Start a Daycare in Alabama – Licensing – Regulations – Laws
The minimum standards required in the operation of day care and nighttime child care centers including regulations and procedures are prescribed by the Department of Human Resources of the State of Alabama.
The legal authority for child care regulation in Alabama is based in the Child Care Act of the Code of Alabama.
A child care center without a license, an approval, or a six-month permit shall not begin to operate nor advertise services.
The Department of Human Resources provides application form to any interested individual, group, or corporation to operate a child care center.
An application for license shall be completed with all the requested information and shall be submitted to the Department of Human Resources. A child care license is non transferable.
No child care center shall advertise its services without a license, an approval or six-month permit.
Prohibited advertisement includes, but is not limited to, descriptive literature and aids; printed and published material; talks, speeches, and presentations; flyers;
signs and posters; booklets and pamphlets; illustrations and depictions;
newspaper, television, radio, Internet, magazine, and other media advertising;
letters and direct mail advertising; and any materials used by agents. Prohibited
advertisement also includes printed and illustrated material or descriptions on
mugs, cups, pencils, pens, or other objects.
Any advertisement whether free or paid is prohibited. Actions soliciting children for care include invitation, appealing, pleading, luring, begging, requesting, offering, suggesting, promoting and imploring.
Installation of signage during a center’s remodelling and renovation, advertisements seeking for employees, and surveying the locality about the feasibility of a child care program, are not included in the prohibited advertisements. This is provided that the child care center has pending license application already being processed in the Department.
A completed application form shall be examined by the Department of Human Resources representative. The location where the child care center shall be operated and the person(s) who will be responsible in the operation of the center shall be inspected by the representative of the Department.
The inspection shall be based on the minimum standards and regulations for the operation of the child care center as prescribed by the Department.
A license will be issued if the child care provider has met the qualifications required by the Department. If application is denied, the Department shall provide the applicant a written statement indicating reasons for denial.
License application may be withdrawn by an applicant verbally or in writing.
A six-month license allows the child care center to complete all licensing requirements until it becomes eligible for a full license. The Department may issue such permit at its discretion. A six-month permit is issued if the center has completed the minimum standards except one half of the outdoor and indoor equipment required for each age group of children to be served.
The total number of children in care, inside and outside the premises included, shall not exceed the total number of children to be served as indicated in the permit.
The age of the children specified in the permit shall not be altered by serving children with age otherwise stated.
A six-month permit is not transferable.
A license applicable for two years shall be issued once minimum standards are met during the six-month period, otherwise, the child care center shall stop its operation.
Thirty days (30) prior to the expiration date of the child care center license an application for renewal shall be submitted to the Department. The licensee shall be responsible in submitting the application for renewal to the Department on time.
A license shall be renewed if the child care center continues to comply with the minimum standards prescribed by the Department. Otherwise, the Department shall impose corrective or adverse action against the non-complying child care provider.
If an application for license renewal is submitted to the Department on time and is sufficient, the child care center’s license shall remain in effect.
If the application for license renewal is not submitted to the Department on time and is not sufficient, the child care center’s license shall expire as stated.
A child care center operating without a license shall be reported to the District Attorney and to the Attorney General.
A Department representative shall visit a child care center to determine whether the center complies with the child care operation standards, investigate complaints or offer consultations.
A Department representative’s visit to a child care center with the purpose of determining whether the center complies with the minimum standards or not and in investigating a complaint may be made without prior notice. Visits to examine the center as required in pre-licensing may be made through an appointment.
Provisions of the License, Six-month Permit, or Approval
A child care center issued with a license, six-month permit or approval shall abide by the provisions that come with these authorizations to operate a child care center:
- a. A license issued by the Department to a day care and nighttime center is valid for 2 years unless voluntarily surrendered by the licensee, and revoked or suspended by the Department;
- b. Total number of children in care shall not exceed the number of children to be served approved by the Department and stated in the license or permit;
- c. The age of the children specified in the permit shall not be altered by serving children with age otherwise stated in the license or permit;
- d. A license or a permit for a child care center is non-transferable;
- e. The Department and its authorized representatives shall be responsible and allowed to inspect a child care facility that is seeking a license, license renewal, and operating under a license or six-month permit or approval; and
- f. If a child care center exhibits a condition that is potentially hazardous to the safety, health and wellbeing of the children in care, the Department shall have the discretion to immediately limit, suspend, or restrict the permit, license or approval of a child care center.
