Start a Daycare in North Carolina – Licensing – Regulations – Laws
A child care program in the State of North Carolina means that facility providing developmentally appropriate activities to children on care. A child care center means a single or group of centers or homes or a combination of both supervised by a joint entity or operated by one owner. The administration of child care rules in the state is a responsibility of the Division of Child Development, Department of Health and Human Services. This Division can be found at 319 Chapanoke Road, Suite 120, Raleigh, North Carolina 27603.
A child care center operator, sponsor, or licensee is legally liable for the operation and overall management of the business. Any person who owns five percent or even greater equity in a child care business is an owner of a child care center.
General Requirements for Licensing
The Division of Child Development of the Department of Health and Human Services shall inspect the child care centers in a periodic basis to make sure that they comply with all the requirements of the North Carolina General Statutes and the regulations pursuant thereto.
Before a license is issued, a representative of the Division shall conduct an announced inspection. It is a regulation that the Division shall inform the child care center about the visit before it is conducted. This regulation is not applicable to child care centers that are under investigation because of a violation of a law.
Visits are planned at the start of each fiscal year and a written detailed plan of the inspection consisting of the guidelines on how the visit shall be conducted. This written file is kept by the Division on record.
Unannounced visits shall be conducted anytime when an alleged violation is filed against a licensed child care center.
Situations that Require a New License
- When a child care center’s operator has changed, the new operator must secure a new license. This must be done 30 days before the ownership of the child care center is assumed. A child care license is non-transferable nor resalable.
- If a child care center moves to another location, the operator must apply for a license that will detail out on the new address of the child care center. This must be done before the center occupies or operates in the new location. A license can not be use from one location to another.
- When a child care center changes volume of children to care for, the division shall be notified by the operator.
- If a child care center wishes to expand its space, the approval of the Division must be sought. A new license specifying the changes shall then be issued.
- If a child care center wishes to increase or decrease its licensed capacity, the division must be informed and a new license must be issued to specify the new license details or changes.
- If a child care center wishes to serve a certain age bracket or number of children previously restricted in the current license, the child care center shall comply with all the requirements necessary to remove the previous restriction. The Division shall be notified if the child care center wishes to have this change and if the local inspectors and the Division see that the requirements are complete, a new license will be issued.
The North Carolina General Statutes stipulates a regulation that all parents of children on care shall be given unlimited access to their children in the center during operating hours as long as their children are enrolled in the center. Parents shall be allowed to contact their child and to assess or evaluate the services provided by the center during its operating hours.
A parent, guardian, or custodian shall immediately notify the on-site administration of his or her attendance in the premises of the child care center.
Capacity of the Child Care Center
A child care center shall provide a 25 square feet space for each child on care. This shall be the basis of a child care center’s license capacity and the center shall not provide care for a greater number of children to less than the required total primary space. A room in a child care center shall not accommodate more children if the space has already been occupied at 25 square feet per child except in some provisions.
Requirements for Pre-Licensing
A pre-licensing consultation shall be made with the Division by anyone who wishes to legally operate a child care center. A request for this shall be submitted by the person who wants to secure a child care license and a representative of the Division will schedule a visit to the child care center. The Division shall be responsible in furnishing forms necessary to be completed in applying for a child care license.
The Division is also responsible in regularly conducting licensing workshops for child care centers that are new and already exist.
Before an initial license or an initial Notice of Compliance is issued to a child care center operator, child care centers are mandated to attend to these licensing workshops scheduled by the Division.
Application for Child Care License
- A child care center operator or any person who is legally liable or responsible for the child care center’s operation including compliance with all licensing standards and laws shall be the one to apply for a child care license. If a child care center is operated by a group or organization that involves many owners, the officer who can legally represent the entity shall complete and sign the application form.
- The child care license applicant shall be the one responsible in arranging for inspections by the local health and fire departments including building inspectors. The inspection report shall be submitted by the applicant to the Division representative, such report shall be signed by the related inspectors.
- In case a center does not comply withy the standards for the aspects submitted for inspection such as sanitation, building and fire standards, the inspector may recommend an alternative protection. The Division may allow or accept the provided explanation as compliance to the required standards.
