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How to Start a Daycare in Nebraska

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To start a daycare in Nebraska, you’ll need to do the following

  • First, you need to thoroughly research the state’s regulations and licensing requirements for child care facilities. Begin by contacting the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to understand the specific guidelines you’ll need to follow.
  • Next, develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your daycare’s mission, services offered, target market, staffing requirements, and financial projections.
  • Secure suitable premises that meet safety and zoning regulations, ensuring there’s adequate indoor and outdoor space for children to play and learn.
  • Obtain the necessary permits and licenses, including background checks for yourself and any employees.
  • Consider investing in liability insurance to protect your business and clients.
  • Once everything is in place, focus on marketing your daycare to families in your community through advertising, a listing, networking, and building partnerships with local organizations.
  • Lastly, prioritize creating a nurturing and stimulating environment for children, with qualified staff trained in early childhood education and safety protocols.

Do I need a childcare license in Nebraska?

If you’re considering launching a daycare in Nebraska, it’s essential to note that the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) mandates that daycare providers obtain a license if they intend to care for four or more children from different families. Nebraska offers five types of licenses for childcare:

  • Family Child Care Home I: Operated in the provider’s residence, serving at least four but not exceeding eight children. The provider may accommodate up to two additional school-age children during non-school hours, provided no more than two of the other children under their care are under 18 months old.
  • Family Child Care Home II: Available in the provider’s residence or another location, licensed to serve a minimum of four but not more than 12 children.
  • Child Care Center: Licensed to provide childcare for 13 or more children.
  • Preschool: A partial-day, early childhood program primarily focusing on education services for children aged three and older.
  • School-Age-Only (SAO) Center: Serving 13 or more children who attend kindergarten or higher, may be located in the provider’s residence or another location.

Licensing is compulsory for the aforementioned programs. However, there are exemptions from licensure provided by DHHS for certain childcare providers and services. These exemptions include:

  • Individuals offering childcare on an irregular, informal basis with no established pattern of occurrence, without cost to parents and receiving no compensation, and caring for three or fewer children at any given time.
  • Childcare exclusively provided to children aged 13 and older or for less than two hours per week on average.
  • Recreation camps operated by political or governmental subdivisions.
  • Classes or services offered by religious organizations, excluding childcare, preschool, or nursery school.
  • Preschool programs conducted in approved schools.
  • Programs operated and contracted by public school districts.
  • Services provided to school-age children only during summer and extended breaks.
  • Foster care arrangements.

Daycare in Nebraska

Childcare licensing requirements in Nebraska

The oversight of childcare licensing requirements in Nebraska falls under the purview of the Department of Health and Human Services. Regardless of whether you’re initiating a childcare program in a commercial establishment or launching a preschool from your residence, grasping the full scope of requirements and regulations is imperative. The regulations governing the licensing of childcare programs in Nebraska, which encompass Family Child Care Home I, Family Child Care Home II, Child Care Centers, Preschools, and School-Age-Only Centers, are established by five key legislative acts.

  • Child Care Licensing Act: Requires the DHHS to develop regulations establishing standards for the physical well-being, safety, and protection of children in licensed programs. The act provides statewide standards for childcare providers and gives the department the authority to enforce licensing standards.
  • Child Protection Act: Authorizes the DHHS to use information in the state child abuse/neglect central register for purposes of licensing providers of childcare programs.
  • Clean Indoor Air Act: Addresses smoking in licensed childcare programs.
  • Quality Child Care Act: Requires the DHHS to develop regulations for mandatory training requirements for childcare providers so they can meet the health, safety, and developmental needs of the children in their care.
  • Sex Offender Registration Act: Authorizes the disclosure of information to providers to conduct confidential background checks for employment.

While the licensing requirements differ depending on the childcare program, the DHHS has classified all its children’s services licensing into various categories, including licensing requirements and procedures, general requirements, inspections and complaint investigations, standards of operation and care, physical plant standards, and denial and disciplinary actions.

