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Licensing & Accreditation

Dear Debi,
I just finished my license application. What's the next step in the process? Also, what should I know about accreditation?
Naomi Baltazar
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • A license may be required to provide home-based child care
  • Each state establishes licensing requirements
  • Child care regulatory office provides licensure requirements
  • Accreditation is voluntary
  • Professional standards must be met to become accredited
Expert Advice
Jocelyn Tucker
Jocelyn Tucker
Child care program specialist
A child care license is a document that you receive from the state that authorizes you to care for a certain number of children in your home and tells you what conditions must be present in order for you to be able to provide this care. It also gives you a set of instructions or rules that you must abide by in order to keep the license. Each state has different requirements, and there are three states (Idaho, Louisiana, and New Jersey) that do not license family child care homes at all. The child care regulatory agency in each state can give the info on local resources and referral agencies.

Having a license depends on how many children you’re caring for and what state you live in. For example, in California, you can care for your children and the children of another family without a license. But a license is recommended because it gives you minimum health and safety standards to abide by. When you’re caring for other people’s kids, you wan to ensure that you have a safe home. The state licensing representatives are another set of eyes that can look out for other safety issues that you might miss that can prevent someone else’s child from being injured.

When getting a child care license, first find out who the regulatory agency in your state is and obtain the contact information. The agency is usually a part of the state department of education or the department of public social services. The agency will then tell you what the requirements for licensing are. Much of this information is available online. Many resource and referral agencies have people who can help you by coming out to do a pre-inspection and give you hints and tips before the actual visit. There is a fee involved with licensing, but that will vary from state to state and the number of children you want to care for.

Most states offer two groups of licenses: one for “small family child care home” – up to 6 kids and one for “large or group child care home” – up to 24 kids.

The National Association for Regulatory Administration, or NARA, is a great resource because all the states’ child regulatory offices are listed in one place. It also breaks down the licensing requirements by state.

Accreditation is the highest level of regulation that you can obtain for a child care program. It has several advantages. First, it’s standardized – including internationally. In fact, there are seven countries that have accredited family child care providers. What standardized means is that you’ll see the same standards of child care. The criteria for accreditation go above and beyond licensing to look at the quality of care. It goes beyond minimum standards and into the 5-star hotel of child care. Providers are observed to see if they’re able to see theory into practice.

The first step is to contact the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC). There are a couple of ways to go through the accreditation process. It’s nice to be able to go through the experience with someone else because there are a lot of criteria, and the transition can be smoother with a support group. The NAFCC has seen that providers who go through the process with a group, successfully complete the program at a higher rate than those who go through it alone. The most challenging part is the self-observation portion of it, where you’re required to take a look at your program and figure out what really works and what doesn’t.

There are many resource and referral agencies that have a lot of accreditation projects. In those cases, they may pay for your fee and even send someone to come to your home to provide you with technical assistance and advice. Some programs may even give you money to buy equipment, take courses, etc. Some providers have even gotten together and written their own grants to get the funds to pay for their costs. The cost of accreditation is $695. If you’re a member of the NAFCC, it’s only $495, with the yearly $35 membership fee.

The NAFCC accredits those in family child care, but there are is also the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) which accredits center-based child care programs. Also, the National AfterSchool Association (NAA) accredits after-school child care programs.

There are many benefits to becoming accredited. I’ve heard over and over again from providers that their jobs seem easier since becoming accredited. The organization that comes with accreditation allows them to enjoy their own program more. Accreditation is validation that they’re providing the best care they can for children. Because accreditation is an indication of quality programs, providers can market their business better and reflect that in their fees by charging more. Parents are now asking for accredited programs more and more. Some states even provide tax incentives.
Child Care Provider Comments
Claudine Avila
Claudine Avila
Considering becoming licensed
Last year, I attended a licensing orientation to be a provider. They told me about the regulations and all I need to know. I am applying for my permit to be able to obtain my child development permit. I am ready to move onto the next step of opening my own family daycare.
Tondra Gardner
Tondra Gardner
Licensed child care provider for two years
I’ve had my license for about two and a half years now. I spent the first two years marketing my center and building my clientele. I pride myself in offering a quality program for kids. I am always looking at what I can do improve the quality of care. Being accredited allows you to improve the quality of care for your kids. The end product is good for the kids. It also allows the parents to better evaluate the program. The overall process is great for providers. You want to always be changing to grow with the children.
Marianella Hickery
Marianella Hickery
Child care provider for 20 years
Now that I am accredited, there has been an improvement in every aspect of my child care business. I feel I am now able to provide my children with the best quality of care. I have more respect and appreciation from the parents. They see me as a professional and are grateful for all I give to the kids. My program also has more children now – I am always operating at full capacity. I also feel I offer my students a lot more with everything I’ve learned by attending all of the seminars and training classes.

Preparing for an Accreditation Visit Featured Activity:
Preparing for an Accreditation Visit
Licensing & Accreditation Featured Video:
Licensing & Accreditation
Topic: Professionalism
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Related Episodes
Licensing vs. Accreditation (I)
Balancing Child Care & Family
Licensing vs. Accreditation (II)
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
The National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC)
National Association for Regulatory Administration
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