How to Start a Daycare in Ohio

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To begin a daycare in Ohio, I would suggest doing your research by asking current daycare and childcare center owners about the ins and outs, the ups and downs, of running your own business. This will prepare you for the next steps.

  • First, you need to research the regulations and licensing requirements set by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) for childcare facilities. Obtain the necessary permits and licenses, which typically include background checks, CPR and first aid certification, and adherence to health and safety standards.
  • Next, secure a suitable location that meets zoning laws and offers ample space for children to play and learn.
  • Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your daycare’s mission, target market, budget, staffing needs, and educational approach. Consider factors such as age group focus, curriculum, and amenities to differentiate your daycare in the competitive market.
  • Additionally, invest in quality equipment, toys, and materials conducive to children’s development and safety.
  • Establish policies and procedures for enrollment, daily routines, communication with parents, and emergency protocols.
  • Finally, market your daycare through online platforms such as com, community outreach, and partnerships with local organizations to attract families seeking reliable childcare services.

Do I need a childcare license in Ohio?

Caring for a child who is not your own does not automatically fall under the category of childcare that necessitates licensing in Ohio. It is possible to care for multiple children without needing to undergo the licensing process. These unlicensed arrangements are not subject to oversight by any regulatory body and are not obligated to adhere to safety, health, staffing, or educational standards. Examples of unlicensed arrangements include:

  • Childcare provided in the child’s own residence (like a babysitter or a nanny)
  • Programs operating for less than two weeks or shorter than a year
  • Programs where parents remain on the premises (excluding their workplace)
  • Programs offering specialized instruction in specific subjects (some camps)
  • Programs operating one day per week for no more than six hours

However, if you intend to establish a daycare facility that falls outside these exemptions, such as a childcare center operating from your residence, you likely need to obtain a license from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).

Daycare in Ohio

Childcare licensing requirements in Ohio

How do I know if I need a license? Well, the state of Ohio defines childcare as:

  • Administering to the needs of infants, toddlers, preschool-age children, and school-age children outside of school hours
  • By persons other than their parents, guardians, or custodians, for part of the 24 hour day, in a place other than a child’s own home, except that an in-home aide provides child care in the child’s own home
  • By a provider required by this chapter to be licensed or approved by the Department of Job and Family Services, certified by a county Department of Job and Family Services, or under contract with the Department to provide publicly funded child care as described in section 5104.32 of the Revised Code

Licensed childcare programs in Ohio are classified into five primary categories, each of which is mandated to obtain licensure and maintain compliance with regulations. The ODJFS outlines these categories as follows:

  • Childcare Centers: These facilities provide care for seven or more children simultaneously in a non-residential setting.
  • Type A Family Childcare Providers: Type A Home providers can accommodate 7-12 children at once within their personal residences. However, each staff member is limited to caring for no more than six children concurrently, with a maximum of three children under the age of two.
  • Type B Family Childcare Providers: Type B Home providers are permitted to care for up to six children simultaneously (including no more than three children under age two) in their personal residences. The total group size must include children under six years of age related to the provider or residents of the home.
  • Child Day Camps: These programs exclusively cater to school-age children, operating for less than seven hours each day during periods when school is not in session, with a requirement that at least 50% of activities take place outdoors. Child day camps are required to register annually with ODJFS. To qualify for reimbursement for publicly funded childcare, they must be accredited by the American Camping Association (ACA) or similar nationally recognized organizations, meeting standards determined to be substantially similar and comparable to those of the ACA by ODJFS.
  • In-Home Aides: These individuals offer childcare services to a child within the child’s own home, rather than in the aide’s own residence. An in-home aide is restricted to caring only for the children residing in that specific home.

Each of these distinct types of childcare providers is subject to different requirements, serving as prerequisites not only for licensure but also for the operation of the respective childcare program.

Provider requirements

Childcare centers

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Infant and child CPR and first aid certification
  • Child abuse and neglect recognition and prevention training
  • Either two years of college with four child development courses or any of these alternatives:
    • 24 months of experience in a licensed childcare program and a currently valid Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential
    • 24 months in a licensed childcare program and four child development courses
    • Pre-Kindergarten Associate Certificate
    • An ODJFS Administrator Credential
    • Montessori Pre-Primary/Early Childhood Credential

Child day camps

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Infant and child CPR and first aid certification
  • Child abuse and neglect recognition and prevention training

In-home aides

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Infant and child CPR and first aid certification
  • Training in management of communicable diseases
  • Child abuse recognition and prevention training

For childcare programs run outside of a child’s home, there are also requirements for the location where they receive care. For a day camp, the location should generally be a safe and sanitary environment for children.

ODJFS dictates additional requirements for childcare centers and family childcare homes that include outdoor space for children. Those areas must include: 

  • 60 square feet of usable space per child using the area at one time
  • Well-defined boundaries with a fence or natural barrier
  • Grounds free of foreign objects and rubbish
  • A provided shaded area
  • Equipment that is safe and appropriate for the age range of children using the play area
  • Appropriate fall zones under and around equipment

Staff-to-child ratios

Childcare programs, excluding in-home aides, must adhere to specific staff-to-child ratios, which are designed to ensure the safety and welfare of the children under their care. These regulations are implemented to maintain appropriate supervision levels and promote the well-being of the children. It’s important to note that staff members occupied with tasks or responsibilities that impede their ability to directly supervise children are not included in these ratios.