- The license applicant or the person in-charge of the center’s day-to-day operation shall provide the Division detailed and sufficient information that the center can comply with the required specific standards. Details such as daily program of activities shall be relayed to the Division in full detail. This information shall be in written form and shall be made available for review of the Division. The information that shall be provided include: daily schedules, activity plans, emergency care plan, discipline policy, incidents reports, incident logs, and a copy of the certified criminal history check of the applicant or the applicant’s designee from the Clerk of Superior Court’s office in the county or counties where the individual has resided during the previous 12 months.
- The applicant shall also demonstrate to the Division that the child care center has a readily available record of files for review including: staff records, children’s records, daily attendance records, monthly fire drills records, monthly playground inspections records, and records of medications administered to children.
- The Division representative shall inspect and measure all spaces and rooms to be used by the children on care and ensure that there is an accurate floor plan sketch included in the application packet.
- The Division representative shall conduct inspections to the center ensuring that the center’s premises comply with all set of standards and laws in child care licensing.
- If a child care center exhibits compliance with all licensing requirements, a license shall be issued by the Division.
- A provisional license shall be issued if a child care center will not comply with the applicable requirements or the Division representative may recommend denial of the license application. The Secretary holds the capacity to dispose final recommendation to deny.
- The license shall be posted in a conspicuous area in the child care center where parents will readily see.
- The Secretary may deny license application under the following circumstances:
- If the previous license has been denied or revoked or suspended by the Division;
- If the person voluntarily relinquished a license that has been previously denied, revoked or suspended by the Division;
- While the appeal for a denied, revoked or suspended license of a child care facility is ongoing;
- If the child care license applicant is determined to have a relationship with a child care operator whose license was previously under an administrative action; the relationship means that the person would have an involvement in the operation of the center, has financial contribution or interest in the center, a caregiver for the center, resides in the center, a member of the center’s board of directors, or business partner;
- A non-compliance with the previous license application;
- Has been accused and proven to abuse or neglect children.
Requirements for a Permit
- A child care operator shall arrange for a fire inspection at the center within 12 months of the previous fire inspection. The operator is responsible in reminding the local fire department of the annual fire inspection for the center. The original annual inspection report shall be submitted by the operator to the Division representative within one week of the inspection visit.
- An annual inspection on the sanitary requirements of a child care center shall be conducted by an Environmental Health Specialist making sure that the child care center complies with the applicable requirements on sanitation provided by the Health Services Commission.
- Unless a child care center wishes to use a space more than what is provided or approved in the license, has made changes or renovations, has added new infrastructures, or wishes to remove building codes indicated in the license, a building inspection is not required.
- When the Division representative has documented non-compliance during a visit, the operator may be: advised to submit verification that its has been corrected, schedule an unannounced visit to see whether the compliance has been attained, recommend for the issuance of a provisional license or its revocation or administrative action.
- The Division shall conduct a reassessment of the requirements complied with by the operator or license applicant. Violations on the requirements shall be evaluated and demerits shall be assigned for each violation committed. The following points shall be assigned for each violation:
- supervision of children (6 points),
- staff/child ratio (6 points),
- staff qualifications and training (2-5 points),
- health and safety practices (3-6 points),
- discipline (6 points),
- developmentally appropriate activities (2-4 points),
- adequate space (6 points),
- nutrition and feeding practices (1-3 points),
- program records (1-3 points),
- (if applicable) transportation (1-3 points)
The points shall be based on the potential danger that each violation may pose to the safety of the public. A percentage on compliance history of the child care center shall be calculated each year. This shall be the basis for approval or denial of a child care license.
A provisional license is issued to a child care center to allow time for the center to correct violations of applicable requirements in applying for a license, to give time to the center to comply with all the requirements necessary to secure a permit other than the building, sanitation and fire standards compliance, a possible administrative action to child abuse or neglect, and upon the Division’s determination that the child care center is doing reasonable effort to correct violations or conform with the requirements.
A provisional license shall be posted in a conspicuous place the center for parents to readily have a view of.
A temporary license is issued to a new child care center operator or to a child care center that has changed ownership or location as long as the operator informed or notified the Division regarding the changes and that the child care center complied with all requirements to operate with the new changes.
