as busy roads, pools, bodies of water, railroads, steep inclines or drops, high-voltage wires, poles, towers, and other hazards.

Health and safety requirements

Family child care homes are obligated to adhere to particular health and safety standards.

  • Children exhibiting symptoms of illness are prohibited from entering or staying in the family child care home.
  • A staff member is required to possess a valid Administration of Medication certificate from OCCL in order to administer medication to children.
  • A facility must have at least one fully stocked first aid kit.
  • A provider is required to possess an emergency preparedness plan outlining the procedures to be followed during emergencies.

daycare in Delaware

Large family child care homes

Staff qualifications

To operate a large family child care home, the provider must be a minimum of 21 years old and possess a high school diploma. Additionally, providers are obligated to undergo pre-service and annual training and obtain certification for medication administration.

Staff-to-child ratios

Large family child care homes are required to adhere to designated staff-to-child ratios. Household residents are excluded from these ratios in large family child care homes.

  • In the presence of seven or more children under five years old in the center, both a provider and an assistant or aide must be present.
  • A maximum of 12 children may be present in the home at any given time.

Building requirements

Large family child care homes are obligated to adhere to building requirements.

  • A provider must possess written certification confirming that the home meets zoning, building construction, and fire safety regulations.
  • A large family home must be devoid of any unacceptable exposure to hazardous materials and substances.
  • The outdoor play area must be enclosed by a fence. This fenced area must include a minimum of two exits, with at least one exit positioned away from the building.

Health and safety requirements

Large family child care homes are required to adhere to health and safety standards.

  • Children displaying symptoms of illness are not permitted to enter or stay in the family child care home.
  • In order to administer medication to children, a staff member must possess a valid Administration of Medication certificate from OCCL.
  • There must be at least one complete first aid kit in a facility.
  • A provider must have an emergency preparedness plan that describes emergency procedures that will be followed in the event of an emergency.

The OCCL mandates that all licensees maintain comprehensive records for both children and staff.

Childcare license application in Delaware

After identifying the required childcare license for your business and acquainting yourself with the regulations, you can initiate the application process. The specific steps of the application process will depend on the type of license you are applying for. Here is a condensed overview of the general steps involved in applying for a license.

Step 1: Attend an orientation

The initial step involves participating in OCCL’s information session and orientation, where you will receive guidance on the application procedure and regulatory requirements.

Step 2: Submit a completed initial license application

Your application submission will include detailed information about yourself, the child care you will provide, your staff, and the facility. Before applying, you should choose your facility’s name and business structure. There are several supplementary documents you’ll submit with your application, including:

  • Blueprints or diagrams of the center
  • Provide either a sample two-week menu if you are offering meals or a copy of the food establishment permit from your selected caterer.
  • Business plan
  • Documentation such as a deed, lease agreement, or proof of future occupancy that demonstrates ownership or intent to lease the facility prior to license issuance.
  • Approval from the state fire marshal or a designated marshal within the city limits of Wilmington, Newark, New Castle, or Dover is required for a child care center. For a family child care home, an electrical inspection of the residence is necessary.
  • Evidence demonstrating adherence to zoning regulations and a certificate confirming occupancy.
  • A lead-paint risk assessment is required for centers or homes constructed before 1978.
  • Thorough background checks are necessary for you, the early childhood administrator, and the early childhood teachers.
  • When managing a home-based family childcare facility, background checks and state and federal fingerprinting are obligatory for all adult household members, substitutes, staff members, and adult volunteers.
  • If you are on-site at the center, your health evaluation must confirm that within one year prior to the application date, you do not present a risk of transmitting tuberculosis to children or other staff members.
  • Documentation verifying the fulfillment of pre-service training in the subsequent subjects is required for family and home-based childcare:
  • Six hours of child development with assured quality.
  • Three hours of positive behavior support or social-emotional development with assured quality.
  • Prevention and control of infectious diseases, including immunization
  • OCCL’s approved Health and Safety Training for Child Care Professionals
  • Parent and staff handbooks
  • Documentation demonstrating that the rooms utilized for childcare are in compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines regarding radon hazards.
  • Liability insurance certificate required prior to the pre-licensing visit.
  • State business license or confirmation of tax-exempt status.

Step 3: Pass your on-site inspection

Once your application is finished, a licensing specialist will examine it and inspect the facility to assess compliance. If compliance is met, they will recommend issuing a license.

Step 4: Receive your provisional license

If OCCL determines you should receive a provisional license, it is valid for six months.

Step 5: Receive your compliance review

While your provisional license remains active, a licensing specialist will conduct a compliance review before its expiration. If it is confirmed that you are in compliance, you will be granted either a provisional or annual license, depending on your level of compliance. The provisional license is valid for six months, while the annual permit lasts for one year.

daycare in Delaware

For a thorough understanding of the steps required for the specific license you are seeking, download the regulation documents from the OCCL site. These documents provide a comprehensive list of the necessary steps for the application process, as well as the required documents. Additionally, you will find information regarding background checks.

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Delaware

As a licensed childcare provider in Delaware, adherence to the state’s childcare laws and licensing regulations is mandatory. Your annual license remains valid for one year. To renew your license, you must submit a completed renewal license application for your family child care home, large family child care home, or child care center to OCCL at least 60 days before the current license expires. This application should include a sample two-week menu of meals or snacks if applicable, a certificate of liability insurance, and a copy of your current state business license, unless tax-exempt verification is provided.

During an unannounced annual compliance review, a licensing specialist or supervisor will ensure that the licensee complies with these regulations. If any noncompliance is identified, you will receive citations and be provided with a corrective action plan. Furthermore, OCCL retains the right to suspend your license if it is determined that the health, safety, or well-being of the children is at serious or imminent risk.

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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