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How to Start a Daycare in Indiana

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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 Indiana requires thorough planning and adherence to state regulations.

  • Begin by conducting market research to understand the demand for daycare services in your area.
  • Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your services, target market, marketing strategies, and financial projections.
  • Obtain necessary licenses and permits from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) Division of Family Resources.
  • Ensure your facility meets all health, safety, and zoning requirements.
  • Hire qualified staff and implement appropriate policies and procedures for child care, safety, and emergency protocols.
  • Consider obtaining liability insurance to protect your business.
  • Create a stimulating and safe environment for children, equipped with age-appropriate toys, educational materials, and nutritious meals.
  • Establish clear communication channels with parents and maintain accurate records.

Regularly review and update your business practices to ensure compliance with regulations and meet the needs of the children and families you serve.

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

Do I need a childcare license in Indiana?

In Indiana, you need a childcare license if your facility has more than six children, and you get regular compensation based on the number of hours of care. The following are examples of licensure-exempt programs:

  • Providing care for fewer than six children
  • Providing care without receiving regular compensation
  • Caring for your own children or relatives
  • Programs serving migrant children
  • Programs primarily offering social, recreational, or religious activities for school-age children, such as scouting, sports, and arts programs
  • Programs serving children in kindergarten through 12th grade operated by the education department or a public or private school
  • Non-residential programs providing childcare for less than four hours per day
  • Recreational programs for children operating for no more than 90 days in a calendar year

The Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning, part of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, oversees the licensing regulations for childcare providers

Daycare in Indiana

This office also supervises early childcare, out-of-school-time programs, and education, aiming to ensure that every community in Indiana has a strong network of early care and out-of-school-time activities supporting children, families, and local schools.

The Division regulates three programs: child care centers, child care homes, and child care ministries.

  • A childcare center refers to a nonresidential facility where a provider offers childcare to at least one child for more than four hours but less than twenty-four hours per day.
  • A childcare home, on the other hand, is a residential dwelling where care is provided to at least six children, excluding the provider’s or relatives’ children, for more than four hours but less than twenty-four hours daily.
  • Childcare homes are categorized into two types: class I and class II. Additionally, a childcare ministry functions under the auspices of a church or religious organization and is exempt from licensing requirements.

In a class I child care home, care is provided for both full-time and part-time children, with the total number not exceeding 12 children at any given time, plus an additional three children enrolled in full-day kindergarten. Conversely, a class II child care home accommodates more than 12 children, up to a maximum of 16 full-time and part-time children combined at any given time.

The division issues three types of licenses: regular, provisional, and probationary. Regular licenses have a two-year validity period and are granted when all requirements are met. Provisional licenses, valid for one year, are issued when a facility does not fully comply with regulations due to incomplete operation. A probationary license is granted when an applicant cannot comply with a rule; it remains valid for up to six months initially, with the possibility of extension for an additional year at the discretion of the division.

The division imposes the subsequent fees for child care license applications:

  • Child care center license: $2 per licensed child capacity.
  • Child care center new inquiry application packet: $5.
  • Child care home license new inquiry application packet: $5.
  • Annual inspection fee for child care homes: $25.

Childcare licensing requirements in Indiana

Before starting a daycare center, you’ll need an understanding of the licensing regulations in your area. Indiana state law mandates the following licensing requirements for child care centers and child care homes.

Requirements for licensing a child care center include:

  • Approval of a new construction plan by the Department of Fire and Building Services (DFBS) and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) prior to construction and licensing.
  • Submission of a written nutrition and food service plan along with a two-week menu for approval by the division both before and after licensure.
  • Completion of a comprehensive application, including all necessary written documentation.
  • Submission of a health program form.
  • Successful completion of on-site inspections of the center’s building before licensure.
  • Adherence to approved capacity limits for attendance at the childcare center.
  • Ensuring that the childcare center is located in a safe environment where conditions do not pose risks of injury to children.
  • Providing care only to children whose ages are approved by the DFBS and the division.
  • Compliance with local zoning requirements.

Provider requirements

Director qualifications:

  • Applicants must be at least 21 years of age and meet one of the following minimum education and experience requirements:
  • Either possess a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree from an accredited college or university in early childhood education or elementary education with a kindergarten endorsement and grades of C or higher, or hold a two-year associate’s degree in early childhood education from an accredited college or university with a grade of C or higher, along with a minimum of three years of experience in an early childhood program.

Lead caregiver qualifications:

  • Must possess at least one of the following: a current Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood education or elementary education with a kindergarten endorsement and grades of C or better from an accredited college or university, or a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree from an accredited college or university.
  • Should undergo eight hours of additional in-service training annually, relevant to the age group they work with.
  • Must provide documentation demonstrating successful completion of a minimum of six credit hours per year.

Caregiver qualifications:

  • Must be of at least 18 years of age.
  • Must hold a high school diploma or have passed an equivalency test.
  • Must possess reading skills adequate for comprehending essential information such as emergency protocols, prescription labels, first aid and evacuation instructions, menus, medical details, dietary requirements, and child intake information.
  • Must have writing skills to accurately document incidents such as accidents and notable occurrences.

Support staff:

  • Exempt from educational prerequisites.
  • Required to complete orientation and continuous training.
  • Must fulfill all caregiver qualifications if included in staff-to-child ratios.


  • Required to meet the minimum caregiver qualifications specified above.