A temporary license shall be posted in a prominent place in the center. This type of license shall expire after 6 months.
Schedules and Plans for Child Care Activities
A child care center shall post plan of child care activities for easy reference by caregivers and parents. The activity schedule shall show timeframe of types of activities to be conducted for both play and quiet times. The schedule shall post activities for both indoor and outdoor. It is a requirement that child care centers shall provide developmentally appropriate activities to children in care.
The schedule for children at 2 years old or older shall include elective and teacher-directed activities.
All activities planned and scheduled by a child care center shall be designed for the growth or to stimulate emotional, social, intellectual, and physical development for the children in care. The activity shall always be made available for reference by parents and caregivers.
General Requirements for Child Care Activities
All child care centers shall have age- and developmentally-appropriate activities which shall be realized with the use of equipment and activity materials which are also appropriately designed for the children who will use them. These activity equipment shall not treated or coated which can be harmful to children. These shall not contain toxic substances such as pentacholorphenol, tributyl tinoxide, creosote, and finishes that may contain pesticides.
Each child shall have the opportunity to play outside or to participate in activities outdoors as long as the weather permits it. The center shall provide sufficient space for child care activities especially those activities that require vigorous movements.
Activity Area for Preschool Children
A child care center shall have activity equipment and materials available for children everyday. A spacious activity area shall be provided and accessible to the children in care anytime. Sufficient activity equipment and materials shall be available for all children in care to have access on. Preschool children of 2 years or older in age shall be provided with at least four activity areas available daily.
Activity areas shall provide developmental materials providing opportunity for learning and interaction.
Child Care Activities Children 2 Years and Older
A child care center shall provide toys and activities that are developmentally appropriate that encourages progress in a child’s emotional, intellectual, physical and social wellbeing. Learning activity materials such as books, dolls, blocks, musical toys, pretend play materials, fine motor toys, and sensory toys may be provided and made accessible to children in care.
The learning toys and materials shall be sufficient in quantity to give chance for all children to have a learning experience. Physical activities may be scheduled by the caregivers. There shall be a spacious and clean activity area for the children.
The child care center shall provide a schedule for sleeping separate from the playtime. Caregivers shall positively interact with children and shall make sure that children are enjoying the experience while learning from it. Caregivers shall promptly give attention to the needs of toddlers and infants without interfering in their opportunity to see the world.
The child care center, with the recognition that infants and toddlers are more difficult to handle because of their special needs and the time required for an attention to be paid, shall make an arrangement that each infant or toddler is assigned to the same caregiver each drop-in period.
Activities Conducted Off-Premise
An off-premise activity involves those that are conducted outside the licensed or approved primary space.
Children in care that are aged under 3 years shall not be encouraged nor allowed to participate in off-premise activities that involves transportation via a motor vehicle. Or if children are transported via this vehicle, provisions in child care rules shall be abided.
It is a protocol that parents are notified or informed when their children will be brought outside the child care center for outdoor activities or outings. The notification may be in the form of a written statement seeking the parent’s permission. This permit form parents shall be valid within 12 months for off-premise activities that are conducted regularly.
Detailed schedule of the off-premise activities shall be posted in classrooms where parents can easily see including location, purpose, time, date, and the name of person in-charge.
Child care staff shall keep a record or list of children participating in an off-premise activity including attendance of children from the departure to arrival.
A child care center shall provide a safe environment for the children in care. All hazardous materials and dangerous equipment shall be properly stored and kept out of reach of children. Equipment in a child care center shall be appropriate to children or adapted to their capacity and size especially if the children have access to them. Outdoor play and activity equipment shall be developmentally appropriate and height of such shall be child-friendly for the children’s effective use.
If a child care center provides care for children under age 2, a separate area for play and care shall be established unless there are only a total of 15 or fewer children in care. Otherwise, a separate schedule for activities shall be arranged.
Indoor Equipment and Furnishings
All indoor equipment and furnishings shall be in good condition or good repair and this shall be maintained. Equipment and furnishings that are commercially manufactured shall be assembled and installed according to manufacturer’s instructions.
