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How to Start a Daycare in Mississippi

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To start a daycare in Mississippi, you’ll need to navigate state regulations and requirements.

  • Begin by thoroughly researching the licensing process through the Mississippi Department of Health, which oversees childcare facilities.
  • Familiarize yourself with the specific rules and standards applicable to daycare centers in Mississippi, including staff-to-child ratios, health and safety guidelines, and facility requirements.
  • Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your daycare’s mission, target demographic, services offered, and financial projections.
  • Secure a suitable location that complies with zoning laws and provides ample space for children to play and learn.
  • Hire qualified staff members who meet state-mandated training and background check criteria. Obtain necessary permits and licenses, including a business license and health inspection certification.
  • Create policies and procedures for day-to-day operations, including enrollment, billing, and emergency protocols.
  • Lastly, market your daycare to families in the community through various channels such as social media, a listing, local advertising, and word-of-mouth referrals.
By carefully navigating the regulatory landscape and diligently planning your daycare’s operations, you can establish a successful childcare business in Mississippi.

Do I need a childcare license in Mississippi?

If you’re considering launching a daycare business in Mississippi, the initial step is obtaining licensure. In Mississippi, a childcare license is necessary if you’re caring for six (6) or more children under the age of 13 who are unrelated to you for any part of the day, even if you’re providing in-home child care. It’s important to note that not all childcare providers require a license, so you’ll need to determine if you qualify for an exemption. However, even if your program isn’t mandated to be licensed, you have the option to voluntarily apply for one The following programs are exempt from licensure as detailed in Mississippi’s licensing guide:
  • Childcare facilities operating for a maximum of two (2) days per week, with the primary intention of offering relief to the caregiver or providing temporary care during scheduled or related activities.
  • Organized programs that operate for three (3) weeks or fewer annually, encompassing activities like vacation Bible schools and scout day camps.
  • Any child residential home as outlined and compliant with the stipulations of Section 43-16-3 (b) et seq., within the Mississippi Code of 1972.
  • Programs within elementary (including kindergarten) and/or secondary school systems accredited by entities such as the Mississippi State Department of Education, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Mississippi Private School Association, the American Association of Christian Schools, the Association of Christian Schools International, or affiliated with Accelerated Christian Education, Inc. This includes accredited pre-K3 and pre-K4 programs. Programs catering to children under three (3) years of age must hold licensure.
  • Head Start programs operating alongside elementary school systems, whether public, private, or parochial, with a primary focus on structured schooling or school readiness. This encompasses Head Start pre-K3 and pre-K4 programs. Head Start programs serving children under three (3) years of age must be licensed.
  • Family childcare homes defined within Mississippi Code Section 43-20-53 (a) et seq., as occupied residences where shelter and personal care are regularly provided for five (5) or fewer children not related within the third degree computed according to civil law to the provider. These homes may opt for voluntary registration with the Mississippi State Department of Health.
  • Membership organizations affiliated with national bodies, charging only a nominal annual membership fee, and not receiving monthly, weekly, or daily payments for services. Certification by the national association confirming compliance with minimum standards and procedures is required. Examples include the Boys and Girls Club of America and the YMCA. A nominal fee is defined as $600 or less per calendar year.
Daycare in Mississippi

Child care licensing requirements in Mississippi

The state of Mississippi offers comprehensive guidance on obtaining a childcare license. Prior to commencing the application process, it’s crucial to determine your eligibility to serve as the director of a childcare program. If you fail to meet all the requirements established by the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), then it is necessary to enlist a qualified director to manage the program on your behalf. To meet the qualifications, MSDH specifies that an applicant must:
  • Be at least 21 years old.
  • Possess a valid MSDH Immunization Form 121 or Certificate of Medical Exemption Form 122.
  • Successfully pass all mandated criminal history record checks, including fingerprinting, Child Abuse Central Registry, and Sex Offender checks.
  • Have completed the mandatory child care provider training covering regulations governing the licensure of childcare facilities, director orientation, and playground safety.
  • To fulfill at least one of these education/experience prerequisites:
    • Possess a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, child development, elementary education, childcare, special education, psychology (with a focus on child psychology), or family and consumer sciences (with an emphasis on child development), or possess an equivalent degree from another child-related field or course of study.
    • Attain a two-year associate’s degree from an accredited community or junior college in child development technology, which must entail a minimum of 480 hours of supervised practical training in a college-operated child care learning laboratory, overseen by college instructors.
    • Obtain a two-year associate’s degree from an accredited community or junior college in child development technology or child care, accompanied by two years of paid experience in a licensed child care facility.
    • Accumulate two years of paid experience as a caregiver in a licensed child care facility, and either possess a current Child Development Associate (CDA) credential from the Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition (CECPR), or possess a Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS), Division of Early Childhood Care and Development (DECCD) Child Care Director’s Credential or MDHS OCY Child Care Director’s Credential, or complete 24 semester hours credit with a grade of “C” or better from an accredited college or university in courses specific to early childhood.
    • Hold a verified certificate from the licensing agency, certifying that the individual was qualified to serve as the director of a licensed childcare facility in the state of Mississippi before January 1, 2000.

