How to Start a Daycare in Tennessee

Post by

Picture of Daycare Staff

Daycare Staff

At Daycare.com, 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.

Starting a daycare in Tennessee involves several important steps to ensure compliance with state regulations and to create a safe and nurturing environment for children.

  • Firstly, conduct thorough research on licensing requirements set forth by the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) to understand the criteria for opening a daycare facility. Obtain necessary permits and clearances, including background checks for all staff and volunteers.
  • Next, secure an appropriate location that meets zoning regulations and safety standards, ensuring ample indoor and outdoor space for children to play and learn.
  • Develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your daycare’s mission, services offered, staffing structure, and financial projections.
  • Obtain liability insurance to protect your business and clients.
  • Create a stimulating curriculum tailored to different age groups, incorporating educational activities, meals, and rest periods.
  • Market your daycare through local advertising, a com listing, social media, and community outreach to attract families in need of childcare services.
  • Lastly, prioritize ongoing training for staff members in areas such as child development, CPR, and first aid to maintain a high standard of care.

By following these steps diligently, you can lay a solid foundation for a successful daycare venture in Tennessee.

Do I need a childcare license in Tennessee?

Providers in Tennessee must acquire a license from the Department of Human Services to offer childcare to five or more unrelated children for at least three hours daily. Tennessee’s childcare regulations are designed to support educators in delivering high-quality care to children within their communities.

There are four types of childcare businesses regulated by Tennessee’s Department of Human Services:

  • Childcare centers: These facilities offer care for 13 or more children.
  • Family childcare homes: They provide care for five to seven unrelated children and up to five children related to the primary caregiver in their own home.
  • Group childcare homes: These homes care for eight to twelve children, with the option to provide care for up to three additional school-age children before and after school, during holidays, on snow days, and over summer vacations.
  • Drop-in childcare centers: These centers provide care for 15 or more children for a maximum of 14 hours weekly, Monday through Friday, with the possibility of offering up to six additional hours on Sundays. However, these guidelines do not apply to snow days.

The Tennessee Department of Human Services doesn’t mandate licensure for childcare provided in a child’s own home, care operating for less than three hours per day, or care offered to fewer than five unrelated children.

Daycares catering to more than five unrelated children must either be certified or licensed, unless they fall under an exempt category.

Childcare licensing requirements in Tennessee

Whether you are starting a preschool at home or operating a center-based program, before starting a daycare center, you must satisfy all of the Tennessee Department of Human Services’ licensing requirements to receive the proper license for your childcare business.

Background checks

Background checks are mandatory for individuals involved in daycare operations, including owners, operators, prospective employees, or substitutes who work for over 36 hours within a calendar year and are included in the staff-to-child ratio. Additionally, individuals aged 15 and above residing in home-based daycare settings must undergo background screening.

A new background check becomes necessary if a staff member remains unemployed from a childcare provider for more than 180 consecutive days.

Moreover, all staff members are subject to background checks at least once every five years.

daycare in Tennessee

Director qualifications

Daycare center directors have the duty of recruiting and training competent employees, overseeing their team, and ensuring optimal staff performance. They are also tasked with ensuring the efficient operation of the childcare facility.

To qualify as a childcare center director, individuals must be at least 21 years of age and fulfill specific educational and training prerequisites.

  • Educational requirements include:
    • Completion of an accredited four-year college program
    • Registration as a nurse with less than a four-year degree and one year of full-time experience in a group childcare setting
    • Completion of 36 hours of mandated coursework, with at least 30 hours in areas such as business management, child or youth development, early childhood education, or closely related fields, along with two years of full-time experience in a group childcare setting
    • Possession of a Tennessee Early Childhood Administrator Credential
    • Possession of a high school diploma, as well as a Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance Certificate for completing 30 clock hours of Administrator Orientation training, and four years of full-time experience in a group childcare setting
    • Continuous employment as an on-site childcare director or owner of a childcare agency
  • Training requirements encompass:
    • Participation in a childcare agency orientation session during the pre-licensure period
    • Completion of Small Business Academy training provided by the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency
    • Familiarization with licensing rules and regulations
    • Completion of shaken baby/abusive head trauma training before coming into contact with children
    • Completion of pre-service training
    • Completion of sudden infant death syndrome training before coming into contact with infants if responsible for their care

Assistant director qualifications

Assistant directors at child care centers are required to be at least 18 years old and possess a high school diploma or its equivalent, along with a minimum of two years of childcare experience. Additionally, assistant directors must fulfill the following training prerequisites:

  • Attend a childcare agency orientation session during the pre-licensure period
  • Complete training on licensing rules and regulations
  • Undergo shaken baby/abusive head trauma training before any interaction with children
  • Complete pre-service training
  • Undergo sudden infant death syndrome training before any interaction with infants if responsible for their care

Educator qualifications

Daycare center educators are required to be at least 18 years old and possess a high school diploma or its equivalent if they are the sole educator for a group to fulfill group requirements. Educators must also adhere to the following training prerequisites:

