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How to Start a Daycare in North Carolina

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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.

Start a daycare in North Carolina:

  • First, conduct thorough research on local regulations and licensing requirements for childcare facilities. Familiarize yourself with state laws regarding staffing ratios, safety standards, and educational guidelines.
  • Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your daycare’s mission, target market, services offered, and financial projections.
  • Secure suitable premises that meet zoning regulations and are conducive to childcare activities, ensuring ample space for play areas, classrooms, and administrative offices.
  • Acquire necessary permits and licenses from state and local authorities, including health department inspections and background checks for staff.
  • Invest in quality educational materials, furniture, and equipment to create a stimulating and safe environment for children. Develop policies and procedures for enrollment, health and safety protocols, discipline, and communication with parents.
  • Market your daycare through online platforms, community outreach, and partnerships with local schools and businesses to attract families seeking reliable and nurturing childcare options. Consider using www.daycare,com for these needs.
  • Build a dedicated and qualified team of caregivers who share your passion for early childhood education and are committed to providing exceptional care for the children entrusted to your facility.

Do I need a childcare license in North Carolina?

Prior to establishing a daycare center, it is imperative to familiarize yourself with the licensing prerequisites in your vicinity. Operating a daycare center within North Carolina necessitates obtaining a valid license. The issuance of childcare licenses falls under the jurisdiction of the  Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) within the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

There exist three distinct types of childcare licenses:

  • Child Care Center (CCC) license: Mandatory when offering care to more than three children under the age of 13 who regularly receive care (at least once weekly for over four hours) from non-related caregivers.
  • Center Located in a Residence (CLIR): Necessary if your daycare center operates from a residential dwelling, applicable to those caring for three to 12 children under the age of 13. CLIR facilities adhere to the same regulations as CCCs, with potential additional requirements contingent upon local zoning ordinances.
  • Family Child Care Home (FCCH) license: Required when providing care for 2 to 9 children concurrently within your residence.

The following instances are exempt from the requirement of obtaining a childcare license:

  • Recreational programs conducted for less than four consecutive months within a year.
  • Specialized activities or instruction, such as athletics, art, and music lessons, as well as organized clubs like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
  • Drop-in or short-term care provided when parents are present on the premises or readily available.
  • Public schools and nonpublic schools accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
  • Vacation Bible schools, summer day camps, centers, and residences situated on federal property.
  • Cooperative arrangements among parents aimed at providing childcare for their children as a matter of convenience rather than employment.
  • Any childcare program or arrangement comprising two or more components operating for four hours or less per day, with different children attending each component.

Daycare in North Carolina

Childcare licensing requirements in North Carolina

Child care center (CCC) including center located in a residence (CLIR)

Director qualifications

A childcare center director must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 21 years old.
  • Possess an undergraduate, graduate, or associate degree with a minimum of 12 semester hours in fields such as child development, child psychology, early childhood education, or related areas.
  • Hold a Child Development Associate Credential.

Additionally, the director must have:

  • Completed two semester hours or 32 clock hours of training in early childhood program administration.
  • At least one year of experience in performing administrative responsibilities.

Lead teacher and teacher qualifications:

  • Be aged 18 or above and possess a high school diploma or its equivalent.
  • Have one year of experience in a center or two years of experience in a Family Child Care Home OR
  • Have completed a two-year high school program in Early Childhood Education within Family and Consumer Sciences Education.

Staff development/training requirements:

All staff members responsible for caring for or accompanying children off-premises must fulfill the following training requirements:

  • Obtain first aid and CPR certifications.
  • Staff in the infant room must undergo ITS-SIDS training, which must be renewed every three years.
  • Complete Recognizing and Responding to Suspicions of Child Maltreatment within 90 days of employment.
  • One staff member should complete Emergency Preparedness and Response in Child Care training within one year (or within four months of vacancy).
  • One staff member must complete Playground Safety training within six months of employment (or the date of vacancy).
  • Orientation training, comprising a minimum of 16 hours, must be completed within the first six weeks, with six of those hours completed within the initial two weeks.
  • Health and safety training should be completed within one year of employment and repeated every five years.
  • All staff members must develop and review a Professional Development Plan annually.
  • Ongoing training should be chosen based on job-related needs, with the amount of ongoing training varying depending on educational level, professional experience, and prior training.

Minimum ratio requirements for center-based care in North Carolina

Age RangeStaff:Child RatioAdditional Number of School-Aged Children Allowed
0 to 12 months1:53
12 to 24 months1:62
2 to 13 years1:100
3 to 13 years1:120
All school-aged1:150

Family Child Care Homes (FCCH):

Providers must:

  • Be a minimum of 21 years old.
  • Possess a high school diploma or its equivalent.
  • Successfully complete an approved criminal background check.
  • Provide evidence of completing CPR and first aid courses.
  • Complete Infant Toddler Safe Sleep training within the preceding twelve months.

Daycare in North Carolina

Provider-to-child ratios for FCCHs in NC

Age RangeStaff:Child RatioMaximum Group Size
0-12 months1:510
12 to 24 months1:612
2 to 3 years1:1020
4 to 5 years1:2025
5 years and older1:2525

Childcare license application in North Carolina

Child care center license application process

Step 1: Review Essential Information in the Prospective Providers’ Handbook

This guide outlines the state mandates for establishing a daycare center in North Carolina. Additionally, it’s advisable to reach out to your local county or city government to ascertain any pertinent local regulations. Should queries arise regarding the application process, contact the DCDEE via the toll-free number 800.859.0829 (for in-state calls only) or 919.814.6300 for further assistance.

