Start a Daycare in Pennsylvania – Licensing – Regulations – Laws
The Department of Public Welfare of the State of Pennsylvania is legally responsible in the execution of standards to be followed in the operation of a child care center providing care for children ages 15 and younger.
The promulgation facilitates the safe and healthful care for children in a day care with the provision of day care programs supporting the child’s development in the intellectual, emotional, cognitive, communicative, social, perceptual motor, and physical aspects.
The Department may only issue a certificate of compliance to child care operators who comply with the minimum standards in protecting the safety, health and general wellbeing of the children in care while enrolled in the child day care facility.
The minimum requirements stated in this primer apply to out-of-home day care centers providing 24-hour service to 7 or more children ages 15 and younger.
Application for a Certificate of Compliance
A legal entity which may be an individual, group or corporation may apply for the certificate of compliance from the Department before a child care center shall begin to operate at a specified location.
The legal entity or an authorized representative shall attend an orientation training provided by the Department. This shall be made within 12 months before the opening or operation of a child care center.
An appropriate regional day care office in charge with licensure of facilities and agencies shall receive the application for a certificate of compliance.
A child day care facility shall be inspected by the representative or agent of the Department once every 12 months. Child care facilities with current certificate of compliance as of September 22, 2008 shall no longer be inspected until the certificate is due or for renewal or when a violation has been responded by the Department.
A child care operator may file an appeal against the Department’s decision in issuing a certificate of compliance.
The Department shall inform the child care operator about appeal procedures including decisions in the denial of a certificate of compliance, non-renewal of a certificate of compliance, revocation of a certificate of compliance, issuance of a provisional certificate of compliance, indicating a period for which a provisional certificate of compliance is issue, reduction of the maximum capacity of the facility, denial of request for increase in capacity, and limiting admission of persons into the child care facility.
A child care operator may be excused from the regulatory standard provided that substitute standards with the same legal effect are met or complied with.
The following regulatory standards may be requested to be waived and substituted by another legal standard: accreditation requirements relating to qualifications and responsibilities of child care workers, physical site requirements, equipment requirements, and program requirements.
The Department shall only grant waiver if:
- it is not requested as a substitute to a non-compliance cited by the Department,
- it does not alter the applicability of a regulation,
- it shows evidence that the child care operator plans to achieve the objective of the regulation,
- it certifies that the child care operator will meet regulatory standards related to safety, health, and right of children in care, and
- it does not jeopardize State or Federal funding.
Laws and Regulations
A child care facility shall be operated in conformity with applicable Federal and State laws and regulations.
State agencies whose regulations may relate to the operation of a facility include the Department of Environmental Resources, the Department of Labor and Industry, the Department of Health, the Department of Education and the Department of Transportation.
A certificate of compliance applicant shall provide the Department a certificate of occupancy certifying compliance with the applicable requirements of the Department of Labor and Industry.
This provision is in accordance to the Public Welfare Code relating in child care center facilities.
A facility that meets the requirements of both a private academic school as authorized by the Department of Education and a child day care center authorized by the Department of Public Welfare shall apply for approval to operate under both Departments.
Children with Special Needs Service
A child care operator shall provide accommodation to children with special needs in accordance to applicable Federal and State Laws.
The child care operator shall also allow a professional to provide special services to a child with special needs as specified in a written behavioural plan or individualized education program (IEP) or individualized family service plan (IFSP) of the child.
Parents shall be informed about the community resources for the family of a special needs child. The information on community resources shall be provided to the child care operator by the Department.
The legal entity shall secure a comprehensive general liability insurance which shall cover all the persons in the child care center premises. A copy of the insurance shall be filed on the records of the center.
Reporting Child Abuse
If a child care operator suspects that there is a child enrolled in the center who has been abused, this shall be reported to ChildLine as mandated by the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL).
ChildLine number is 1 (800) 932-0313.
A child care operator must designate one staff person to be responsible in reporting cases of abused children.
The operator shall submit a written report within 48 hours to the Child Protective Services (CPS).
Reporting Injury, Death or Fire
Within 24 hours, a child care operator shall notify the regional office of the department on the occurrence of emergencies such as hospitalization of a child in care, death of a child, and fire in the center.
A written report on the event shall be submitted to the regional office of the department within 72 hours after the event’s occurrence.
A copy of this written report shall be kept in record in the center.
Health and Safety
A child care facility shall provide a safe and healthy environment for the children in care ensuring that there shall be no potential danger present in the center that will cause harm to the children.
Communication Between Child Care Operator and Parents
A child care provider shall establish a healthy and understandable communication system with parents of children enrolled in the center.