Capacity and ratio requirements

Child:staff ratios for licensed child care centers

Age of the youngest child in the group Maximum number of children supervised by one caregiver Maximum number of children in one group
Infant 4 8
Toddler 5 10
2 years 5 10
30 to 36 months 7 14
3 years 10 20
4 years 12 24
5 years and older 15 30

Child care home licensing requirements

Here are the requirements to meet before applying for a license:

  • Documentation of annual x-ray or Mantoux tuberculin tests for direct childcare providers to confirm their tuberculosis-free status.
  • Records of criminal history checks for volunteers, employees, and household members aged 18 and above.
  • Proof of current first aid certification, annual CPR certification, and completion of “Universal Precautions” training.
  • A statement concerning each child’s overall health within 30 days of enrollment.
  • Consent for emergency medical care signed by the legal guardian or parent of each child.
  • Maintenance of daily attendance records for children residing in the childcare home for a minimum of two years on-site.
  • A written statement outlining the applicant’s discipline policy, endorsed by the legal guardian or parent of the child.
  • Documentation of the childcare home’s emergency evacuation plan.

Caregiver prerequisites:

  • All caregivers must be at least 18 years old.
  • Those serving as assistants must work under the direct supervision of the caregiver.
  • Caregivers responsible for infants must be at least 21 years old.
  • A high school diploma or its equivalent is required.

Caregivers should have proficient reading skills to comprehend:

  • Menus
  • Special dietary instructions
  • Prescription labels
  • Emergency protocols
  • Medical details
  • Intake information for children

Furthermore, they need competent writing skills to accurately document:

  • Feeding and diapering details
  • Incident reports and significant occurrences
  • Medical prescriptions
  • Developmental progress of children

As the licensee, you are only permitted to act as the caregiver for a single child care home. Should you wish to operate multiple child care homes, you must either personally maintain or employ a caregiver for each additional establishment.

An assistant caregiver is required to operate under the direct supervision of the primary caregiver. In the event that the assistant caregiver is under 21 years of age and assumes responsibility for the facility, families must be provided with written notification. Volunteers and student assistants are also mandated to operate under the direct supervision of the caregiver and are not authorized to be left in charge of the childcare home.

Daycare in Indiana

Capacity and ratio requirements

Birth to 24 months:

  • One teacher for six infants (1:6)
  • Of the six children, two should be 16+ months old and walking; otherwise, 1:4 is the required ratio

Birth to 6 years:

  • One teacher for 10 children (1:10). No more than three children may be below 16 months old and walking

3 years to 10 years:

  • One teacher for 12 children (1:12)

All ages:

  • One teacher for 12 children (1:12)
  • A childcare home’s maximum capacity is 12 children in addition to three children during the school year enrolled in first grade

Childcare license application in Indiana

To become a licensed childcare provider in Indiana, follow the below application process.

Becoming a licensed child care center provider:

Step 1: Orientation 1 Completion

This initial training is designed for childcare providers and covers the startup process and other crucial information. Access this training through Indiana Learning Paths at I-LEAD. To begin, you will need to register an account on this platform.

Step 2: Orientation 2 Completion

This training is tailored for childcare centers, specifically focusing on licensure preparation. To access this training, visit Indiana Learning Paths at I-LEAD.

Step 3: Online Application Submission via I-LEAD

You are required to apply using the division’s recommended forms. Contact your regional office to obtain an application packet. Additional forms can be accessed here. Alongside your application, you must also submit the following information:

  • A permit or license from local authorities authorizing the operation of a child care center, or a statement from the local authorities indicating that such a permit or license is unnecessary.
  • An active and valid email address.
  • A declaration confirming that you have not been convicted of any felony or misdemeanor associated with child care.

Step 4: On-Site Inspection

Get ready for and successfully complete the on-site inspection conducted by the Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning.

Step 5: Submission of License Recommendation

A recommendation for licensure will be forwarded to the central office for thorough examination and approval. Based on your needs and compliance, they will issue the appropriate license type (regular, provisional, or probationary).

Daycare in Indiana

Becoming a licensed childcare home provider:

To become a licensed childcare home provider in Indiana, you must:

Step 1: Complete Orientation 1

This instructional session delves into the startup process and offers valuable insights. To access this training, navigate to Indiana Learning Paths at I-LEAD.

Step 2: Complete Orientation 2

Tailored to meet the specific needs of childcare home providers, this training aids in licensing preparation. Visit Indiana Learning Paths at I-LEAD to access this training module.

Step 3: Submit Online Application via I-LEAD

Utilize the division’s recommended forms when applying. Reach out to your regional office for an application packet and locate additional pertinent forms here. Alongside your application, provide the following details:

  • A business permit or license for operating a child care center, or a statement from local authorities confirming the unnecessary requirement of a permit or license.
  • An active and valid email address.
  • A statement affirming your lack of conviction for any felony or misdemeanor related to childcare.

Step 4: On-Site Inspection

An inspection of the premises will be conducted by a licensing consultant from the Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning.

Step 5: Submission of License Recommendation

Following the inspection, a recommendation for licensure will be forwarded to the central office for further assessment and approval. Depending on your needs, they will issue the appropriate license type (regular, provisional, or probationary).

Obtaining the necessary childcare license for your center is one of the initial steps in launching your business. Once you have navigated the licensing requirements, you can proceed to draft your business plan and select a memorable name for your daycare center.

Whether you are establishing a center-based program or initiating a preschool from your residence, it is crucial to devise effective marketing strategies and establish efficient operational systems.

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Indiana

After obtaining a daycare license in Indiana, it is imperative to ensure ongoing compliance by undergoing regular inspections conducted by the division. The childcare center is required to grant the division access to the premises, records, children under care, and personnel.

Furthermore, your business must maintain a valid license and uphold accurate records of your business address, name, and ownership details. The current regular license remains valid for a duration of two years. Any alterations to your business address, name, ownership, capacity, or the age of children under care necessitate the submission of a new license application to maintain compliance.

When applying for a new license, it is essential to submit a fresh application no later than 60 days prior to the expiration of the current license, using the forms provided by the division. For assistance with obtaining the relevant license application forms, please contact your regional office.

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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