Ratio requirements

In addition to the qualifications for the applicant, there are also regulations regarding child-to-staff ratios within your program. These ratios must be maintained at all times, including during the opening and closing hours of the center. The minimum required ratios are outlined as follows:
  • For children under 1 year old: A ratio of five children to one staff member (5:1)
  • For children 1 year old: A ratio of nine children to one staff member (9:1)
  • For children 2 years old: A ratio of twelve children to one staff member (12:1)
  • For children 3 years old: A ratio of fourteen children to one staff member (14:1)
  • For children 5 to 9 years old: A ratio of twenty children to one staff member (20:1)
  • For children 10 to 12 years old: A ratio of twenty-five children to one staff member (25:1)
Building requirements There are also prerequisites concerning the building where you intend to operate your childcare program. The structure must adhere to fundamental health and safety criteria and provide an optimal environment for children. Part of the application process will involve an evaluation of the building. The following are the building requirements outlined by MSDH:
  • Zoning approval
  • Compliance with fire safety standards
  • Approval for wastewater disposal and potable (drinking) water if the proposed facility utilizes an individual wastewater disposal system and/or well
  • Playground area (with a minimum of 75 square feet per child within a fenced-in playground) that is well-drained and devoid of hazardous or potentially hazardous conditions. All playgrounds must undergo lead testing.
  • Lead testing for buildings constructed before 1965
  • The presence of:
    • Ground floor area
    • Two exits situated remotely, opening outward, and not passing through the kitchen area
    • Forty square feet allocated per child in areas designated for infants (under 12 months of age). Forty-five square feet designated per child aged 12 months to less than 24 months. Thirty-five square feet per child for all other age groups. Spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms, hallways, and closets are not considered usable floor space.
    • One toilet and one sink for every fifteen children, or fraction thereof, excluding diaper-changing sinks. All sinks must be equipped with hot and cold running water.
    • Rooms used by diaper-wearing children must include a diaper-changing station and a sink with hot and cold running water.
  • The kitchen is required to have:
    • A minimum size of 90 square feet, not exceeding a maximum of 300 square feet
    • A handwashing sink
    • Either a three-compartment sink or a commercial dishwasher. (Some exemptions apply to centers operating in the operator’s home, serving 12 or fewer children)
Daycare in Mississippi If you intend to renovate an existing building or construct a new facility, the blueprints and plans must undergo review by a licensing official before construction commences. This process guarantees that the facility will comply with all necessary requirements. Additionally, the facility will be subject to inspections conducted by both the local health department and fire department. Take into account all of these prerequisites as you initiate the drafting of your daycare business plan.

Childcare license application in Mississippi

If you fulfill the director requirements and the building specifications for offering childcare services in Mississippi, then you are prepared to initiate a MSDH Immunization Form. However, before proceeding, MSDH advises that you refrain from signing a lease or purchasing a building until after the building inspection is completed to ensure it meets all requirements. Additionally, be prepared for a waiting period of up to 90 days or longer to obtain your license after submitting your application. If approved, your initial license will be temporary, valid for six months, and must be upgraded to a regular license within that timeframe.