All programs

The general requirements for all licensed childcare facilities are as follows:

  • Each applicant must provide a sketch, diagram, or blueprint of the facility, detailing the dimensions and layout of rooms designated for children’s use, as well as the outdoor play area.
  • All license holders must undergo training covering the seven domains outlined in Nebraska’s Early Childhood Learning Guidelines.
    • Approaches to learning
    • Creative arts
    • Health and physical development
    • Language and literacy development
    • Mathematics
    • Science
    • Social and emotional development
  • Background checks must be conducted on any person working in the facility.
  • Providers must pay initial and annual licensing fees.
    • Provisional and yearly license fee (capacity less than 30): $25
    • Provisional and yearly license fee (capacity 30 or more): $50
  • Childcare facilities must pass a yearly, unannounced inspection.
  • Childcare programs must pass fire, sanitation, and building code inspections.
  • Every licensee must be at least 19 years old.
  • The following staff-to-child ratio must be maintained whenever children are in care:
    • Infants: One adult for one child (1:1)
    • Toddlers : One adult for two children (1:2)
    • Preschoolers: One adult for four children (1:4)
    • School-age: One adult for six children (1:6)

Education requirements

While family childcare homes don’t have educational requirements, a director of a childcare center, preschool, or school-age-only center must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in early childhood education, education, or child/youth development
  • Hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with at least six credit hours in early childhood education, education, or child/youth development
  • Have an associate’s degree from an accredited college or university in early childhood education, education, or child/youth development
  • Have a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential
  • Have a high school diploma or GED and 3,000 clock hours of verifiable experience in organized group activities for children (from birth to 13 years old) as indicated by a positive reference from a former employer or supervisor and:
    • Have successfully completed six credit hours or 36 clock hours of department-approved training in administration, early childhood education, education, or child/youth development
    • A written, DHHS-approved plan to acquire at least six credit hours or 36 clock hours of approved training in a period that doesn’t exceed 12 months

Daycare in Nebraska

Family child care home I and II

Family Child Care Home I operates as a home-based facility offering care for four to eight children. It bears significant resemblances and minimal differences with Family Child Care Home II, which provides childcare in the licensee’s home or an alternative location for four to 12 children. The primary divergence between the licensing prerequisites for both programs pertains to the number of children they accommodate.

While other programs share similar training requisites, both Family Child Care Home programs mandate that applicants undergo a two-hour orientation and CPR and first aid training. While childcare centers, preschools, and school-age-only centers typically mandate these trainings for staff, such requirements are not strictly enforced on the licensee.

Childcare centers and preschools

Licensed childcare centers cater to 13 or more children, whereas in Nebraska, preschools are defined as partial-day primarily educational programs for children aged three and older, omitting nap times and meal provisions. Although the regulations governing these programs are largely similar, some distinctions exist.

Firstly, preschools operate as partial-day programs, whereas childcare centers offer full-day care. Secondly, preschools do not provide nap or sleep arrangements, whereas childcare centers are mandated to include nap and rest periods.

Additionally, childcare centers serve meals to children, unlike preschools. Both programs necessitate a written description of services and a sample daily schedule. However, childcare center providers are required to submit a sample menu of weekly snacks and meals during the application process. Comparable to family childcare homes, childcare centers must ensure provision of a minimum number of meals and snacks based on the duration of children’s presence:

  • 2½ to 4 hours: One snack
  • 4 to 8 hours: One snack and one meal
  • 8 to 10 hours: Two snacks and one meal
  • 10 or more hours: Two snacks and two meals

School-age-only center

School-age-only (SAO) centers share many similarities with childcare centers and preschools, but their main distinction lies in the age range they cater to. While childcare centers and preschools accommodate children up to 5 years old, SAO centers are specifically designed for children in kindergarten and older. Although SAO centers have the option to provide naps for children, it is not mandatory. Moreover, they are subject to the same meal and snack requirements as childcare centers.

Childcare license application in Nebraska

Before commencing a daycare in Nebraska, several essential steps must be taken. These include crafting a comprehensive business plan, selecting an appropriate name for your childcare program, and devising effective marketing strategies to enhance enrollment. Of utmost importance is obtaining a childcare license and securing approval for your operation. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services delineates the application process as follows:

Step 1: Familiarize Yourself with Regulations and Complete Training

Before proceeding with your application, thoroughly review all regulations pertinent to your specific program. Ensure completion of the following:

  • Family Child Care Home Orientation (for Family Child Care Home I and II programs)
  • Prepare to Care Health and Safety Training (for Family Child Care Home I and II programs)
  • Safe with You Training (mandatory for all licensed childcare providers)

Step 2: Obtain Zoning Approval

Confirm that your program’s location complies with applicable zoning codes. Obtain the necessary documentation from the local city planning department or county office.