All child care center equipment and furnishings shall be stable, sturdy, no hazards such as lead based paint, sharp edges, splinters and loose nails.
All overnight furnishings in child care center shall be in good repair and safe to be used by children such as comfortable beds, cots, cribs, and waterproof mattresses that are at least 4 inches thick. These furnishings shall be provided of each child who remains overnight in the center.
Outdoor Learning Environment
All equipment and materials used for outdoor activities such as learning and play shall be in usable condition and well maintained. All equipment shall be installed well following manufacturer’s instructions for commercially made furnishings. They shall be stable and sturdy and free of hazardous materials that may cause potential harm to children who have access to them.
The outdoor shall area shall be installed with protection such as fence which doesn’t have protrusions unless it is 6 feet high or even higher. All gates in the play area shall be closed.
Outdoor activity equipment that are 18 inches in height shall have fall zones providing safety for children playing within the premises. Fall zones may be installed with mulch, find sand, pea gravel and uniform wood chips. Pea gravel shall not be used when the playground area is used by children under age 3.
These materials shall not have sharp edges and shall be fine providing a shock proof effect rather harm to the children. The protective materials to be installed shall be 6 to 12 inches thick depending on the height of the activity equipment. These may be installed under and around the equipment where the child may likely fall. Protective materials for equipment used by children below 2 years old may extend beyond the fall zones. Other shock-proof materials approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) may be used.
Safety measures shall be installed or included in the activity equipment such as guardrails and protective surfacing such as in platforms. Protective barriers shall be likewise installed in elevated equipment such as platforms that are 18 inches high.
The child care center shall arrange for a monthly playground safety inspection to be done by a trained individual. A record and checklist of the playground equipment shall be kept for 12 months in the record of the center for review by the Division representative.
Safe Sleep Policy
A child care center shall have a written safe sleep policy that is given and explained to parents of infants in care. This shall be signed by the parent.
The policy states:
- the caregivers’ responsibility to place infants aged 12 months and younger on their back when sleeping;
- whether pillows, blankets, and other objects such as toys may be placed on the crib or cot of a sleeping infant aged 12 months or younger;
- that no objects shall be placed over the sleeping infant’s head;
- that the room temperature does not exceed 75° F;
- that caregivers will visually and regularly check the sleeping infants and frequency of these checks;
- that caregivers shall document if they comply with visually checking the infants on their sleep;
- that the child care center shall provide a safe sleeping environment for the children-a copy of this safe sleep policy shall be posted in a conspicuous place inside the infant room;
Amendments in the safe sleep policy shall be notified to the parents in written form. The amendment notification shall be acknowledged and signed by the infants’ parents.
Health Standards for Child Care Center Staff
All child care center staff shall have and keep a record of health statement signed by a licensed physician or health professional. The record shall be in the center’s file within 60 days of the date of employment of the staff. The health statement shall indicate that the person is emotionally and physically fitted to render child care services. The medical statement shall be issued by a medical practitioner who has been approved to perform medical acts by the North Carolina Board of Medical Examiners.
If it is determined that a child care center staff has deterioration in his or her health or emotional and physical fitness, another medical evaluation may be requested by the Division or the child care center director.
Each center staff including the director shall annually submit a medical statement to the Division. All staff records shall include medical statements of the individual center employees.
Substitutes and Volunteers
All substitutes and volunteers who are part of the child-staff ratio shall submit a medical statement indicating their emotional and physical fitness to care for children.
For those who are not included in the staff-child ratio shall complete a health questionnaire provide by the Division and this is annually completed as long as they work in the center.
General Statutory Requirements
All staff counted in the staff-child ratio shall meet the requirements and rules of child care laws.
A staff who is under 18 years of age shall not be given full responsibility nor be left alone in charge of a large group of children.
Anyone who meets the health standards for child care staff and who is at least 13 years of age may work in a child care center and take care of the children as long as he or she is supervised by an adult or center staff who is at least 21 years of age. Anyone younger than 16 years old shall not be counted in the staff-child ratio nor shall be allowed to be alone with children.