There are requirements that shall be completed before a child care center is issued a license, six-month permit or approval. This includes a written inspection report from the local fire department. The inspection report shall state that the child care facility did not have violations in the fire safety standards. This inspection report shall be submitted to the Department of Human Resources as one of the requirements in meeting the minimum standards in operating a child care facility.
The licensee, center director or the Department of Human Resources may request for subsequent inspections by the local fire department.
A copy of the fire inspection report shall be posted in a conspicuous place in the center for review by parents.
A written inspection report from the local health department is another requirement required by the Department. The health inspection report shall state that the child care facility did not have violations in the health safety standards as prescribed by the Department. This inspection report shall be submitted to the Department of Human Resources as one of the requirements in meeting the minimum standards in operating a child care facility. Once the health safety standard requirement is met, a child care facility shall be issued a license, six-month permit or approval by the Department.
For a child care facility that provides and prepares food in the center, a copy of food permit issued by the health department shall also be submitted. If food is not prepared in the center but served by the center to the children in care, a copy of the written approval of the food service plan from the health department shall be submitted to the Department of Human Resources.
The licensee, center director or the Department of Human Resources may request for subsequent inspections by the local fire department.
A copy of the health inspection report shall be posted in a conspicuous place in the center.
A child care facility before being issued a license, six-month permit or approval, shall submit to the Department of Human Resources a written statement that it has complied with the applicable zoning requirements. A written statement that the child care facility has checked with the local governing authority may be submitted to the Department if there are no applicable zoning laws and ordinances.
All indoor areas that are designed and designated to be used by the children shall be exclusively used by the children in care during hours of child care facility operation. During activities where other groups are involved such as in a lunchroom facility, the children shall be seated together apart from the other groups.
The child care facility shall provide each child in care at least 32 square feet of space for indoor activity.
Each group of children shall be provided with enough space for indoor activities.
A child care center shall provide bathroom facilities, diapering facilities, space for ill or injured children, storage space for children and staff, office space for storing records, and space for storing supplies of teachers and reserve equipment.
All shelves that are placed in a child care center shall be securely anchored preventing risk to children.
A child care center’s temperature shall be maintained between 68 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature shall be monitored through installation of thermometers in all rooms used by children.
All outside windows shall be opened but securely installed with screen while outside doors shall be kept closed during hours of operation.
A child care center shall have sufficient lighting that will enable children to participate in activities conducted during daytime or during periods when children are already sleeping or napping.
A child care center shall have a working telephone for business and the Department shall be notified in case the number is out of service or changed.
A child care center shall be free of hazards that can be of potential danger to children in care. All poisonous substances and materials shall be locked in storage cabinets. All substances in containers shall be labelled properly. There shall also be a secure storage or cabinet for firearms and ammunitions.
All areas used by children such as stairways and glass doors shall be properly secured to avoid harm to children.
Electrical wirings and outlets shall have protective covers which are large enough not to be swallowed by the children in care.
All equipment and areas used by children shall be disinfected at a regular basis and cleaned properly.
All licensed, issued a six-month permit, or approved child care centers in Alabama shall provide an off-street area for loading and unloading children attending child care.
All child care facilities shall also have an outdoor play area which provides at least 60 square feet of space for each child. This is the requirement when a child care facility has an approved capacity of less than 60 children.
Children younger than age 2½ shall be provided with a separate play area or the center may schedule different periods of play fro them separate from the older children.
An outdoor playground shall be protected with a fence or wall that is at least 4 feet in height and do not have protruding edges that are sharp.
A shade from the sun shall also be provided in outdoor play areas.
An outdoor play area for children in care shall be free of all hazardous materials and substances including proper installation or anchoring of play equipment such as swings, climbers, and seesaws.
All children participating in swimming or wading activities in the center shall have written permission from parents or guardians.
A pool which is 2 feet in depth shall be provided with a lifeguard but shall not be counted in the staff-child ratios. Each lifeguard shall have a current American Red Cross Lifeguard Training Certificate, a current First Aid Certificate, and current Infant-Child Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Certificate (CPR) from the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association or the National Safety Council.
The staff to child ratio during swimming or wading activities shall be:
- a. 1 staff for each child younger than 2 ½ years of age;
- b. 1 staff for every 4 children ages 2 ½ years up to 4 years;
- c. 1 staff for every 6 children ages 4 years up to 6 years; and
- d. 1 staff for every 10 children ages 6 years and older.
All staff included in the staff-child ratio while children are in the pool shall remain by the pool at all times.