Step 3: Complete Application Form

For your provisional license (valid for the initial year of licensure), provide the following details:

  • Program Information: License type, childcare program name, primary provider’s name, requested license capacity, age range of children to be served, operating hours, days of operation, details of all household residents, designated staff, substitutes, and volunteers, as well as zoning approval status.
  • Ownership Information: Business ownership details, authorized agent(s), and federal ID number.
  • Owner Certification and Signature
  • Required Additional Documentation: Criminal history record check, health information report, copies of CPR and first aid certification cards, proof of liability insurance, and building plans/diagrams.

Step 4: Submit Application

The DHHS offers two submission options:

  • Option 1: Email the completed application and required additional documentation to [email protected].
  • Option 2: Mail the completed application, additional documentation, and fee to the relevant address:
    • For Cass, Douglas, Sarpy & Washington Counties: DHHS/Division of Public Health, Office of Children’s Services Licensing, 1313 Farnam Street, 3rd Floor, Omaha, NE 68102
    • For All Other Counties: DHHS/Division of Public Health, Office of Children’s Services Licensing, P.O. Box 94986, Lincoln, NE 68509

Regardless of the submission method, mail the licensing fee separately via U.S. mail along with a copy of the application’s front page (Option 1) or with the application (Option 2).

Step 5: Await Inspections

Upon receiving and approving all necessary forms, the Children’s Services Licensing Staff will forward fire and health referrals to relevant inspectors. A Child Care Inspection Specialist (CCIS) will then be assigned to your case and contact you within 30 days to schedule your provisional inspection.

Step 6: Obtain License

Upon satisfactory compliance with childcare licensing regulations, you will receive a provisional license. Notification of the effective date will be communicated via phone or email.

Daycare in Nebraska

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Nebraska

After completing a provisional license year, childcare programs are required to apply for a non-expiring operating license. Ninety days before the provisional license expiration, the DHHS will issue a notice.

Failure to submit a complete application for an operating license by the expiration date results in the provisional license’s expiration. If the licensee applies more than 90 days after expiration, the DHHS treats the application as a provisional license. However, if the licensee submits a complete application within 90 days after expiration and is compliant with regulations, the department will grant an operating license.

To qualify for a standard license, facilities must demonstrate satisfactory compliance through inspections. The DHHS may conduct six types of inspections to assess compliance:

    • Sixty-day inspection: Reserved for family childcare homes, the department conducts an unannounced inspection within 60 days of issuing a provisional, operating, or amended FCCH-I or FCCH-II license.
    • Initial licensure inspection: Within 30 days of receiving a completed application for a provisional license, DHHS performs an on-site inspection of childcare centers, preschools, and school-age-only centers.
  • Provisional-to-operating license inspection: Within 30 days of receiving a completed application for an operating license, an unannounced on-site inspection is conducted.
  • Annual and semi-annual license inspections: Unannounced inspections are conducted to assess compliance with licensing regulations:
    • Once each year for facilities licensed to care for 29 or fewer children
    • Twice each year for facilities licensed to care for 30 or more children
  • Follow-up inspections: DHHS may conduct follow-up inspections within 60 days after the original inspection to confirm correction of all violations.
  • Monitoring inspections: Unannounced monitoring inspections may be conducted to verify compliance with regulations and any imposed negative actions or discipline.

Operating licenses are perpetual, subject to special circumstances such as ownership changes or cessation of operation. As long as the annual license fee is paid, licensing rules are adhered to, and inspections are passed, daycare operations can continue uninterrupted.

You’re ready to open a daycare

Fulfilling all state requirements and acquiring the appropriate childcare license stands as one of the initial stages in establishing your childcare venture. Through meticulous planning, comprehensive training, and leveraging the resources offered by the state, your program can deliver high-quality childcare services to children and families.

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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