Persons who have criminal records and with habits and behaviours that may be harmful to the children in care shall not be allowed to render child care services nor they will be allowed within the premises of the center except parents who are merely performing their parental responsibilities and other individuals who are doing business with the operator at brief periods.
Pre-service Requirements for Administrators
A child care center’s administrator shall comply with all the necessary requirements before rendering any service in child care.
These requirements include:
- either a high school diploma or its equivalent;
- two years full-time work experience in child caring or in a child care center, undergraduate, graduate or associate degree with at least 12 semester hours in child development, child psychology, early childhood education or directly related field; or a Child Development Associate Credential; or completion of a community or technical college curriculum program in the area of child care or early childhood; or one year of full-time verifiable child care or early childhood work experience and a North Carolina Early Childhood Credential;
- successfully completed or enrolled in 2 semester credit hours, or 32 clock hours, of training in the area of early childhood program administration; or, have one year experience performing administrative responsibilities;
- any person who is at least 21 years old and literate who was employed as an on-site administrator in a child care program on or before September 1, 1986, shall be exempt from the provisions as long as the person is employed by the same operator.
Special Training Requirements
In a child care center, there shall be at least one staff member who has knowledge on common symptoms of illnesses.
There shall be one staff who has been trained on fist aide present at the center at all times. A certification of training on first aide is renewed every three years or less. For every 29 children in care, there shall be 1 first aide staff trained present; 30-79, 2 staff; and 80, 3 staff.
Child care staff shall have at least 4 hours of training in safety which includes playground safety hazards, playground supervision, maintenance and general upkeep of the outdoor area, and age and developmentally appropriate playground equipment.
A licensed child care center that takes care of infants shall have its staff be trained on ITS-SIDS. Staffs to be trained include all those who take care of infants including volunteers who are counted in the staff-child ratio.
In-Service Training Requirements
Each staff or child care center employee who will take care of children shall be required to have at least 16 clock hours of training. They shall be oriented within the first 6 weeks of employment.
All staff who have responsibility in planning and supervising the caregivers and in implementing the child care program shall have an in-service training which shall be conducted annually.
In-service trainings may be through child care workshops, seminars, conferences, and child care courses.
The child care center shall keep a record of the in-service training participated by each participant.
Pre-service Requirements for Lead Teachers, Teachers and Aides
A child care center’s lead teachers, teachers and aides who have a North Carolina Early Childhood Credential or its equivalent may no longer have to comply with the following requirements for lead teachers, teachers, and aides:
- at least 18 years of age
- with high school diploma or its equivalent;
- 1 year work experience in child care center;
- completed 2-year high school program of Early Childhood Education in Family and Consumer Sciences Education;
- 20 hours child development training within the 6 months of employment;
- An aide who assists the lead teacher or teacher shall be 16 years old to the least and literate;
Pre-service Requirements for Other Center Staff
Any person in a child care center who has the responsibility of transporting children even a substitute driver shall comply with the requirements. Support staff in the child care program shall be at least 16 years old and comply with the requirements of the local health department such as when food handling is involved.
Staff-Child Ratio of Child Care Centers with a Licensed Capacity of Less than 30 Children
The following staff-child ratio shall be complied with a child care center with a license capacity of less than 30 children:
|Age of Children||Ratio Staff/Children||Maximum Group Size|
|0 to 12 Months||1/5||10|
|12 to 24 Months||1/6||12|
|2 to 3 Years||1/10||20|
|3 to 5 Years||1/15||25|
|5 Years and Older||1/25||25|
Staff-Child Ratio of Child Care Centers with a Licensed Capacity of 30 or More Children
The following staff-child ratio shall be complied with a child care center with a license capacity of 30 or more children:
|Age of Children||Ratio Staff/Children||Maximum Group Size|
|0 to 12 Months||1/5||10|
|12 to 24 Months||1/6||12|
|2 to 3 Years||1/10||20|
|3 to 4 Years||1/15||25|
|4 to 5 Years||1/20||25|
|5 Years and Older||1/25||25|
Other Staffing Requirements
All child care centers shall have an administrator on-site on a regular basis:
- a licensed capacity of less than 30 children shall have an administrator on site for at least 20 hours per week.