Parent Participation and Access
Parents shall be allowed to have full access without prior notice to the child care center where their children are enrolled during hours of operation.
A child care center shall also provide activities or opportunities in its program where parents may participate.
The center shall have general announcements encouraging parents’ participation in its child care program and this shall be properly documented and a file copy is kept in the center’s records.
Access of the Department
The child care center shall provide access to the authorized agents of the Department within the facility and whenever requested, to the records of children in care.
The Department shall also be allowed access to the child care facility when an inspection is to be conducted during business hours or unless deemed necessary by the Department.
Posting of the Certificate of Compliance and Applicable Regulations
A child care provider shall post in a conspicuous place in the center the certificate of compliance issued by the Department. The provided instructions when contacting the regional day care office of the Department shall be posted beside the certificate of compliance.
The child care provider shall also post a copy of inspection summary issued by the Department. The inspection summary shall remain posted until an authorized agent of the Department verifies that the regulatory non-compliance has already been corrected.
Compliance with Nondiscrimination Statutes
A legal entity applying for a certificate of completion shall not be issued such if full compliance with the civil rights laws and applicable regulations are not met.
The applicable laws required to be complied with before the issuance of a certificate of compliance are as follows:
- The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act,
- The Age Discrimination Act of 1975,
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
A child care center shall provide a clear and defined emergency plan which will ensure that children in care are provided with shelter in the event of emergencies, provide evacuation plan from the facility including evacuation routes, provide method to contact or inform parents when emergency arises, and provide a method to inform parents that the emergency has ended.
The child care provider shall annually check and update its emergency plan.
All child care workers employed in a child care center shall be given training on the center’s emergency plan annually.
Each child’s parents shall be provided with the explanation on how the center’s emergency plan is executed or when it is updated.
The child care operator shall submit a copy of the emergency plan to the county emergency management agency.
Day Care Staff Persons
Age and Training
A child care staff person shall be at least 18 years of age while a volunteer shall be 16 years of age and shall be directly supervised by a qualified staff person at all times.
A person who is at least 16 years of age and enrolled in an approved training relevant to child care may be used as a staff person
The following child care professional credentials are qualifications that a child care worker shall meet: Development Associate (CDA) credential or a Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) credential which is equivalent to early childhood education obtained from an accredited college or university or 1 year experience in caring for children; and a Pennsylvania school-age professional credential which is equivalent to a child education or child development training acquired from an accredited college or university.
Each staff person shall obtain training on child care development with a minimum of 6 hours annually.
Other trainings which shall be complied with by certain staff persons include: First-aide training renewed every 3 years, fire safety training participated by a child care staff annually, lifeguard training completed together with first-aid training and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for children and infants, and water safety instruction which is given by a certified lifeguard.
All trainings completed by each staff person shall be documented and filed in the center’s records under each staff person who has completed a specific training.
Staff Person Responsibilities
A centre director shall be responsible in the overall administration and implementation of regulations in a child care facility. Administration duties of a director cover aspects in finances, maintenance, personnel, meal planning and preparation, transportation, and program objectiveness and activities.
A director shall also designate a person to be in charge in performing directorial duties upon his or her absence.
A center director shall comply with the following qualifications:
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in early childhood education, child development, special education, elementary education or the human services filed and 1 year of experience with children.
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, including 30 credit hours in early childhood education, child development, special education, elementary education or the human services filed and 2 years of experience with children.
- An associate’s degree from an accredited college or university in early childhood education, child development, special education, elementary education or the human services filed and 3 years of experience with children.
- An associate’s degree from an accredited college or university, including 30 credit hours in early childhood education, child development, special education, elementary education or the human services filed and 4 years of experience with children.
A centre director shall be present in the center for a minimum of 30 hours a week.
A center director may function as a group supervisor when the child care facility cares for only 45 or fewer children.
A child care center group supervisor shall perform the following duties:
- Plan and implement activities at a daily basis;
- Coordinate activities of assistant group supervisors and aides; and
- Assist the director with the conduct of center activities.
A group supervisor shall comply with the following qualifications:
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in early childhood education.
- A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, including 30 credit hours in early childhood education and 1-year experience with child care.
- An associate’s degree from an accredited college or university in early childhood education and 2-year experience with child care.
- An associate’s degree from an accredited college or university, including 30 credit hours in early childhood education and 3-year experience with child care.
A group supervisor shall be present in a child care center for a minimum of 30 hours per week.
Assistant Group Supervisor
An assistant group supervisor of a child care center shall assist in the implementation of daily activities in the centre, and coordinate these activities and supervise aides when a group supervisor is not present in the center.