  • Completion of training on licensing rules and regulations
  • Completion of shaken baby/abusive head trauma training before any contact with children
  • Completion of pre-service training
  • Completion of sudden infant death syndrome training before any contact with infants if responsible for their care

Staff-to-child ratios

Childcare centers must maintain the following staff-to-child ratios and maximum group sizes determined by the Department of Human Services:

Age of children Staff:child ratio Maximum group size
6 weeks to 15 months 1:4 8
12 months to 30 months 1:6 12
24 months to 35 months 1:7 14
3 years old 1:9 18
4 years old 1:13 20
5 years old 1:16 20
School-age 1:20 No max

 

Age of children Staff:child ratio Maximum group size
6 weeks to 30 months 1:5 10
2 years to 4 years 1:8 16
2 ½ years to 3 years 1:9 18
2 ½ years to 5 years 1:11 20
2 ½ years to 12 years 1:10 10
3 years to 5 years 1:13 22
4 years to 5 years 1:16 24
5 years to 12 years 1:20 No max

 

 

Adult-to-child ratios must be upheld consistently, although ratios may be adjusted during naptime. However, at least one adult must remain awake and oversee the children in each nap area, with the requirement that infant and toddler ratios be maintained. Additionally, when the number of children on the premises exceeds 12, a second adult must be physically present and available on-site.

daycare in Tennessee

Facility requirements

Licensed daycare centers are obligated to adhere to particular facility standards:

  • The maximum occupancy within a physical area is dictated by the mandated minimum square footage requirements.
  • There must be a minimum of 30 square feet of usable indoor play space allocated for each child.
  • Every nap room must provide at least 30 square feet of floor space per child.
  • Individual cubbies, hooks, or containers must be available to accommodate each child’s belongings.

Family childcare home licensing requirements

Providers of family childcare homes must adhere to specific licensing requirements, encompassing educational, training, and staffing qualifications, as well as ratio and capacity stipulations.

Primary educator qualifications

Primary educators in family childcare homes are tasked with various responsibilities, including the selection, supervision, training, evaluation, and management of staff, alongside providing written policies to staff members. These policies outline job functions, qualifications, lines of authority, staff performance evaluations, and disciplinary procedures.

To qualify as a primary educator in a family childcare home, individuals must be at least 18 years old and hold a high school diploma or its equivalent if serving as the sole educator for a group. They must also complete a childcare agency orientation session, pre-service training, training within the initial 120 days of licensure, and annual training.

Educator assistant qualifications

To serve as an educator assistant in a family childcare home, individuals must be at least 16 years old. They are required to complete pre-service training, training within the initial 120 days of licensure, and annual training.

Staff-to-child ratios and group sizes

Family childcare homes are obligated to maintain appropriate staff-to-child ratios and group sizes at all times, whether indoors, outdoors, or on the playground. These ratios and group sizes encompass children under care and children related to the primary educator who are under nine years old.

Maximum number of children Number of educators required
Seven or fewer children, with no more than four children under 2 years old 1
Seven or fewer children, with five or more children under 2 years old 2
More than seven children, with no more than four children under 2 years old 3
More than seven children, with five or more under 2 years old 3

Facility requirements

Licensed family childcare homes must adhere to designated facility standards:

  • The maximum occupancy within a physical area is determined by the mandated minimum square footage requirements.
  • In instances where the number of children exceeds seven simultaneously or care is provided within a single room of the home, the area must furnish 30 square feet of usable play space per child.

Group childcare home licensing requirements

Providers of group childcare homes must fulfill particular licensing prerequisites, which encompass educational and training qualifications, as well as ratio and capacity requirements.

Primary educator qualifications

Primary educators in group childcare homes have the responsibility of selecting competent staff, supervising, training, evaluating, and managing staff. They also create written policies for staff, outlining job functions, qualifications, lines of authority, staff performance evaluations, and disciplinary procedures.

To qualify as a primary educator at a group childcare home, individuals must be at least 18 years old and possess a high school diploma or its equivalent. Additionally, they must complete pre-service training, training within the first 120 days of licensure, and annual training. Furthermore, primary educators are not permitted to hold any other employment during operating hours unless approved by the Department of Human Services in a program sponsored or recognized by the department.

Educator assistant qualifications

To serve as an educator assistant at a group childcare home, individuals must be at least 16 years old. They are required to complete pre-service training, training within the first 120 days of licensure, and annual training.

Staff-to-child ratios

Group childcare homes must adhere to appropriate staff-to-child ratios and group sizes at all times, including during outdoor activities and on the playground. These ratios and group sizes encompass both children receiving care and children related to the primary educator who are under nine years old.

 

Number of children Ages of children Number of educators required
Twelve to 15 (any number over 12 must be school-age) No more than 12 children 3 years old or older 1
Twelve to 15 (any number over 12 must be school-age) Up to nine children under 3 years old and no more than four children under 2 years old 2
Twelve to 15 (any number over 12 must be school-age) 10 or more children under 3 years old 3

Facility requirements

Licensed group childcare homes are obligated to uphold particular facility standards:

  • If four or more infants/toddlers are under care at a group childcare home, they must be allocated separate and distinct space along with their designated educator.
  • The maximum occupancy within a physical area is determined by the mandated minimum square footage requirements.
  • A minimum of 30 square feet of usable play space must be allocated for each child.

