Start a Daycare in Florida – Licensing – Regulations – Laws
|START A DAYCARE IN FLORIDA||LICENSING A DAYCARE IN FLORIDA|
|CHILD CARE STANDARDS||DAYCARE TRAINING IN FLORIDA|
|FIND A DAYCARE OR CHILD CARE IN FLORIDA||HEALTH RELATED REQUIREMENTS|
Florida is characterized by continuing change and development caused by shifts in demographics as many parents with children under six years old are working outside the home. Child care becomes an indispensable part of life in Florida in order for parents to meet their basic economic obligations. Child care, therefore, will be a common experience for majority of the children in Florida.
The Florida Administrative Code defines child care as “the care, protection, and supervision of a child, for a period of less than 24 hours a day on a regular basis, which supplements parental care, enrichment, and health supervision for the child, in accordance with his or her individual needs, and for which payment, fee, or grant is made for care”.
In order to protect the welfare and health of the children in the child care centers, the State of Florida developed a regulatory framework that will promote the growth and stability of the child care industry and will also facilitate the physical, motor, intellectual, and social development of the children in a safe environment. This also includes dissemination of information aimed to assist parents in determining appropriate child care options. The State also aims to make child care opportunities accessible to children who are at risk, economically disadvantaged, and those who are disenfranchised from the society by developing a system of subsidized child care, support services, and links with other programs that will fully meet the child care demand of the state.
The Florida Department of Children and Families, Child Care Services Program has jurisdiction over the child care licensing program in the state. The program is in-charge for the statewide licensure of child care facilities that include child care for mildly ill children, large family child care homes, and family day care homes. It aims to promote a safe and healthy environment for the children in child care facilities and to improve the quality of services provided by child care centers through regulation and constant consultation. The Department aims to prevent operation of sub-standard child care facilities by ensuring that licensing requirements are met through an on-going inspection of all child care facilities in 60 out of the 67 counties of the state.
LICENSING A DAYCARE IN FLORIDA
Application for a license or renewal of a license to operate a child care center in Florida must be made on CF-FSP Form 5017 which may be obtained from the Department of Children and Families or from its website at www.myflorida.com/childcare. A completed CF-FSP Form 5017, signed by the individual owner, or a duly designated representative of a partnership, association, or a corporation that will be operating the child care center. The completed CF-FSP Form 5017 must be submitted with the corresponding licensure fee as required by the licensing authority.
A license to operate a child care facility is issued in the name of the owner, partnership, association, or corporation that applied for such license.
A license to operate a child care facility shall be granted only if the applicant will meet the Child Care Standards as required by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
CHILD CARE STANDARDS
General Requirements – All child care facilities in the State of Florida are required to be clean, in good structural condition, free from any safety and health hazards and any kind of vermin infestation. No activity that may endanger the health and safety of the children will be allowed in any portion of the building while the facility is in operation. All areas that are accessible to the children must be absolutely free of any hazardous material or toxic substance. Potentially harmful materials like cleaning supplies must be properly labeled and must be kept away from the reach of the children. Narcotics, alcohol, other impairing drugs, and firearms and weapons shall not be allowed within the building or on the possession of any person within the premises of the facility.
Construction of new child care facility or renovations and modifications of existing facility must conform with the requirements of the local government unit that has jurisdiction over the area.
Rooms Occupied by the Children – All rooms used by the children in the child care facility must be kept clean, in good condition, and adequately ventilated. Cleaning must not be done in the rooms when they are occupied by the children except for the general cleaning activities which are part of the daily routine.
Room temperature must be maintained at 65 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Adequate lighting shall be provided to allow for safety in entering and exiting rooms and to allow close visual observation and supervision of the children even during naptime.
Rooms must be free from rodents and vermin infestation but no pest control activity shall be allowed when the rooms are occupied by the children.
- Indoor Space – Child care facility must allot at least 20 square feet of indoor floor space for every child. Such space must be available for classroom, play area, work area, and nap space. Indoor floor area does not include kitchen, storage area, laundry room, and hallways.
