How to Start a Daycare in Florida

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Starting a home daycare in Florida or overseeing a large preschool and daycare facility, leveraging tools such as SimplySafeChild’s daycare management software and Daycare.com can greatly benefit your operations.

The software seamlessly manages alerts, payments, and automation, streamlining the daycare management process and reducing the need for additional staff, making it easier to run your daycare smoothly, regardless of its size. This allows you to focus more on providing high-quality care and education to the children entrusted to your facility while ensuring administrative tasks are efficiently handled. By incorporating such technology, you can enhance the overall experience for both children and parents, ultimately contributing to the success and sustainability of your daycare business in Florida.

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

Do I need a childcare license in Florida?

In accordance with childcare regulations in Florida, obtaining a childcare license is mandatory if you plan to run a childcare establishment with over five children who are not your relatives for a fee. However, certain childcare arrangements do not require a license, namely:

  • Public and private schools and their inclusive programs
  • Summer camps hosting full-time resident children
  • Summer day camps
  • Bible schools held during vacation periods
  • Transient establishments operators offering childcare primarily for their guests

Daycare in Florida

The Office of Child Care Regulation within the Department of Children and Families oversees childcare licensing in 62 out of 67 counties in Florida. In the remaining five counties—Broward, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Pinellas, and Sarasota—local licensing agencies are tasked with regulating childcare licensing programs within their respective jurisdictions.

The department oversees the regulation of five childcare programs: Child Care Facilities, Licensed Family Daycare Homes, Large Family Child Care Homes, School-Age Child Care Facilities, and Child Care Facilities for Mildly Ill Children.

  • Child Care Facilities: Offer care to more than five unrelated children and charge a fee for their services.
  • Licensed Family Daycare Homes: Occupied residences where childcare is consistently provided for children from a minimum of two unrelated families, with payment fees received.
  • Large Family Child Care Homes: Occupied residences where childcare is consistently provided for children from a minimum of two unrelated families, fees are charged, and there are at least two full-time childcare personnel present on the premises.
  • School-Age Child Care Facilities: Provide care exclusively to school-aged children either before or after regular school hours.
  • Child Care Facilities for Mildly Ill Children: Offer care for young children with temporary illnesses or displaying symptoms of illness or disability.

Childcare licensing requirements in Florida

Child Care Facility

Age requirement

  • Operator must be at least 21 years old

Training and credentialing requirements

  • The facility director is required to possess a valid director credential.
  • Childcare personnel are obligated to finish the department’s 40-hour introductory training program for Child Care Facilities.
  • Additional training mandates encompass early literacy instruction, training in safe sleep and shaken baby syndrome awareness, certification in first aid and CPR, completion of fire extinguisher training, and participation in annual in-service training sessions.

Background screening requirements

Every employee at daycare centers is required to undergo a background check. In accordance with Florida childcare regulations, daycare center staff must undergo two types of background screening: initial and re-screening.

The initial background screening is mandatory before employment. Re-screening typically occurs every five years and is compulsory for all daycare personnel. Further details about background screening requirements can be found here.

Licensed capacity

  • The maximum number of children under care must not surpass the licensed capacity of the facility.
  • Each child must have a minimum of 35 square feet of usable indoor floor space and at least 45 square feet of outdoor play space.
  • For childcare facilities accommodating one to 15 children, one toilet and one wash basin are mandatory, with an additional toilet and wash basin required for every additional 30 children.

Staff-to-child ratios

  • Infants under one year: One staff member for every four infants (1:4)
  • One year olds: One staff member for every six children (1:6)
  • Two year olds: One staff member for every 11 children (1:11)
  • Three year olds: One staff member for every 15 children (1:15)
  • Four year olds: One staff member for every 20 children (1:20)
  • Five year olds: One staff member for every 25 children (1:25)

Childcare licensing fees

Licensed childcare facilities are obligated to remit a licensing fee of $1 for each child, determined by the facility’s licensed capacity. Nevertheless, the minimum fee per facility is $25, while the maximum is capped at $100.

Family Daycare Home

General requirements

  • The operator must be at least 18 years of age.
  • The daycare operation must be conducted within the operator’s residence.
  • The operator is prohibited from working outside the home during business hours.
  • There must be at least one additional adult available to serve as a substitute in case of emergencies.
  • A completed health and safety checklist must be provided to each family annually.
  • Verification of compliance with local zoning ordinances permitting daycare business operation from home is necessary.