Step 2: Enroll in a Pre-Licensing Workshop

Secure a spot in a pre-licensing workshop via the DCDEE website. A non-refundable fee of $135 per person applies.

This two-day workshop encompasses topics such as:

  • Selecting an appropriate location and facility for your childcare center
  • Collaborating with a daycare consultant throughout the application process
  • Delivering high-quality care to young children
  • Preparing your center for its operational launch

Step 3: Attend the Pre-Licensing Workshop

Before attending the workshop, it’s essential to review the Quality Costs Resource Guide. This guide delineates the early care and education system and furnishes crucial resources to aid in delivering quality child care. On day two of the workshop, the facilitator will delve into this information, so ensure to bring along a copy.

Step 4: Establish Contact with a Daycare Consultant

Upon completing registration and attending the pre-licensing workshop, you’ll receive a roster of lead child care consultants along with their respective counties. Reach out to the consultant designated for your county to solicit assistance in navigating the application forms. The consultant will arrange multiple pre-licensing visits to discuss licensing prerequisites and provide guidance.

Refer to the pre-licensing guide to acquaint yourself with forthcoming steps.

Step 5: Obtain Your CCC or CLIR License

Once your daycare consultant verifies that your center aligns with all regulatory criteria, you’ll be required to remit an annual license fee based on your center’s capacity. Subsequently, you’ll receive a temporary six-month license enabling the operation of your daycare center.

Family child care home license application process

To apply for this license, follow these steps:

Step 1: Attend a Pre-Licensing Workshop

Participate in the mandatory one-day pre-licensing workshop for family childcare home operators. This comprehensive 5-hour session offers an overview of pertinent regulations. The workshop fee is $75. Visit the DCDEE website for workshop schedules.

Step 2: Consult Your Local Zoning and Planning Office

Reach out to your local zoning and planning office to verify if your residence complies with the zoning requisites for operating a childcare home.

Step 3: Obtain Written Authorization from Landlord or Homeowners Association (HOA)

Before DCDEE can facilitate the establishment of your childcare facility, secure written authorization from the property owner if renting or from the homeowners association (HOA) if applicable.

Step 4: Fulfill Criminal Background Check Requirements

Complete a criminal background check. for the operator, employees, and all household members aged 15 and above who are present while children are under care.

Step 5: Complete Mandatory Training

Provide documentation of completion for an approved CPR and First Aid Course, as well as Infant Toddler Safe Sleep Training within the past twelve months.

Step 6: Submit Your Application

Download the family child care home application packet from the DCDEE website and complete all necessary forms.

Step 7: Arrange a Pre-Licensing Consultation

After attending the Family Child Care Home Pre-Licensing Workshop and submitting your application with the requisite supporting documents, schedule a pre-licensing consultation. During this session, a childcare consultant will review applicable childcare standards, including the additional CCDF Health and Safety Training to be completed within one year of employment.

Additionally, your home’s indoor and outdoor areas will be evaluated, and technical assistance will be provided to ensure preparedness for licensure. Further forms may be supplied during this visit if needed to finalize the application process.

Step 8: Request an Initial Assessment

Following the pre-licensing consultation and confirmation of compliance with relevant requirements, contact the lead childcare consultant in your area to request an Initial Assessment. Upon meeting all requirements, the operator will receive a temporary license valid for six months.

Daycare in North Carolina

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in North Carolina

In addition to acquiring the necessary daycare license for your childcare enterprise, it is imperative to craft a comprehensive business plan and devise a memorable daycare name. A well-structured plan serves as the cornerstone of your business, delineating your mission statement, establishing policies and procedures, delineating budgets, and formulating marketing strategies.

Whether you opt for a center-based program or establish a preschool at home, you can optimize your daycare operations by leveraging tools such as SimplySafeChild’s center management software. This software facilitates the simplification of various tasks including enrollment processes, attendance tracking, scheduling, and more.

Upon securing your license, ongoing compliance with North Carolina regulations is essential to sustain operations:

  • Ensure proper acquisition of the daycare license from the Division of Child Development and Early Education, which is mandatory for all daycare facilities in North Carolina. These licenses are valid for three years and can be renewed via online platforms or through conventional mail services.
  • Adhere to specified safety standards and regulations outlined by DCDEE. Daycare establishments must meet minimum safety criteria, encompassing building safety, playground equipment standards, and adherence to sanitation practices.
  • Verify that all staff members have successfully undergone criminal background checks, as mandated by law. Prior to employment, all daycare staff must undergo comprehensive criminal background screenings.
  • Maintain meticulous records of all enrolled children, encompassing immunization and health documentation. Compliance with state laws mandates that all enrolled children possess up-to-date immunization records and undergo requisite health examinations.
  • Prepare for routine inspections conducted by DCDEE or other local regulatory agencies. Daycare facilities are subject to periodic inspections to ensure compliance. These inspections typically entail evaluations of safety protocols, staff qualifications, and verification of immunization records.

Start your North Carolina daycare the right way

Securing the appropriate license stands as the initial stride in establishing a daycare in North Carolina and guaranteeing ongoing adherence to regulatory standards. This pivotal step not only facilitates efficient and successful setup of your operation but also serves as a guide to ensure compliance.

Ensure thorough research, meticulous completion of requisite paperwork and inspections, and readiness to commence operations. Armed with the requisite knowledge and preparation, you can embark on establishing a daycare in North Carolina poised for long-term success.

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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