Childcare centers

The standard staff-to-child ratio requirement for childcare centers stipulates that an additional staff member must be present if seven or more children are in the facility. The prescribed ratio for various age groups and the corresponding maximum group size for each category are as follows:

Birth to 12 months:

  • One staff member for every five children (1:5), or alternatively, a ratio of 2:12 in the same room
  • Maximum group size: 12

12 months to 18 months:

  • One staff member for every six children (1:6)
  • Maximum group size: 12

18 months to 2.5 years:

  • One staff member for every seven children (1:7)
  • Maximum group size: 14

2.5 years to 3 years:

  • One staff member for every eight children (1:8)
  • Maximum group size: 16

3 years to 4 years:

  • One staff member for every 12 children (1:12)
  • Maximum group size: 24

Daycare in Ohio

At least 4 years but not enrolled in or eligible for kindergarten:

  • One staff member for every 14 children (1:14)
  • Maximum group size: 18

Enrolled in or eligible to be enrolled in kindergarten to 11 years:

  • One staff member for every 18 children (1:18)
  • Maximum group size: 36

11 years to 15 years:

  • One staff member for every 20 children (1:20)
  • Maximum group size: 40

Family childcare providers

In family childcare homes, the staff-to-child ratio mandate dictates that each staff member is permitted to oversee a maximum of six children simultaneously, with a restriction of no more than three children being under two years old. This ratio encompasses all children under six years old, including those who are related to the provider, the provider’s own children, residents of the home, and children aged between six and fourteen who are not related to the provider.

Child day camps

The mandated staff-to-child ratio for child day camps is one staff member for every 18 children (1:18) aged five to eleven years old, and for children aged eleven to eighteen years, the ratio is one staff member for every 20 children (1:20).

Additionally, child day camps necessitate the organization and assignment of children into groups, with designated staff members responsible for the care and supervision of the children within their assigned group. These groups must adhere to the appropriate staff-to-child ratio requirements.

Childcare license application in Ohio

The application process for Ohio’s childcare programs largely follows a consistent procedure. It entails pre-licensing training, background checks, thorough documentation, and inspections before final approval. All the requisite forms essential for the process are accessible on the ODJFS website. To ensure the proper completion of a childcare license application in Ohio, follow these steps meticulously.

Step 1: Fulfill pre-licensing training

Every childcare provider category mandates completion of pre-licensing training. If you have previously finished this training for another application within two years, repetition is unnecessary unless compliance issues arise with your current childcare program. Commence by creating an account in the Ohio Professional Registry (OPR) administered by the Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association (OCCRRA). The OPR serves as the digital platform where you’ll undertake training tailored to your childcare program type, encompassing:

  • Pre-Licensing Training for Child Care Centers
  • Pre-Licensing Training for Family Child Care Providers (Type A or B Home Providers)
  • Pre-Camp and Staff Orientation Training for Approved Child Day Camps
  • Pre-Certification Orientation for In-Home Aides

Step 2: Initiate a background check

Following, all childcare providers must initiate a background check. This process commences with fingerprinting at a designated Webcheck location. Subsequently, you’ll submit a request for a childcare background check via the OPR. The ODJFS will oversee the background check, and you’ll receive notification in your OPR account upon its completion.

Step 3: Lodge your application and essential documentation

To commence the application process, establish an account in the Ohio Child Licensing and Quality System (OCLQS). This platform facilitates the submission, updating, and modification requests for your childcare program’s particulars, including name, capacity, location, and other pertinent information. The application primarily involves assembling and furnishing the following documents based on your specific type of childcare program:

Childcare centers

  • Documentation confirming applicant’s educational qualifications
  • Documentation verifying building approval
  • Owner’s Authorized Representative/Partnership for Child Care Form
  • Child Care Plan of Operation
  • Request for Child Care Background Check
  • Fire inspection report
  • Valid food service operation license

Type A family childcare providers

  • Verification of high school education
  • Medical statement
  • Child Care Plan of Operation
  • Documentation of Adjudicated a Delinquent Child
  • Request for Child Care Background Check
  • Owner’s Authorized Representative/Partnership Form
  • Verification of local zoning allowance
  • Verification of local building inspection
  • Verification of fire inspection by state fire marshal or local fire safety inspector

Type B family childcare providers

  • Confirmation of high school education
  • Medical statement
  • Child Care Plan of Operation
  • Documentation of Adjudicated a Delinquent Child
  • Request for Child Care Background Check