- Outdoor Play Area – The outdoor play area, which should be clean and free of hazards and litter, must be 45 square feet per child in any group using it at a time. It must be surrounded by fence in accordance with the requirements of the local government unit that has jurisdiction over the area.
- Napping or Sleeping Space – Each child care facility must have a designated area where a child can lie down to rest or nap. Sanitary and safe bedding that is appropriate for the child’s size shall be provided by the facility. Linens used for sleeping or napping must be stored in a sanitary place and need to be laundered at least once a week. Linens that are used for more than one child must be laundered between usages.
- Bath and Toilet Facilities – Every child care center must provide and maintain toilet and bath facilities for use by the children. The same must be accessible to the children, taking into consideration their size and height. There must be running water, soap, toilet paper, paper towels and trash receptacles that are available and within reach of the children. The toilet and bath facilities must be sanitized and cleaned at least once a day.
- Fire Safety – Child care facilities must conform with the standards set forth by the State Fire Marshall. Fire drills must be conducted at least once a month when children are present in the facility.
- Health and Sanitation – Safe drinking water shall be provided in every child care facility and health and sanitation requirements must strictly be followed. Personal hygiene procedures for the staff members and children must be strictly observed.
- Equipment and Furnishings – Child care facilities must make available safe and suitable equipments and furnishings, both indoor and outdoor, for the children. Toys and indoor equipments must be maintained in a sanitary condition. Outdoor equipment must not pose any safety hazard to the children.
DAYCARE TRAINING IN FLORIDA
To be able to work as child care personnel in the State of Florida, an individual must complete a 40 hour Introductory Child Care Training to be conducted by the Department of Children and Family Services. Such training must be completed within 12 months from the date training begins and within 15 months from the date of employment in any child care facility.
The Introductory Child Care Training consists of two parts, the first one comprising 30 hours of training courses on:
- Child Care Facility Rules and Regulations
- Health, Safety, and Nutrition
- Identifying and Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect
- Behavioral Observation and Screening
The second part of the Introductory Child Care Training consists of 10 hours from a selection of the following specialized training courses:
- Infant and Toddler Appropriate Practices
- Preschool Appropriate Practices
- School-Age Appropriate Practices
- Special Needs Appropriate Practices
- Basic Guidance and Discipline
- Computer Technology for Child Care Professionals
- Early Literacy for Children Age Birth to Three
- Early Childhood Computer Learning Centers
- Emergency Literacy for Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Instructors
In addition to the above, all personnel of child care facilities must also complete a single course training in early literacy and language development of children ages birth through five. This single course must be completed within 12 months from date of employment.
An annual In-Service Training to be completed within the fiscal year that begins on July 1 of each calendar year is required of all child care facility personnel. The In-Service Training shall be a 10 hour training covering such areas as Health and Safety, CPR, First Aid, Nutrition, Child Development, Behavior Management, Child Abuse, and other related courses. Documents of the in-service training must be recorded on CF-FSP Form 5268 (for facilities) CF-FSP Form 5268 (for homes) and to form part of the personnel records of the child care facility.
A licensed child care facility in the State of Florida must have at least one credentialed staff member for every 20 children. A credentialed child care personnel must have been issued a CF-FSP Form 5206, Staff Credential Verification.
HEALTH RELATED REQUIREMENTS
Communicable Disease Control
Children in a child care facility must constantly be observed for any sign of communicable disease. If any child shows any sign of communicable disease, the condition must immediately be reported to the parents or legal guardian of said child. If any child care personnel or any person in the child care facility is suspected of having communicable disease, the person must be immediately removed from the facility or be placed in an isolation area until he can be removed. Return to the child care facility will not be allowed until the symptoms of the disease are gone or upon presentation of a medical certificate.
Some of the common signs of a communicable disease are the following:
- Severe coughing
- Difficult or rapid breathing
- Stiff neck
- Abnormally loose stool within a 24 hour period
- Elevated body temperature (101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher)
- Yellow skin or eyes
- Unusually dark urine
A child with head lice will not be permitted to be in child care facility until it is verified that treatment has occurred.
