Close this search box.
Close this search box.

How to Start a Daycare in Maine

Post by

Picture of Daycare Staff

Daycare Staff

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.

Have you ever wondered how to start your own daycare center in Maine?

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

  • First, research and understand the licensing requirements set forth by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). This includes meeting staffing ratios, obtaining necessary background checks, and adhering to health and safety standards.
  • Next, develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your daycare’s mission, services, budget, and marketing strategies.
  • Secure a suitable location that meets zoning regulations and offers ample space for indoor and outdoor activities. Invest in age-appropriate furniture, toys, and educational materials to facilitate children’s learning and development.
  • Hire qualified staff members who are passionate about childcare and undergo proper training.
  • Obtain liability insurance to protect your business and its stakeholders.
  • Finally, promote your daycare through local advertising, social media, a listing, and networking to attract families in need of childcare services while maintaining a strong reputation for excellence in care and education.

Regularly review and update your policies and procedures to ensure ongoing compliance and quality improvement.

Do I need a childcare license in Maine?

Childcare facilities and providers in Maine are overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), specifically the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS). If your business falls into the following categories, you are required to obtain a childcare license:

  • Family child care provider: This refers to individuals who offer regular childcare services in their homes for three to 12 children under 13 years of age, who are neither the provider’s own children nor residing in the provider’s home.
  • Child care facility: This encompasses establishments such as childcare centers or nursery schools that operate for any part of the day and provide care for 13 or more children under 13 years of age.

Maine grants childcare provider licenses, each subject to varying regulations based on the type of facility. For instance, if the facility is situated on the same premises as the applicant’s residence, the department will issue a family child care license.

Daycare in Maine

Childcare licensing requirements in Maine

In addition to having a childcare business plan before starting your daycare business, you’ll need to abide by state licensing requirements. Below are the licensing requirements mandated by the state of Maine.

Applicant Qualifications:

To be eligible for a childcare license, you must be at least 18 years old, possess a high school diploma or equivalent, or be enrolled in a General Education Development (GED) preparation program. Additionally, you must exhibit the capacity and willingness to operate and manage the facility with mature judgment, a compassionate regard for children’s best interests, and consistent adherence to regulations and relevant laws. Relevant experience in childcare and child development is essential, along with the ability to oversee financial operations and staff.

Childcare center licensing requirements

The following are the licensing requirements for a child care center in Maine:

  • Acquisition of a construction permit and inspection by the state fire marshal (for facilities accommodating 13 or more children), applicable to both new and existing buildings.
  • Approval from the respective city or town (if applicable).
  • Written consent from the owner or landlord permitting the premises’ use as a childcare facility.
  • Submission of a childcare facility licensing application along with the requisite fee.
  • Written confirmation of compliance with local codes and ordinances.
  • Submission of completed reference forms from three individuals not related to you by blood or marriage.
  • Presentation of water test results from a DHHS-approved laboratory if utilizing a private water source (special approval may be necessary for licenses involving more than 20 children).
  • Provision of a floor plan outlining measurements of indoor and outdoor areas designated for children’s use.
  • Certification in infant, child, and adult CPR and first aid.
  • Development of a written health guidelines manual for small facilities catering to 3 – 12 children.
  • Submission of bylaws and articles of incorporation (if applicable).
  • Disclosure of a list of the Board of Directors (if applicable).
  • Submission of resumes and transcripts for the director.
  • Execution of a health consultant agreement.
  • Presentation of a health care plan signed by the health consultant.
  • Evidence of completion of transportation training (department-approved) for staff involved in transporting children (if applicable).

Family childcare licensing requirements

If you’re operating the daycare from your residence, here’s what you’ll need to get a license:

  • Written approval from the landlord if the premises are leased or rented.
  • Obtaining a city/town permit if required in your area, or providing evidence that it’s not necessary.
  • Submission of a completed application form, along with the required fee, and a floor plan.
  • Authorization for the release of personal history information.
  • Successful completion of a fire marshal inspection.
  • Certification in infant, child, and adult CPR and first aid.
  • Documentation of staff members’ completion of transportation training, which must be approved by the department if they transport children.
  • Evidence of completion of pre-service training.
  • Providing a copy of a water test conducted by an approved laboratory if utilizing a private water source.

Comprehensive background check requirements

Childcare providers in Maine are obligated to adhere to the rigorous Child Care Provider Background Check Licensing Rule, designed to safeguard the well-being of children. Under this rule, childcare providers must initiate background checks for each relevant individual at least once every five years.

The individuals subjected to these background checks encompass:

  • Providers (applicants)
  • Existing and prospective staff members
  • Household members within a family childcare environment
  • Individuals engaged in the care and supervision of children
  • Persons with unsupervised access to children while under the provider’s care

A thorough background check necessitates the mandatory utilization of fingerprints and thorough scrutiny of various databases and registries. These include the National Crime Information Center, the National Sex Offender Registry, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Additionally, checks are conducted on the State Child Abuse and Neglect registry, State Bureau of Identification (SBI), and the State Sex Offender registry in both the current state of residence and any other states where the individual has resided within the preceding five years.

Capacity and ratio requirements

The staff-to-child ratio requirements for family child care and small childcare centers are:

Ages of childrenStaff-to-child ratios
6 weeks to 2 years old1:42:83:12
2 years to 5 years old1:82:12n/a
Over 5 years old1:12n/an/a

For mixed ages, the ratio requirements are:

  • One (1) staff member: Three (3) children under two (2) years old, plus three (3) children two (2) to five (5) years old, plus two (2) children over five (5) years old, OR eight (8) children two (2) to five (5) years old, plus two (2) children over five (5) years old.
  • Two (2) staff members: Six (6) children under two (2) years old, plus six (6) children over two (2) years old.
  • Three (3) staff members: Twelve (12) children (no more than nine (9) children may be under two (2) years old).

