How to Start a Daycare in New Jersey

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

  • Begin by researching the licensing requirements set forth by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (NJDCF) to ensure compliance.
  • Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your services, target market, budget, and marketing strategy.
  • Choose a suitable location that meets zoning requirements and provides ample space for children to play and learn.
  • Secure funding through personal savings, loans, or grants to cover startup costs such as rent, utilities, insurance, and supplies.
  • Hire qualified staff members who possess the necessary certifications and undergo background checks as mandated by NJDCF.
  • Create a safe and stimulating environment by implementing age-appropriate activities, nutritious meals, and proper hygiene practices.
  • Finally, promote your daycare through local advertising, a com listing, word-of-mouth referrals, and online platforms to attract families seeking quality childcare services in New Jersey.

Do I need a childcare license in New Jersey?

The New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) defines a “childcare center” as any residence or establishment maintained for the purpose of caring, developing, or supervising six or more children under 13 years of age who attend for periods of less than 24 hours a day. This category encompasses various facilities such as daycare centers, nighttime centers, centers catering to children with special needs, school-age childcare programs, centers for sick children, and infant-toddler programs. It is mandatory for all childcare centers to obtain licensing. If there is uncertainty regarding whether your program requires licensing, it is advisable to contact the DCF Office of Licensing for clarification before commencing operations.

Certain types of childcare providers in the state of New Jersey are generally exempt from licensure. For instance, home-based childcare programs that cater to fewer than six children, excluding those residing in the home, are not required to be licensed. Additionally, programs that fall short of the childcare center definition, i.e., those caring for fewer than six children under 13 years old, are also exempt. For further details on program exemptions, refer to section 3A:52-1.3 in the Manual of Requirements for Child Care Centers. Some exemptions include:

  • Programs where each child attends on a drop-in basis for a maximum of two hours, with parental accessibility within the same building.
  • Programs operating within federally owned or operated facilities or geographic areas.
  • Programs offering open-door activities without assuming responsibility for childcare.
  • Programs providing sporadic, emergency-based childcare, such as during school closures or conferences.
  • Privately operated infant and preschool programs approved by the Department of Education for exclusive service to local school districts for children with disabilities.
  • Homework or tutorial programs not intended for childcare purposes.

Daycare in New Jersey

Although exempt, certain childcare providers may opt to seek licensure. This includes family childcare providers, accommodating up to five children simultaneously, family, friend, and neighbor providers, caring for up to two unrelated children for less than 24 hours a day, and in-home providers tending to a child in their own home for fewer than 24 hours a day. These providers can register as family childcare providers through their county’s Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCR&R). To initiate registration, follow these steps:

  • Submit your application to your county’s CCR&R.
  • Attend training sessions sponsored by the Division of Family Development (DFD) or your local CCR&R.
  • Undergo a home inspection to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal requirements.
  • Pay a $25 registration fee to obtain your Certificate of Registration.
  • Complete a background check.

For further information on various family childcare provider categories and registration procedures, contact your county’s CCR&R and visit

Childcare licensing requirements in New Jersey

Before initiating the process of applying for your childcare license, it’s essential to acquaint yourself with the requirements outlined for New Jersey childcare centers. Everything pertinent, including facility specifications, staffing prerequisites, record-keeping protocols, insurance prerequisites, and health and safety benchmarks, can be found in the Manual of Requirements for Child Care Centers. This comprehensive resource also delineates the specific mandates for center directors, teachers, and staff. Every individual involved in a childcare center must:

  • Possess a commendable character and reputation.
  • Maintain sufficient physical, mental, and emotional well-being to effectively fulfill their job responsibilities.
  • Exhibit skills, attributes, and qualities conducive to either sponsoring a center or engaging with children, as applicable.

Directors overseeing early childhood programs licensed to accommodate more than 30 children must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Hold a master’s degree in a field related to children or business.
  • Possess a bachelor’s degree along with one year of managerial or supervisory experience.

Directors managing early childhood programs licensed for 30 or fewer children must fulfill at least one of the following prerequisites:

  • Hold an associate’s degree in early childhood education or child development.
  • Have six college credits in early childhood education or child development and nine credits in education, psychology, healthcare, nursing, or a related field pertinent to child growth or development.
  • Attain a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential.
  • Obtain a Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) certificate.
  • Acquire a group teacher endorsement from the New Jersey Registry for Childhood Professionals, Professional Impact New Jersey.
  • Attain the New Jersey Infant/Toddler Credential administered through Professional Impact New Jersey.