A licensed child care center assumes full responsibility to children participating in off-premise activities such as field trips which require children to be transported away from the child care center.
A child shall not be allowed to participate in off-premise activities unless a written statement of permission from the parent or guardian is obtained. This shall be on the center’s file before the child leaves the center to participate in an off-premise activity.
The Department of Human Resources does inspect such activities provided by a child care center assuming the licensed child care facility takes full responsibility to children it cares for. Parents and guardians must be aware of this and this shall be indicated in the written statement of permission.
Equipment and Furnishings
All equipment and furnishings in a child care center shall be age appropriate to children in care and shall be in good condition and well maintained.
All equipment and furnishings shall be free of hazardous materials or too small implements which may be detached and swallowed by a child especially infants and toddlers.
All equipment and furnishings must be easily cleaned and safe for all children in care.
Each toddler, preschool, or school-age child who naps shall be provided with a washable cot.
Child Care Program
The required staff to child ratios shall be maintained in the child care center at all times including periods for napping and sleeping, swimming and wading, and transportation, and nighttime care.
The following staff to child ratios shall be followed and maintained:
- a. 0 up to 18 months 1 to 5
- b. 18 months up to 2½ years 1 to 7
- c. 24 months up to 36 months 1 to 8
- d. 2½ years up to 4 years 1 to 11
- e. 4 years up to school age* 1 to 18
- f. School age* up to 8 years 1 to 21
- g. 8 years and older 1 to 22
* The term “school age” in this context refers to children of lawful school age who are currently enrolled in public or private school.
All children ages 2½ and younger shall be grouped separately from older children. Exceptions to this regulation shall be provided by the authorized representative of the Department through a written approval. The grouping of children may be based on each child’s special needs.
Only a staff person who meets the requirements or qualifications of a child care worker shall be included in the staff-child ratio.
The center director is the person responsible for the management and operation of the child care facility. He shall also be authorized to perform and execute decisions with regard to the business.
With the absence of the center director, there shall be one qualified staff person who shall be designated to perform his or her duties.
In a conspicuous place in the center, the name of the center director of the staff person in charge in case of the director’s absence shall be posted.
In each room where a child is resting or napping, at least one staff person who has met the qualifications of a child care worker shall be present.
The followings staff to child ratios during napping and resting shall be shall be followed and maintained:
- a. 0 up to 12 months 1 to 5;
- b. 18 months up to 2 ½ years 1 to 14; and
- c. 2 ½ years and older 1 to 36.
There shall be at least one qualified staff person who is at least aged 19 present in the center at all times of operation. This staff person shall have current Infant-Child Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Certificate (CPR) from the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association or the National Safety Council and First Aid Certificate.
A second staff person at least aged 19 shall be present within the premises of the center whenever 7 or more children are in care.
No staff person shall work straight in more than 8 hours on a regular basis.
Infant and Toddler Program
Infants and toddler shall be given an opportunity to play on their own but with direct supervision by the assigned or designated caregiver. This includes opportunity to stay in outdoor play areas if weather condition is good.
Each infant younger than 12 months shall be placed on his or her tummy whenever the infant is awake and observed by the designated caregiver. This is in accordance with the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The caregiver shall be able to interact with the infant encouraging response.
All infants and toddlers in care shall be handled with care. Rough handling of infants and toddlers shall be prohibited including but not limited to: shaking; pushing; pulling; lifting or jerking by one or both arms; lifting or moving by grasping clothing; covering an infant’s/toddler’s mouth, head, or face, among others.
The child care center shall provide sufficient number of clean and disposable diapers for each infant and toddler who are still diapering.
A soiled diaper shall be immediately removed and changed in an area designated for diaper changing and not just in any surface. The diaper changing area shall be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
No child shall be left alone while being diapered and their hands must be cleaned or washed after diapering.
All caregivers who change diapers of children shall wash their hands with warm water and liquid soap before and after diapering.
A caregiver shall put on single-use disposable gloves when diapering a child.
All soiled disposable diapers and wet wipes shall be disposed of properly and placed in a tightly closed trash bin.
All infants and toddlers shall be placed on their back when put to sleep as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to avoid occurrence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, soft quilts, pillows, and comforters shall not be used in an infant’s crib.
Each infant and toddlers shall be provided with a crib and cot respectively. All sleeping materials shall be washed and disinfected after each child’s use.
In feeding infants and toddlers, food shall be planned or permitted by the parent or guardian.