Every child care facility must maintain a designated isolation area for children who becomes ill while at the facility. The isolation area must have adequate ventilation and heating, and must have bed or mat with disposable linens. The isolated child must be constantly monitored for any sign of worsening of the illness until the arrival of the parents or medical professional care.
In the event of an outbreak of a communicable disease, the child care facility must notify the local health department immediately upon the occurrence of such outbreak.
First Aid, CPR, and Emergency Procedures
Every child care facility must have the presence, at any given time the facility is in operation, of at least one staff member who has a current and valid certificate of completion for first aid training course, and infant and child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) procedures. The same accredited staff member must also be present whenever the children in care are involved in all activities away from the facility, except when they are in regular transport to and from the facility. First aid and CPR certificates must be valid within the time frame of the program but must not exceed three years. CPR training must be done in a classroom instruction; on-line CPR courses cannot be accepted as an alternative.
A first aid kit must be kept on the child care facility at all times and must be brought by the child care staff when the children are on a field trip activity. The first aid kit must contain the following basic items:
- Disposable gloves
- Cotton balls and applicators
- Sterile gauze
- Adhesive tape
- A guide on first aid and CPR procedures
An emergency procedure and a notification system shall be adopted by every health care facility. Emergency telephone numbers must be available and a list of contact persons for each child in the facility must be readily available. Staff members of the facility must be trained and be given responsibility on all emergency procedures, including evacuation.
As a rule, child care facilities are not required to give medication to the children in care. The facility, however, may choose to do so but only under strict conditions and with written authorization of the parents or guardian. Medication dispensed by the staff of a day care facility must be documented in the child’s file.
Daycare Food and Nutrition
A child care facility that decides to supply food to the children in care must provide nutritious meals and snacks that meet the daily nutritional needs of the children by referring to the USDA MyPyramid of April 2005. Facilities that do not choose to provide meals to the children must make arrangements with the parents or guardians so that they can provide nutritional food for the children.
When a physician requires a special diet for a particular child, a copy of the physician’s order, a copy of the diet, and a special diet meal plan must be maintained the child’s file. If a parent will report that a child has any known food allergies, a written copy of the report must also be maintained in the child’s file.
Parents will be allowed to see a meal and snack plan that is written and posted at the beginning of each week so that they will be aware of what their children are eating while at the child care facility.
Food Preparation Area
The food preparation area of every child care facility must meet all the applicable requirements of the Department of Health, as specified in Chapter 64E, F.A.C., Food Hygiene
Children in a child care facility must be fed individually or be supervised while eating, and must be served foods that are appropriate for their ages and needs. All health and sanitation requirements shall be met when it comes to utensils and utensil cleaning. All care must be exercised to prevent any injury to the children while they are being fed at the child care facility.
Daycare Record Keeping in Florida
As a general requirement, all child care facilities must maintain and make available for review by the licensing authority a copy of all documents covering the background screening for the director and owner that are included in the official licensing file. Copies from the original documents are acceptable for documentation purposes.
Children’s Health Requirements
The child care facility must keep a Student Health Examination record and a Florida Certification of Immunization form Part A-1,B, or C, or a Religious Exemption from Immunization form, DH 681, which must be provided to the facility by the parent or guardian of a child. If the parent or guardian fails to submit to the child care facility the documentation required within 30 days of enrollment, the facility will not allow the child to remain in the program.
The child care facility must obtain enrollment information form a child’s parent or legal guardian before a child can be accepted. The information shall be documented on CF-FSP Form 5219, January 2008, Child Care Application for Enrollment, and must be kept current and on file as long as the child is in the care of a child care facility.
Records on all child care personnel of a child care facility shall be maintained and kept current for review by the licensing authority. The personnel records shall include the following:
- Employment application
- Position and date of employment
- Signed statement that the employee knows the statutory requirements for reporting of child abuse and neglect.