Drop-in center licensing requirements

Providers of drop-in centers must fulfill particular licensing prerequisites, which include meeting educational and training qualifications, as well as adhering to ratio and capacity requirements.

Director qualifications:

In a drop-in childcare center, the presence of an on-site director is required except for a total of 60 days within the licensing year.

To qualify as a director at a drop-in childcare center, individuals must be at least 21 years old, possess a high school diploma or its equivalent, and have one year of relevant experience. Additionally, completion of pre-service training, training within the initial 120 days of licensure, and annual training is mandatory.

Educator qualifications:

To serve as an educator at a drop-in childcare center, individuals must be at least 18 years old and hold a high school diploma or its equivalent. They must also complete pre-service training, training within the first 120 days of licensure, and annual training.

daycare in Tennessee

Staff-to-child ratios:

Drop-in childcare centers must adhere to staff-to-child ratios as determined by the Department of Human Services.

Ages of children Staff:child ratio
6 weeks to 15 months 1:4
12 months to 30 months 1:8
2 years old 1:12
3 years old 1:15
4 years old 1:18
5 years old (not in kindergarten) 1:20
School-age (kindergarten and above) 1:22

The staff-to-child ratio in a multi-age grouping is determined by the age of the majority of the children in the group. In cases where there is an even number of children, the ratio is determined by the age of the youngest child in the group.

Childcare license application in Tennessee

To obtain a childcare provider license, you must follow specific procedures outlined below:

Step 1: Contact the Department of Human Services pre-licensure unit

Reach out to the Department of Human Services pre-licensure unit at

[email protected] or 615-906-0517. A program specialist will guide you through the pre-licensure process. If applicable, information regarding grants requiring participation in the Child Care Certificate Program (CCCP) will be provided.

Step 2: Complete orientation and training

A program specialist will enroll you in orientation/intake training and provide a WebEx link for the monthly training session. Additionally, Small Business Academy training details will be sent through the Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) Network.

Step 3: Receive clearance from Choose Safe Spaces

After completing training, a program specialist will request clearance for your childcare center’s location from Choose Safe Places, a program by the Tennessee Department of Health screening potential childcare locations for environmental hazards.

Step 4: Obtain a federal EIN, permits, and a background check

Your program specialist will assist you in obtaining a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), use and occupancy permit, business permit, and completing a background check.

Step 5: Determine your location’s capacity

Once necessary applications, permits, and background checks are processed, and your location is deemed safe, your program specialist will assess your location’s capacity and identify any safety concerns.

Step 6: Complete a fire and environmental inspection

Upon ensuring your location meets safety standards, your program specialist will arrange for fire and environmental inspections to be conducted. Approval from these inspections is required before operating your childcare center.

Step 7: Complete the application and submit the required fee

Following the completion of inspection requirements and approvals, you’ll receive a licensing application from your program specialist. Complete the application and submit the required fee.

Step 8: Confirm that all requirements have been met

Your program specialist, along with a program manager, will confirm the submission of all necessary forms and fulfillment of requirements.

Step 9: Apply for grants

If eligible, submit your information to ChildcareTennessee for grant consideration. Upon review by ChildcareTennessee, grant approval or denial will be determined by a pre-licensure program manager. If approved, your program specialist will help you collect additional documentation necessary for provisional license issuance.

Step 10: Complete final walk-throughs and receive a provisional license

Your program specialist will conduct the initial walk-through of your daycare’s location. Subsequently, your local field supervisor and licensing consultant will perform the final walk-through. Upon compliance with all Department of Human Services’ regulations and completion of required documentation and training, a recommendation for provisional licensure approval will be made. Upon approval, you’ll receive a provisional license.

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Tennessee

Follow these guidelines to keep your daycare in compliance with Tennessee’s laws and regulations.

Inspections

At least one unannounced inspection visit occurs every quarter.

Childcare agencies undergo inspections four to six times annually, dependent on the agency’s star rating. The Star Quality Program is a voluntary initiative that acknowledges childcare agencies exceeding minimum licensing standards by assigning ratings of one, two, or three stars. Agencies must operate for a year before eligibility for star ratings.

Licensed childcare agencies are subject to annual evaluations and must prominently display their report card of results and renewal license for families to view. A year of operation is a prerequisite for evaluation.

Final Thoughts

Securing a daycare license marks the initial stride toward running a top-tier program. It’s crucial to thoroughly review these guidelines and provided resources to ensure compliance with state licensure requirements. With meticulous planning, completing this crucial initial step sets the stage for offering childcare services effectively within your community.

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

Share this:

Related article:

Embarking on the journey to start a daycare in Alabama, whether it’s a cozy home daycare or a…...
Starting a daycare in Alaska demands thoughtful consideration of the distinct challenges and prospects posed by the state’s…...
Starting a daycare in Arizona requires careful planning and adherence to state regulations. Whether you are embarking on…...