All feeding equipment such as feeding bottles shall be sanitized and handled with proper care. Each child’s feeding bottle and formula shall be properly labelled with the name of the child. The child’s needs shall be the basis in feeding a child.
Preschool and School-Age Children Program
The daily schedule of activities for each group of children in care shall be posted in the center.
The child care center shall offer a variety of indoor and outdoor activities and preschool and age-school children shall be give a time to play in outdoor play areas when weather permits.
Caregivers shall interact with the children encouraging conversation with them during all activities conducted.
Children shall not be allowed to watch television and video tapes and these media shall only be used when necessary in learning activities.
All children in care shall be handled gently. Rough handling of children shall be prohibited including but not limited to: shaking; pushing; pulling; lifting or jerking by one or both arms; lifting or moving by grasping clothing; covering a child’s mouth, head, or face, among others.
School-age children are not required to nap but shall be encouraged to rest or engage in quiet activities. Cots shall be provided and cleaned or disinfected after each use.
The child care center shall provide breakfast or morning snack, midday meal, and one snack in the afternoon. All meals prepared or served to children shall be properly prepared in accordance with local health and food sanitation standards.
All disciplinary actions administered to a child by the caregivers shall be in a written policy that is informed to parents or guardians of the children.
All disciplinary actions shall be age-appropriate and within the developmental level of the child.
Disciplinary practices that may physically and emotionally harm the child are prohibited. Such punishments include but are not limited to:
- a. The use of corporal or physical punishment is prohibited, including but not limited to: spanking; shaking; slapping; kicking; pushing; biting; pinching; hitting; thumping; hair pulling; ear pulling;
- b. The use of verbal abuse is prohibited, including but not limited to: yelling; shouting; name calling; shaming; making derogatory remarks about a child or a child’s family; using language that threatens, humiliates, or frightens a child;
- c. The use of discipline associated with food, naps, or bathroom procedures is prohibited, including but not limited to: withholding food as punishment; use of food such as hot sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, etc., or soap, as punishment; punishment for lapses in toilet training; punishment for not sleeping during nap/rest time;
- d. The use of physical restraint as punishment is prohibited;
- e. Punishment administered by another child is prohibited; and
- f. Rough or harsh handling of children, whether associated with discipline or not, is prohibited, including but not limited to: shaking; lifting or jerking by one or both arms; pushing; pulling; forcing or restricting movement; and lifting or moving by grasping clothing; covering a child’s head; etc.
Communication Between Caregivers and Parents/Guardians
There shall be consistent communication between parents or guardian and staff of a child care center especially when it comes to disciplinary actions that shall be imposed to children.
A child care center shall allow visits from parents and guardians at any time during the business hours.
The child care center shall inform parents and guardians that they can observed their children when in care. Parents and guardians shall also be informed how they could make a complaint including procedures to be followed.
Children who are ill shall not be admitted in the child care center unless they become ill while in care.
If a child acquires a contagious disease which may be transferred to other children in care, he or she must be promptly separated from the group and the parents or guardian shall be immediately notified. If the child’s parent or guardian can not be reached, the center shall obtain an emergency medical treatment from a professional.
All contagious diseases shall be reported to the county or state health department if the disease is identified to be in the Alabama Notifiable Diseases/Conditions.
All medications including over-the-counter medicines shall be given to a child without written permission or consent from the parent or guardian except during cases of emergency where the child shall be treated immediately but the parent or guardian can not be reached.
All medical treatments shall be clearly defined and recorded.
Each child and caregiver shall wash their hands before and after meals and performing activities. Washing of hands shall be done with running water and liquid soap. There shall be an available and enough supply of paper towels for drying hands.
A detailed evacuation plan in the occurrence of emergencies such as fire, serious accident and injury, tornado, or power failure shall be posted in the center for ready reference.
The Department of Human Resources does not inspect off-premise activities conducted by the center assuming that the licensed child care provider shall bear all responsibilities in keeping the children safe during the conduct of those activities.
If the center shall transport children away from the premises of the child care facility, a written statement of permission shall be obtained by the center. This is signed by the parent or guardian and filed in the center’s records.
A child care center shall provide a checklist of all participating children including the time of arrival and departure. There shall be staff person(s) designated to complete the checklist.
The completed checklist is filed in the center’s records.
A licensed driver shall be the only person allowed in driving vehicles that will carry the children to and from the center.
Staff to child ratios shall still be maintained when transporting children for off-premise activities.
All children boarded in the vehicles shall be protected with the use of seat harness or buckles.