Capacity requirements must not be exceeded except in the case of unpredictable circumstances like family emergencies or emergency school closings.

Staff to child ratio requirements for childcare facilities serving 13 or more children are:

Age of childrenStaff-to-child ratioMaximum group size
6 weeks to 1 year old1:48
1 year to 2½ years old1:4 1:512 10
2 ½ years to 3½ years old1:721
3 years to under 5 years old1:8 1:1024 20
5 years to 12 years old1:13n/a

Daycare in Maine


The ratio requirements below apply in childcare facilities serving 13 or more children:

  • One staff member may provide care in one classroom within the building for six or fewer children, regardless of age, for a period not exceeding one hour at the beginning and end of the posted hours of operation.
  • At least two staff members must be present in the facility whenever seven or more children, regardless of age, are present.
  • The group size and the number of required staff members must be determined based on the age of the youngest child when there’s a combination of ages within a group.
  • Older children may fill younger children’s spaces, but younger children may not fill older children’s spaces.

Childcare license application in Maine

After determining that you have the minimum qualifications for applying for a childcare license in Maine, these are the steps to take:

Step 1: Obtain the Required Training and Certifications

Before the Maine Department can issue a license for a childcare facility, it’s essential to undergo specific training and acquire certifications. These include:

  • Pre-licensing training (Getting Started in Child Care): This six-hour on-demand training is accessible for free on the Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network
  • Infant, Child, and Adult CPR and First Aid Training: Contact reputable organizations such as the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, or local hospitals for this crucial training. Certifications from courses including a hands-on skills assessment are accepted by childcare licensing specialists.
  • State-Mandated Reporter Training: This training focuses on promoting child safety by educating participants on identifying child abuse and neglect and the reporting procedures. Resources for this training in Maine include iLookOut Maine, Maine Mandated Reporter, and Maine Children’s Trust.
  • Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) Health and Safety Orientation: All applicants and staff must complete this training, which must be renewed annually to ensure compliance.

Step 2: Complete and Submit Your Application

The subsequent step involves completing the Child Care Provider Licensing application form, which necessitates the following information:

  • Provider/facility details: Including provider name, facility name, social security number, physical and mailing addresses, phone number, and email address.
  • Services offered: Specify whether it’s family child care (for 3-12 children) or a child care facility, along with the intended age ranges of the children to be served, and details about the water supply source and building information.
  • Application fees: Different fees apply for new applications and renewals for both family child care and childcare facilities.
  • Background check information: Disclose prior licenses, sanctions, criminal history, substance abuse records, and mental health history.
  • Required attachments: Such as authorization for release of information, documentation of zoning or code approval, floor plan, director’s transcript and training proof (for childcare facilities), and proof of insurance (for childcare facilities).
  • Legal structure declaration: Indicate the type of operation, whether it’s a sole proprietorship, partnership, non-profit, or limited liability company.

It’s crucial to ensure the completeness of the application form, as incomplete forms will be returned, and failure to act within 60 days will render the application void.

Step 3: Pass a Pre-Licensing Inspection

For licenses involving 13 or more children, acquiring a construction permit through the State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) is necessary. The SFMO conducts inspections of the building and provides a list of deficiencies, which must be addressed within a specified timeframe. Once the deficiencies are rectified and approved by the SFMO, a licensing specialist conducts a safety inspection of the premises. The specialist also verifies staff vaccinations and performs a lead hazards survey if the building was constructed before 1978.

Step 4: Await Approval

Upon meeting all licensing requirements, the childcare licensing specialist will recommend the issuance of a license, subject to supervisory approval. The entire process typically takes 90 days or more. After obtaining the license and selecting a name for the daycare, you can officially commence marketing your business to prospective families in the community.

Daycare in Maine

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Maine

After securing your license, complying with licensing rules is crucial to continue operating your daycare business in Maine. Below are ways to remain compliant:

  • Submit a license renewal application, along with the required fee, at least 60 days before the expiration date of your license.
  • Adhere to the age range limitations specified in your license and maintain proper staff-to-child ratios for each age group.
  • The State Fire Marshal’s Office should provide a bi-annual written statement to the department confirming compliance with fire safety requirements outlined by the Commissioner of Public Safety.
  • During routine inspections conducted by the department, ensure access to all daycare records and areas of the premises utilized by the children.

Additionally, it’s your responsibility to inform the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) beforehand about any sudden changes or modifications that deviate from your existing license parameters. These changes may include adjustments in child capacity, alterations to the premises, or closures.

Managing a childcare business involves various administrative tasks, such as admissions, reporting, and record-keeping, which can become overwhelming.

Start a daycare in Maine

Commencing a daycare venture in Maine begins with the pivotal process of obtaining a childcare license. By diligently preparing and planning, you can efficiently familiarize yourself with and fulfill all prerequisites, laying the groundwork for launching your daycare business.

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

Share this:

Related article:

Embarking on the journey to start a daycare in Alabama, whether it’s a cozy home daycare or a…...
Starting a daycare in Alaska demands thoughtful consideration of the distinct challenges and prospects posed by the state’s…...
Starting a daycare in Arizona requires careful planning and adherence to state regulations. Whether you are embarking on…...