Follow the steps outlined below to apply for a childcare provider license:

Step 1: Complete the Online Application
  • Initiate the application process by filling out an online application form. Follow the guidelines provided by MSDH for the license application. After completing the online segment, expect a child care licensing inspector to reach out to guide you through the subsequent steps.
Step 2: Review Required Materials Step 3: Submit Necessary Documentation
  • Include additional documentation with your application, such as proof of a qualified director for the facility, criminal records checks, immunization forms for all employees, fire inspection reports, floor plans, and verification of training. Additionally, pay the application and initial licensure fees, determined by your program’s capacity.
Step 4: Await a Decision Upon receiving and reviewing your online application and accompanying documents, MSDH will provide a decision. If all applicant and building requirements are met, expect approval. Upon approval, you will receive a temporary license. While waiting, you can select a name for your program and commence marketing your daycare business but refrain from operating until you obtain your temporary license. Subsequently, an MSDH representative will contact you with instructions on upgrading to a regular license. Keep copies of all documents throughout the process for future reference. In cases where violations that endanger children’s health or safety are found but can be corrected within a specified period not exceeding six months, a probationary license may be issued. A restricted license may be granted if the health or safety of the children necessitates conditional or restrictive statements on the license, such as barring specific individuals or situations. Violations of these terms will lead to the immediate emergency suspension of the license. Once MSDH determines that the conditions or restrictions no longer pose a threat to the children under care, the statement may be removed from the license.

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Mississippi

Receiving your initial childcare license from MSDH does not guarantee indefinite licensure. Any failure to comply with regulations, laws, and rules can jeopardize your licensure status. MSDH provides a resource guide for childcare providers, serving as an easily accessible reference for the expectations of your licensed childcare business. To ensure ongoing compliance, it’s essential to keep track of license renewals diligently. Each child care provider license must be renewed one year after its issuance. Reminders will be sent via email 90, 60, and 30 days before the license’s expiration. Renewal can be done online by completing a renewal application, albeit with a license renewal fee and a $25 late fee for applications submitted less than 30 days before expiration. Additional compliance requirements include continued adherence to every childcare regulation and guideline by all employees, both existing and new, necessitating background checks for new hires. This encompasses maintaining appropriate child-to-caretaker ratios, ensuring facility maintenance, meeting square footage requirements, upholding safety standards, and more. MSDH conducts inspections of licensed child care facilities at least twice a year, with any violations becoming public record.

Provide more than just child care

Establishing an exceptional childcare program that positively impacts children and your community can be a gratifying venture. Once you grasp the licensing prerequisites and the application procedure in Mississippi, you are poised to deliver top-tier child care services. In Home Care An in-home caregiver is someone who comes to, or lives in, your home. The caregiver can be a relative or a friend or can also be someone you pay to come to your home. If you have three or more children needing care, in-home care may be less expensive than other kinds of care. It can also save you from the worry of getting several children, all with different schedules, to and from a daycare arrangement outside your home. You may also want to use in-home care if your child needs special care because of a physical, mental or emotional problem; if you need care for an infant or toddler, or care for a child at night; if you need only after-school care. You should know, however, that in-home care can be costly, especially if you have only one or two children and are paying someone for full-time care. In interviewing in-home caregivers, you’ll want to find out about their training and experience, their attitude toward children, and their ability to handle children who disobey. Family Daycare This kind of daycare is provided in the home of the caregiver, who is often a mother with children of her own. You may find a relative, friend or neighbor who is willing to care for your child in this way. Or you may find a family daycare home run by someone you do not already know. Family daycare can be a good arrangement: if you are a single parent raising a child alone; if you live in a rural area where family daycare is likely to be the easiest to find; if you have only one or two children needing care; if you have a school-age child. Keep in mind that a family daycare provider may go out of business or stop caring for children at any time. And because many of these homes are not inspected or licensed by local or State agencies, it will be up to you to make sure that adequate health and safety standards are met. Daycare in Mississippi Center Based Care Daycare centers are established settings where children are cared for in a group away from their homes for all or part of the day. There are many different kinds of center-based care, including nursery schools, preschools, and parent cooperatives. Some of these centers are set up primarily to keep children safe and secure; others are designed to prepare children for their school years. Center-based care is most frequently available in a town or city. Many daycare centers have an organized program of activities to help children learn. Some centers follow a formal plan, perhaps one developed by a well-known educator. Others use a more informal program based on their day-to-day experience working with children. You may be interested in center-based care: if you want to keep your child in the same daycare setting for an extended period; if your child needs special care because of a physical or mental handicap or an emotional problem; if you want certain educational or religious activities for your child. Keep in mind that center-based care may not provide the “home” atmosphere some children like. Your child may not be comfortable in a large group for a major part of each day. In considering a particular daycare center, check out the facilities available, the qualifications of the staff, and the number of children cared for by each caregiver (the “child/staff ratio”). Talk to the director to make sure the center’s program has the approach you like and includes the kinds of activities you want for your child. 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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