- Background screening personnel file records
- Statewide criminal records check report
- Employment history
- Copies of training information and credentials
- Driver’s license and physical examination documentation.
Summary of Records
The child care facility must also maintain the following documentation in their files:
- Driver’s log.
- Written disciplinary policy
- Daily attendance records of children
- Written monthly fire drill records
- Staff documentation on first aid and CPR training courses
- Posted emergency telephone numbers and the address and directions to the child care facility
- Accidents/incidents reports
- Emergency evacuation plan
- Children medication records
- Sample meal plan for special diet
- Daily meal and snack menus, including permitted substitutions
Gold Seal Quality Care Program
The Florida Legislature established in 1996 the Gold Seal Quality Care program that will acknowledge child care facilities and family day care homes whose standards reflect quality in their level of care and supervision of children and are duly accredited by agencies that are nationally recognized. The program was revised in 1999 to give tax incentives, through the Department of Revenue or county tax appraiser, to the participants in the Gold Seal Quality Care Program.
The Florida Department of Children and Families, Child Care Program Office approves accrediting agencies that can participate in the Gold Seal Quality Care Program. The Gold Seal Quality Care Program is not a set of independent standard for child care facilities but a level of care that exceeds the minimum licensing standards established by the laws of the State of Florida. Child care facilities that get accreditation by one or more of the approved accrediting agencies are issued a Gold Seal certificate by the Child Care Program Office as a recognition of their achievement.
It is a voluntary program that rewards participation with positive marketing tool for parents, exemption from sales tax, and increased reimbursement for children who participate in school readiness programs.
In order for a child care facility to obtain a designation as a Gold Seal Quality Care, documentation of accreditation by an approved accrediting organization must be submitted to the Department of Children and Families. The designation as a Gold Seal Quality Care can be retained by a child care facility as long as they maintain their national accreditation; the designation is terminated effective the date of revocation of the facility’s national accreditation.
Accrediting associations may be recognized as a Gold Seal Quality Care Accrediting Association by completing and attesting to the requirements enumerated on CFFSP Form 5315, Gold Seal Quality Care Accrediting Application. Applications for recognition can be submitted in the months of January and July. If the application for recognition is denied, a re-application can be filed only after a six-month waiting period from denial date to the next scheduled acceptance period.
An accreditation from an unrecognized or inactive accrediting association will not quality a child care facility to be a Gold Seal Quality Care designate.
The Florida Department of Children and Families, Child Care Services Program, is in the forefront of all efforts to bring about the highest quality child care services in the nation, as evidenced by the Gold Seal Quality Care program. A constant monitoring of all the child care facilities in the state aims to eliminate any substandard facility, another effort at uplifting the level of child care in the state.
Some cities and counties in the State of Florida have additional regulations. More information can be obtained by checking with the city and county governments. The main state licensing contact is:
FIND A DAYCARE OR CHILD CARE IN FLORIDA
- Altamonte Springs
- Boca Raton
- Bonita Springs
- Boynton Beach
- Cape Coral
- Carol City
- Coconut Creek
- Coral Gables
- Coral Springs
- Country Club
- Crystal Lake
- Daytona Beach
- Deerfield Beach
- Delray Beach
- Egypt Lake-Leto
- Fort Lauderdale
- Fort Myers
- Fort Pierce
- Golden Glades
- Greater Carrollwood
- Kendale Lakes
- Kendall West
- Lake Worth
- Lauderdale Lakes
- Lehigh Acres
- Merritt Island
- Miami Beach
- North Fort Myers
- North Lauderdale
- North Miami
- North Miami Beach
- Oakland Park
- Ormond Beach
- Palm Bay
- Palm Beach Gardens
- Palm Coast
- Palm Harbor
- Panama City
- Pembroke Pines
- Pine Hills
- Pinellas Park
- Pompano Beach
- Port Charlotte
- Port Orange
- Port St Lucie
- South Miami Heights
- Spring Hill
- St Petersburg
- The Hammocks
- Town n Country
- West Little River
- West Palm Beach