Training and credentialing requirements

  • The following trainings are mandatory prior to licensure:
  • The department requires completion of a 30-clock-hour training program for Family Child Care Home providers.
  • Training in early literacy and language development for children aged birth through five years is mandatory.
  • Pediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) procedures and first aid training are essential components.
  • Additionally, caregivers must undergo training in safe sleep and shaken baby syndrome prevention, fire extinguisher usage, and participate in annual in-service training sessions.

Daycare in Florida

Background screening requirements

Two types of background screening are required to start and operate a home daycare facility:

  • Initial screening subjects operators, household members, substitutes, volunteers, and other employees to a level 2 background screening clearance from the department before obtaining a license
  • Re-screening subjects operators, household members, substitutes, volunteers, and other employees to a mandatory five-year re-screening

Licensed capacity

A family daycare home can provide care for one of the following groups of children, which may include children under the age of 13 who are related to the operator:

  • A limit of four infants aged from birth to 12 months.
  • A limit of three infants aged from birth to 12 months, along with other children, up to a maximum of six children.
  • A limit of six preschool-aged children, provided all are older than 12 months.
  • A maximum of ten children, with a restriction of no more than five being preschool age, and among those five, no more than two being under 12 months old.

Childcare licensing fees:

  • $50

Large Family Child Care

Basic requirements

  • The operator must have held a license as a family daycare home for two consecutive years within a five-year period preceding the application for a license to operate.
  • The operator must possess a valid Staff Credential for at least one year prior to licensure.
  • The operator must be at least 21 years old and reside in the home.
  • The operator is prohibited from working outside the home during business hours of operation.
  • The operator must ensure the presence of at least one full-time employee, aged 18 or older, during all hours of operation.
  • A current approved fire inspection is required.

Training and credentialing requirements

The following trainings are mandatory prior licensure:

  • The department’s 30-clock-hour training for Large Family Child Care Home providers
  • Training course focusing on early literacy and language development for children aged birth through five years
  • Pediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) procedures and first aid training
  • Operators must possess and maintain an active staff credential, with verification confirmation.
  • Additional training mandates encompass safe sleep and shaken baby syndrome awareness, fire extinguisher training, and participation in annual in-service training sessions.

Background screening requirements

Two types of background screening are required to start and operate a large family child care home:

  • Initial screening subjects operators, household members, substitutes, volunteers, and other employees to a level 2 background screening clearance from the department before obtaining a license
  • Re-screening subjects operators, household members, substitutes, volunteers, and other employees to a mandatory five-year re-screening

Licensed capacity and ratio requirements

A large family child care home can provide care for one of the following groups of children, which may include children under the age of 13 who are related to the operator:

  • A maximum of eight children from birth to two years old
  • A maximum of 12 children, with no more than four children under two years old
  • Must have at least 35 square feet of usable indoor floor space per child
  • Must have a minimum of 270 square feet of outdoor play space per child (does not apply to large family child care homes that only provide infant care)

Childcare licensing fees

  • $60

Daycare in Florida

Childcare license application in Florida

Here are the steps to take when applying for a childcare license in Florida:

Step 1: Complete and submit the license application

Complete and submit the appropriate application form for your childcare program.

You will receive notification from the department within 30 days if your application is incomplete or if any additional information is needed.

Step 2: Prepare for a pre-licensing inspection

Upon submission of your application, the department will conduct an inspection of your facility before issuing a license to ensure compliance with state health and safety standards. If your facility does not meet the regulations, the department will provide guidance on meeting the requirements. You will be eligible for a second facility inspection once compliance is achieved.

Step 3: Wait for approval

Your license will be approved within 90 days after your application is processed.

Once you’ve obtained your license, the subsequent step in establishing your daycare business is implementing structured systems and procedures for your administrative duties. Utilizing a tool can save you time by centralizing your operations and streamlining tasks such as admissions processing, record-keeping, and reporting.

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Florida

In addition to writing a daycare business plan, choosing the best preschool name, and implementing marketing strategies, you’ll also need to keep your license up to date.

Each childcare license remains valid for a period of one year, necessitating annual renewal to adhere to Florida daycare regulations. The department will issue a renewal reminder at least 30 days before the current license’s expiration. Upon receiving the renewal notice, you are required to complete and submit the license renewal form within 45 days.

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 https://www.Daycare.com/signup

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