Child day camps

  • Verification of accreditation by the American Camp Association (ACA) or any nationally recognized organization that accredits child day camps by using standards that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has determined are substantially similar and comparable to those of the ACA
  • Request for a Background Check for Child Care
  • Owner’s Authorized Representative/Partnership for Child Care (if the day camp is owned by a corporation or partnership)
  • Articles of incorporation, if applicable
  • Plan of Operation for Child Day Camp and any necessary attachments
  • Fire inspection approval by the state fire marshal or local fire safety inspector for any buildings identified as primary use spaces
  • Documentation of building approval issued by either the Ohio Department of Commerce or local certified building authority for any building identified as a primary use space (Note: Approval will not be issued until the final Certificate of Occupancy is issued by either the Ohio Department of Commerce or local certified building authority)
  • Valid food service operation license permitting the preparation and serving of food, or exemption status, from the local health department having jurisdiction or from the Ohio Department of Health or the Ohio Department of Agriculture

In-home aides

  • Confirmation of high school education
  • Medical statement
  • Completion of In Home Aide Assurances by parent and applicant
  • Request for Child Care Background Check

Additionally, an application fee is required for submission.

  • Childcare center: $500
  • Family childcare home: $250
  • Child day camp: $25 per camp, with a maximum of $250 for all camps

Step 4: Inspections

Once the application is submitted, you can commence marketing your childcare business while awaiting the next steps. Upon receipt of your application, the ODJFS will arrange for an inspection. As part of this inspection process, certain documents must be displayed in the proposed childcare facility or shared with prospective families. These include a Disaster Plan and Written Information for Parents and Employees. Additionally, the required documentation for childcare centers and family childcare providers must include:

  • Proof of completion of pre-licensing health and safety trainings
  • Staff medical statements
  • Program Notification of Background Check Review for Child Care
  • Drawings depicting the indoor floor plan and outdoor play area
  • Lab results of water if not publicly supplied
  • Permission slips for field trips, routine trips, and swimming/water activities
  • Sample attendance form
  • Evening program schedule, if applicable

The objective of the inspection is to verify that the environment is secure and appropriate for children, promoting their development and learning. In-home aides undergo two inspections, beginning with a pre-certification visit followed by an unannounced comprehensive inspection. The ODJFS offers online access to sample inspection reports for childcare centers, family childcare providers, in-home aides, along with inspection details for day camp organizers, aiding in your preparation.

Following the inspection’s conclusion, the licensing specialist overseeing the process will discuss any non-compliances with you. Should any issues arise, you are required to rectify them within 30 days. Upon resolution of any non-compliances, the application will be forwarded to the ODJFS for evaluation and approval.

Step 5: Results

Upon approval of your application, notification will be sent to you via email and your OPR portal. Childcare centers and family childcare providers will be granted a provisional license valid for 12 months. During this period, the program must demonstrate adherence to all of Ohio’s childcare rules and regulations. A licensing specialist will conduct a minimum of two additional inspections during the provisional period. If the program achieves full compliance, a continuous license will be issued, which remains valid as long as the program maintains compliance. In the case of in-home aides, re-application in the OCLQS is required every two years following initial approval. Day camp organizers must re-apply annually by March 15 of the subsequent year, in alignment with the summer camp season.

Upon approval, you will also receive instructions via email on how to apply to the Publicly Funded Child Care Program (PFCC). This voluntary program enables licensed childcare providers to receive payments for providing care to eligible children, with partial or full payment facilitated by the state. PFCC is accessible to all licensed childcare providers except for in-home aides.

Daycare in Ohio

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Ohio

Upon obtaining a childcare license, selecting a name for your childcare program, and commencing operations, you are consistently required to maintain compliance with the standards established during initial approval. Childcare centers and in-home aides undergo a minimum of one inspection per state fiscal year subsequent to license issuance. Family childcare providers are subject to at least one inspection in each half of the fiscal year following continuous license issuance. Additionally, day camps are subject to at least one inspection per camp season.

These inspections serve to uphold your status as an efficient and high-quality childcare provider while ensuring your adherence to childcare provider rules. They provide an opportunity to confirm and update your understanding of the necessary regulations, thus helping you maintain compliance. The primary aspects of childcare provider licensing compliance include maintaining appropriate staff-to-child ratios, training new hires, fulfilling professional development requirements, and renewing licenses punctually. For example, in-home aides must complete six hours of professional development annually to remain compliant. Childcare centers and family childcare programs must ensure that each staff member possesses:

  • High school education or GED
  • Profile registered in the OPR
  • Infant and child CPR and first aid training within the initial 90 days of employment
  • Child abuse and neglect recognition and prevention training within the first 60 days of employment
  • Annual minimum of six clock hours of training in childcare or child development-related topics
  • Medical statement
  • Background check

Childcare providers should regularly review childcare program resources to stay updated and ensure a thorough understanding of compliance requirements. However, maintaining compliance isn’t the sole aspect of being an exceptional childcare provider. Operating a seamless, efficient, and well-organized program is equally crucial.

Time to start your daycare in Ohio!

Securing a childcare license stands as an initial milestone when initiating a childcare center. Ohio hosts various types of childcare programs, with most necessitating licensing for operation. It’s vital to comprehend the particular provider, capacity, and facility prerequisites you need to fulfill before commencing operations. By conducting thorough research and meticulous planning, you can smoothly navigate through the childcare licensing application process and advance to the subsequent phase of your 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 https://www.Daycare.com/signup

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