How to Start a Daycare in Iowa

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Starting a daycare in Iowa requires careful planning and adherence to state regulations.

  • Begin by conducting thorough research on licensing requirements and regulations set forth by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS).
  • Familiarize yourself with zoning laws and ensure your location meets all safety and space requirements.
  • Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your services, target market, pricing structure, and marketing strategies. Secure necessary permits and licenses, including a childcare license from DHS and any local business permits.
  • Create a safe and stimulating environment for children, ensuring compliance with health and safety standards.
  • Hire qualified staff members who have undergone background checks and CPR/First Aid training.
  • Invest in liability insurance to protect your business.
  • Finally, market your daycare through various channels such as social media, local advertising, a com listing and community outreach to attract families in need of childcare services.

Regularly assess and update your operations to maintain compliance and provide the highest quality care for children in your community.

Is a childcare license necessary in Iowa?

Whether you’re embarking on establishing a daycare center or any childcare enterprise, the necessity for a license in the state of Iowa hinges on several factors, including the care location, frequency of care provision, and the number of children under care. For instance, individuals offering care to a single child within the child’s own residence are designated as non-registered in-home providers and are exempt from licensing requirements. Similarly, those providing care in their own home to five or fewer children simultaneously are classified as non-registered childcare homes and are also exempt from licensing. However, if the provider is tending to more than five children, obtaining a license becomes mandatory.

  • A licensed center offers care to numerous children within a non-residential setting.
  • A registered child development home offers care to more than five children within the provider’s own residence.
  • A non-registered childcare home offers care to five children or fewer within the provider’s own residence. This type of childcare program does not necessitate a license.

Daycare in Iowa

Centers and child development homes must obtain licensing. Registered child development homes are categorized into A, B, and C classifications based on the number of children they can accommodate. Category A homes can care for up to 8 children, category B homes can accommodate up to 12 children, and category C homes can cater to a maximum of 16 children if at least two childcare providers are present.

Other programs, such as church-related programs, pediatric care programs, and nationally accredited camps, are exempt from licensing requirements. The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers a list of such programs in the Care Centers and Preschools Licensing Standards and Procedures document. However, programs not mandated to be licensed can still opt to apply for licensing to enhance their credibility and qualify for childcare assistance (CCA) funding from the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS). Consider all these factors while drafting your daycare business plan.

Childcare licensing requirements in Iowa

Every category of daycare provider entails a somewhat distinct application procedure and licensing prerequisites. The state offers details regarding the criteria applicable to various childcare providers. In the case of applying for a non-registered childcare home, there are no specific requirements for experience or education, although the applicant must be at least 18 years of age.

Each type of childcare provider has varying requisites for acquiring a license, encompassing factors such as educational background, staff-to-child ratios, and training.

Licensed childcare centers

The Iowa HHS provides a detailed description of everything required to run a compliant daycare center in the Care Centers and Preschools Licensing Standards and Procedures document. It includes requirements for things like food services, parental participation, record keeping, activity programs, and more. It also provides information on the required staff-to-child ratios, which are:

  • 2 weeks to 2 years old: One staff member for four children (1:4)
  • 2 years old: One staff member for seven children (1:7)
  • 3 years old: One staff member for 10 children (1:10)
  • 4 years old: One staff member for 12 children (1:12)
  • 5 years to 10 years old: One staff member for 15 children (1:15)
  • 10+ years old: One staff member for 20 children (1:20)

There are also requirements for different types of staff at a licensed childcare center. A center may have positions like a director, on-site supervisor, assisting staff, and more. In order to be a center director and apply for a license, the following is required:

  • 21 years of age
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher degree in early childhood, child development, or elementary education, or at least one of the following depending on experience level:
    • Associate’s degree in child development or bachelor’s degree in a child-related field
    • Child development associate (CDA) credential or one-year diploma in child development from community college or technical school
    • Bachelor’s degree in a non-child-related field
    • Associate’s degree in a non-child-related field or completion of at least two years of a four-year degree
  • At least one year working full-time (20 hours or more) in a childcare center or preschool setting, or at least two of the following depending on education level:
    • One year of part-time (less than 20 hours) in a childcare center or preschool setting
    • One year of full-time child-development related experience
    • One year of part-time child development-related experience
    • One year as a registered child development home
    • One year as a non-registered family home provider
  • Current first aid and CPR certification
  • Child abuse certificate

Licensed child development homes

The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) furnishes a comprehensive outline of the prerequisites for operating a registered child development home in the Child Development Home Registration Guidelines document. This encompasses specifications for aspects such as disciplinary measures, meal provisions, professional development, and more.

Furthermore, child development homes must adhere to specified staff-to-child ratios. Category A child development homes can accommodate up to six preschool-aged children and up to 8 when schools are closed for emergencies. Category B child development homes may cater to up to eight preschool-aged children and up to 12 when schools are closed for emergencies. Category C child development homes have the capacity for up to 14 preschool-aged children and up to 16 when schools are closed for emergencies. In each category, the provider’s own children must be factored into the ratio.