All vehicles used to transport children shall be checked for safety and this is done annually by a mechanic. A copy of the safety check shall be filed on the center’s records.
All child care staff shall meet the qualifications required to work in a child care facility
The center director shall meet the following qualifications:
- a. At least 19 years of age;
- b. With 20 hours of training in administration and management and 40 hours of training in quality child care;
- c. Shall meet at least one of the following training categories: 120 hours of child care; 12 months of experience as a child care worker; 20 hours of training in child development, health, safety, and universal precautions; quality child care and licensing; child care professional and the family; language development; and positive discipline and guidance; OR
- d. child development associate credential (CDA) or a certified child care professional certificate (CCP) from the National Child Care Association Inc. (NCCA) and a high school diploma or general education diploma (G.E.D.); and at least twelve (12) months of working experience as a child care worker/teacher or as a director/program director in a licensed day care center; OR
- e. associate degree in child development or early childhood education from a post-secondary school (technical, vocational, junior college), and at least nine (9) months of working experience as a child care worker/teacher or as a director/program director in a licensed day care center or a Department; OR
- f. A bachelor’s degree in child development or early childhood education and at least six (6) months of working experience as a child care worker/teacher or as a director/program director in a licensed day care center or a Department approved setting.
All child care workers who will directly supervise children in a licensed child care center shall comply with the following qualifications:
- a. At least 19 years of age with high school diploma or general education diploma (GED); and
- b. 12 hours of training in child care and development.
Aides and assistant teachers shall be at least 16 years of age with at least an 8th grade education. Aides and assistant teachers shall be supervised by a qualified staff person and they shall not be counted in the staff to child ratios.
In-Service Staff Training
All child care center staff shall comply with a training related to each staff’s specific responsibilities.
In-service trainings for staff shall include each of the following: child development, health, safety, and universal precautions; quality child care and licensing; child care professional and the family; language development; and positive discipline and guidance.
In-service trainings shall be properly documented and filed in the staff records including their individual records.
In addition to the regulations set forth for daytime care, nighttime centers shall follow these regulations and modifications:
- a. Each child in care past midnight shall be provided with cribs and cots with fitted waterproof mattress;
- b. At least 1 bathing facility shall be provided for every 15 children;
- c. The center shall follow and maintain this staff to child ratio when implementing a nighttime care program:
- 0 up to 18 months 1 to 5
- 18 months up to 2½ years 1 to 14
- 2 1/2 years up to 4 years 1 to 18
- 4 years and older 1 to 25
- d. At least one staff person who is at least 19 years of age, who meets child care worker qualifications and has a current Infant-Child Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Certificate (CPR) from the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association or the National Safety Council and a current First Aid Certificate shall be present in the center during all hours of operation;
- e. At least one staff person present in each sleeping room;
- f. Caregivers shall see the sleeping children with regular monitoring conducted;
- g. Outdoor play shall be made available to children during daylight hours;
- h. Caregivers shall provide assistance in changing clothes of children;
- i. A child who goes to school from the center shall be served breakfast; and
- j. Each child shall be provided with individual towel, soap, and washcloth.
Corrective and Adverse Actions
The Department of Human Resources may impose corrective and adverse actions to a licensee who fails to maintain and meet the minimum standards required to operate a child care center as prescribed in the Code of Alabama.
Corrective and adverse actions may include, but need not be limited to: deficiency reports; corrective action plans; probationary status; restrictions or modifications of the provisions of the license, permit, or approval; suspension of a license, permit, or approval; revocation of a license, permit, or approval.
A child care center shall post in the center’s entrance the written statement of the corrective or adverse action issued by the Department.
As prescribed in the Code of Alabama, the Department has the legal responsibility to without notice immediately restrict, suspend or limit the license or permit once a hazardous condition is discovered which may pose danger to the health, safety and wellbeing of the children in care.
The licensee may request for a fair hearing when the initial license is denied, when the application for license renewal is denied, and when application for initial license or renewal is not acted upon with due promptness or within 60 days from receipt of application.
A fair hearing will be conducted after a pre-revocation hearing.
FIND A DAYCARE OR CHILD CARE IN ALABAMA
- Alexander City
- Center Point
- Mountain Brook
- Phenix City
- Tillmans Corner
State Licensing Contact
The State Department of Human Resources
Child Care Services Division
50 Ripley St.
Montgomery, AL 36130
Phone: (334) 242-1425 or (866) 528-1694
Web Page: http://www.dhr.state.al.us/page.asp?pageid=255