- a licensed capacity of 30 to 79 children shall have an administrator on site for at least 25 hours per week.
- a licensed capacity of 80 to 199 children shall have an administrator on site for at least 30 hours per week.
- a licensed capacity of 200 or more children shall have an administrator on site for at least 40 hours per week.
Health Standards for Children
Each child care center shall have a written plan for emergency medical care in case a child will be sick while in care of the center. This shall be made available to all parents and staff. The emergency plan includes full contact list of family physicians or other medical practitioners available to provide medical consultation.
Once a child becomes ill, the center shall immediately notify the parent or the local health department. No drug prescription or medication shall be administered by a caregiver to a sick child without the permission or written authorization form the parent or written instructions from the child’s physician or other health professional.
A parent may give authorization to the caregiver valid up to 6 months to administer prescriptions or over-the-counter medications when deemed necessary.
Records of medication shall be kept in the center’s files as ready reference.
Other Health Standards
A child care center shall have sufficient diapers and clean clothes for children who may spoil their clothing when participating in activities. There shall also be a clean supply of linens for beds that may be wet by a child.
Meals and snacks served shall comply with the Meal Patterns for Children in Child Care standards which are based on the recommended nutrient intake judged by the National Research Council to be adequate for maintaining good nutrition.
For children under age 15, a written feeding schedule for individual child shall be provided by the parent or the health care provider. This shall be strictly followed by a caregiver.
Building Code Requirements for Child Care Centers
Buildings of child care centers shall comply with the requirements with the North Carolina Building Code standards.
A copy of this code may be secured from the Division of Child Development.
Licensure Application for Family Child Care Home
Any person who wants to operate a family child care home shall comply with the requirements of the Division.
The home where child care will be rendered shall comply with the North Carolina Residential Building Code or a home bearing a third part inspection label indicating or certifying compliance with the Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards or compliance with the construction standards set forth by the State of North Carolina.
The Division shall issue the operator a license once all requirements have been complied with or strictly met including safety of location, sanitary and health standards, and compliance with child care laws.
Issuance of Probationary License, Suspension, Revocation, Summary Suspension
A child care center’s license can be on probationary status for a period not exceeding 1 year if the center has violated statues and rule sin child care posing danger to the safety and health of children and the public. If the operator has not complied with the requirements nor corrected the violations, the permit to operate the center shall be revoked or suspended.
Suspension of a license shall not exceed 45 days. The operator shall be notified once the suspension of the permit is about to be enforced and the reasons pertaining to the suspension. If the operator fails to comply with the suspension order, a civil action shall be enforced.
A child care center operator who violates statues and rules for child care centers and the violation inflicts potential danger to the children in care, revocation of the license shall be done.
Summary suspension is an emergency action enforced by the Division is it is determined that the child care operator has violated rules that can dangerously affect the safety, health, and welfare of the children.
Any operator who violates any provisions in child care law or who fails to take corrective action after being provided adequate written notice by the Division, shall
be considered to be in willful violation of the licensing law and a civil penalty may be levied against the operator by the secretary or designee pursuant to rules and schedules of penalties adopted by the Commission.
The amount of the penalty, shall be in accordance with the following schedule:
- Where a violation presents a clear and imminent danger to the safety of the children, a civil penalty up to one thousand dollars ($1000) may be imposed;
- Where a violation endangers, or has the potential to endanger the children’s health, safety, or well-being, a civil penalty up to five hundred dollars ($500.00) may be imposed;
- Where a violation does not directly endanger the children, a civil penalty of up to two hundred and fifty dollars ($250.00) may be imposed.
- A separate penalty may be imposed for each violation.
FIND A DAYCARE OR CHILD CARE IN NORTH CAROLINA
- Chapel Hill
- Elizabeth City
- Fort Bragg
- High Point
- Love Valley
- New Bern
- Roanoke Rapids
- Rocky Mount
STATE LICENSING CONTACT
Some cities and/or counties in North Carolina have additional regulations. Please check with your city and county government for more information.
Division of Child Development
2201 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-2201
Phone: (919) 662-4499 or (800) 859-0829 (in-state only)
Web Page: http://www.ncchildcare.net