Additionally, other childcare center obligations encompass, but are not restricted to:

  • Providing proof of liability insurance.
  • Ensuring staff meet qualification criteria.
  • Adhering to supervision mandates and staff-to-child ratios.
  • Facilitating developmental program activities and furnishing suitable equipment.
  • Upholding health and sanitation standards and practices.
  • Establishing provisions for rest and sleep.
  • Complying with administrative and record-keeping prerequisites.
  • Conducting background checks for all staff members.

You’ll find an extensive list of these requirements and more in the Manual of Requirements and the provider FAQ page. Furthermore, the state has furnished the Understanding Licensing packet, which includes a checklist of requirements to aid in your compliance and navigation through all necessary provisions.

Ratio requirements

Staff-to-child ratio requirements for childcare programs also exist in New Jersey. These ratios may be adjusted during sleep periods or for centers primarily catering to sick children. Generally, the staffing ratios are as follows:

  • Under 18 months: One staff member for four children (1:4)
  • 18 months up to 2 ½ years: One staff member for six children (1:6)
  • 2 ½ years up to 4 years: One staff member for ten children (1:10)
  • 4 years: One staff member for twelve children (1:12)
  • 5 years and older: One staff member for fifteen children (1:15)

Daycare in New Jersey

Childcare license application in New Jersey

Step 1: Locate and Gain Approval for Your Center’s Location

The initial phase of opening a childcare center in New Jersey involves finding a site that adheres to zoning regulations and complies with state childcare guidelines. Upon selecting a site, securing a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) from the municipality where the building is situated is necessary. This certificate verifies compliance with New Jersey Uniform Construction Code (NJUCC) provisions, confirming suitability for use as a childcare center.

Upon receipt of the Certificate of Occupancy, submit a copy to the Office of Licensing, specifying the building’s classification as follows:

E (Educational): For facilities accommodating six or more children above 2 ½ years old

I-4 (Institutional): For facilities accommodating one or more children below 2 ½ years old

A-3 (Assembly): For facilities exclusively serving school-age children

Step 2: Pass a Site Inspection

Following the Certificate of Occupancy acquisition, arrange for a courtesy site inspection by contacting the Office of Licensing at 1-877-667-9845. Timely scheduling of this inspection allows for necessary adjustments before application submission. For new constructions, architectural plans review ensures compliance.

If a single owner utilizes multiple buildings for the childcare center, each site necessitates a Certificate of Occupancy and inspection. The state may issue individual licenses for each building or a consolidated license covering both as one childcare center. Once the location is finalized, proceed with drafting a business plan for your childcare center.

Step 3: Submit Application and Fees

Apply for your license online via the New Jersey Child Care Information System website, at least 45 days before the center’s anticipated opening. Accompanied by relevant documentation, submit the licensing fee via check or money order to the Treasurer of New Jersey, ranging from $110 to $250 based on center size.

Step 4: Obtain Background Checks

After application, request criminal background checks and Child Abuse Record Information (CARI) checks from the state. Consent to a personal background check and initiate checks for all staff members. A $10 processing fee is applicable per CARI form. For additional information, contact the Office of Licensing at 1-877-667-9845.

Step 5: Prepare for Licensing Inspection

Upon application, a licensing inspector evaluates your facility to ensure compliance with state regulations.

Step 6: Receive Your License

Upon completion of the licensing inspection and meeting all requirements, a temporary childcare license, valid for up to six months, is issued. During this period, choose your childcare program’s name and progress towards obtaining the regular license. If outstanding provisions exist without serious harm to children’s health and safety, a temporary license is granted for up to six months, accompanied by written steps to fulfill all requirements. License periods span three years. Incorporate your licensure in childcare program marketing to establish credibility with prospective families.

Daycare in New Jersey

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in New Jersey

For ongoing compliance, it’s imperative to renew your license every three years and diligently adhere to all licensing requirements while managing your center.

While not exhaustive, the following list outlines potential reasons for license revocation or denial of renewal. For further details, refer to the Manual of Requirements for Child Care Centers:

  • Inadequate administration or recordkeeping practices
  • Refusal to undergo facility inspections
  • Implementation of policies or staff conduct posing risks to children’s health, safety, education, and overall well-being
  • Failure to provide developmental activities addressing children’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive needs
  • Reluctance to terminate the employment of a staff member following a Child Abuse Record Information background check indicating incidents of child abuse or neglect


Depending on the specific nature of your childcare enterprise, you may be required to seek licensure from the state of New Jersey. It is crucial to invest time in acquainting yourself with the requisite regulations and making use of the available resources to ensure the successful initiation and operation of your childcare venture. By engaging in thorough planning and preparation, you can effectively navigate the licensing procedures and shift your focus towards advancing your business to its subsequent phases.

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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