Daycare in Iowa

Additionally, each type of child development home imposes distinct requirements on the childcare provider concerning age, education, and experience for eligibility. Moreover, varying prerequisites apply to the physical properties of the homes themselves. Here are the requirements for each type of child development home:

  • Child development home A provider requirements
    • Be at least 18 years old
    • Have three written references that attest to character and ability to provide child care
  • Child development home A facility requirements
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Smoke detectors
  • Child development home B provider requirements
    • Be at least 20 years old
    • Have a high school diploma or GED or documentation of current or previous enrollment in credit-based coursework from a post-secondary educational institution that is an accredited college or university
    • Meet one of the following requirements:
      • Have two years of experience as a non-registered or registered childcare provider
      • Have a child development associate credential or a two-year or four-year college degree in a child care related field AND one year of experience as a non-registered or registered childcare provider
    • Child development home B facility requirements
      • Fire extinguisher
      • Smoke detectors
      • At least two direct exits to the outside from the main floor
      • Minimum of 35 square feet of child-use floor space for each child in care indoors, and a minimum of 50 square feet per child in care outdoors
      • Separate quiet area for sick children
    • Child development home C provider requirements
      • Be at least 21 years old
      • Have a high school diploma or GED or documentation of current or previous enrollment in credit-based coursework from a post-secondary educational institution that is an accredited college or university
      • Meet one of the following requirements:
        • Have five years’ experience as a non-registered or registered childcare provider
        • Have a child development associate credential or a two-year or four-year college degree in a child care related field AND four years of experience as a non-registered or registered childcare home provider
      • Child development home C facility requirements
        • Fire extinguisher
        • Smoke detectors
        • At least two direct exits to the outside from the main floor
        • Minimum of 35 square feet of child-use floor space for each child in care indoors, and a minimum of 50 square feet per child in care outdoors
        • Separate quiet area for sick children

Childcare license application in Iowa

The provider application process for each type of business will be slightly different depending on if you are operating in a center or a home. Before beginning, it’s beneficial to contact the Iowa Child Care Resource & Referral (ICCRR) staff in your area to help you through the process. Then, you can find more information, familiarize yourself with the general childcare documents, create a training account, and officially become a new applicant in the DHS Child Care Provider Portal.

Licensed childcare center

Follow the steps below to apply to become a licensed childcare center.

Step 1: Reach out to the Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral (ICCRR) agency

Initiate the process by contacting ICCRR staff, who will assign you a childcare consultant. They will provide you with an orientation packet to kickstart your journey.

Step 2: Furnish requisite documentation

Next, gather necessary documents such as a fire inspection certificate, building floor plan, and various written materials outlining your center’s plans and policies. Additionally, ensure documentation of the center director/on-site supervisor’s completion of CPR, first aid, and mandatory child abuse reporting trainings is prepared.

Step 3: Fulfill payment obligations

Upon receipt of the Child Care Center Licensing Application and Invoice, remit the required fees to the DHS.

Step 4: Complete background checks

Following fee submission, background checks will be initiated. ICCRR staff are equipped to aid you with the mandatory fingerprinting process at no cost. Seek their assistance if needed.

Step 5: Await a decision

Upon completion of preceding steps, select a daycare center name and commence operations under licensing standards and procedures for a provisional period of up to 120 days. An on-site visit by your childcare consultant will precede the final decision, whether approval for a full license, provisional license, or denial.

Daycare in Iowa

Registered child development home

The application process for a registered child development home closely mirrors that of a licensed center. Proceed with the following steps to apply for a child development home license.

Step 1: Reach out to ICCRR

Initiate contact with an ICCRR childcare consultant to obtain an application packet. Subsequently, acquaint yourself with the Child Development Home Registration Guidelines.

Step 2: Fulfill training requirements

Establish an account on the DHS Training Registry to fulfill all mandatory training courses. This entails completing CPR, first aid, and mandatory child abuse reporting training.

Step 3: Undertake background checks

Conduct background checks for the following individuals:

  • Every operator of a child development home
  • All staff members, including substitute providers, directly responsible for child care
  • Individuals aged 14 and above residing in the child development home
  • Individuals who may have access to a child when they are unaccompanied

Step 4: Clear pre-inspection

Prepare your home for the DHS pre-inspection under the guidance of your childcare consultant. This pre-inspection also involves providing a Child Care Provider Physical Examination Report to confirm your good health.

Step 5: Await determination

Following completion of the pre-inspection and resolution of any issues identified, devise a professional development plan. Upon approval of your license, you may commence operations.

Non-registered childcare home providers caring for fewer than six children and non-registered in-home providers offering care in children’s homes have the option to apply for a license, although it is not mandatory. To obtain a license as a non-registered in-home provider, a minimum of three CCA-eligible children must be under care. Non-registered childcare homes, along with licensed childcare centers and registered child development homes, must complete the Child Care Assistance Provider Agreement to be eligible for CCA funding. Non-registered providers can apply for a license through the DHS portal with the assistance of ICCRR staff.

Start a daycare in Iowa

Beginning a daycare venture in Iowa entails more than just understanding the prerequisites for license application, eligibility criteria as an applicant, and adherence to state regulations. It’s essential to leverage all available state-provided resources to navigate the process effectively, ensuring the successful establishment of your childcare business in Iowa.

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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