An assistant group supervisor shall comply with the following qualifications:
- A high school diploma or a general educational development certificate and 30 credit hours from an accredited college or university in early childhood education.
- A high school diploma or a general educational development certificate.
- A high school diploma or a general educational development certificate, 15 credit hours from an accredited college or university in early childhood education and 1-year experience with child care.
- A high school diploma or a general education development certificate and completion of a postsecondary training curriculum.
- A high school diploma or a general educational development (GED) certificate and 2-year experience with child care.
A center aide is responsible in assisting staff persons in implementing the daily activities of the center.
Any person who has a high school diploma or a general educational development (GED) certificate and a minimum of 8th grade education and enrolment in a training curriculum can be an aide in a child care facility.
An aide shall be supervised by a qualified staff person at all times.
Staff to Child Ratios
If a child care facility groups the children in similar age levels, the following maximum child group sizes and ratios of staff persons apply:
|Similar Age Levels||Staff||Children||Maximum Group Size||Total Number of Staff Required for the Maximum Group Size|
If a child care facility groups the children in mixed age levels, the age of the youngest child in the group determines the staff to child ratio and the maximum groups size will be the same as indicated in the similar age levels.
Children of the child care center operator and staff persons shall be counted in the staff top child ratios.
Children of the child care center operator and staff persons shall be counted when satisfying the space requirement per child in the center.
When the chid care center provides care to 2 or more children, there shall be at least 2 child care staff persons available or present in the center. There shall also be 2 staff persons accompanying the children during filed trips away from the center.
When children in care are napping or resting, the following staff to child ratio shall be maintained:
|Similar Age Level||Staff||Children|
A licensed child day care provider shall offer an opportunity for children to have a comfortable and safe stay in the center while they are enrolled in the facility.
Indoor and Outdoor Play Areas
There shall be an adequately spaced indoor and outdoor area where children may play or participate in activities with ease and comfort.
All indoor spaces used to care for children enrolled in the center shall not be used for other business purposes not related to the child care program.
A child care center shall provide separate rooms for napping, resting and sleeping away from the play areas ensuring privacy for the children who want to rest or sleep.
A child care facility shall support the growth of the children’s physical strength by providing them with activities that will require small and large muscle strength.
Indoor and Outdoor Space
Each child in care shall be allotted with 65 square feet per child of outdoor and indoor space except when the minimum space required per infant is 40 square feet, minimum space required per young or older toddler is 50 square feet, indoor and outdoor space shall be safe for large muscle activity, and indoor and outdoor spaces are not simultaneously used for other business purposes not related to the child care program.
Fence and Walls
If a center has unsafe areas for children, a fence or wall shall be installed to protect the children from harm.
Unobstructed Outdoor Perimeters
The outside perimeters of the center shall be free of obstructions such as ice, leaves, snow, and other hazardous objects which may be encountered by children.
All electrical outlets shall be installed with protective covers or shall not be accessible to children ages 5 and younger.
All toxic substances shall be securely stored away from children’s reach and all containers shall be labelled specifying its content.
No toxic plants shall be present in a child care center and all cleaning materials shall be stored properly without access to children.
All areas in the facility shall be cleaned and maintained at a regular basis or immediately when necessary, all trash bins shall be emptied at last once a day.
Smoking shall not be allowed in the presence of children in care or in spaces occupied and used by children.
A child care facility shall also ensure that there is an adequate supply of running water provided in the center which complies with the standards of the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act. A safe drinking water shall be provided to children in care throughout the day.
The indoor temperature in a child care center shall be maintained in at least 65° F.
All child care spaces shall be well ventilated and open windows shall be installed with screen.
There shall be a working telephone in a child care facility and a directory of emergency telephone numbers shall be posted beside each telephone unit.
There shall also be a first-aide kit in the center containing the following: assorted bandages, soap, sterile gauze, tape, scissors, tweezers, and disposable gloves. The first aide-kit shall be kept out of reach of children.
Surfaces in the child care building shall not have peeling, chalky or flaking paint and paint used in spaces used for child care shall not contain more than .06% of lead. Removal and disposal of paint not permitted to be used in a child care facility shall be in accordance with Federal, State and local ordinances or regulations.
All spaces in a child care facility shall be well lighted and all stairs shall be installed with rails.
All exit points and all other means of egress in a child care facility shall be free from obstructions ensuring the safe and easy passage for children.
No portable space heater in a child care facility shall be permitted. All space heaters must be fixed and approved by the local fire safety department or professional. The facility shall obtain a written approval on the installation of space heaters and this shall be on file in the center.
A child care center with a fireplace, fire place inserts or woodburning and coalburning stove, this shall be installed with protective guards or screens whenever in use.
A child care facility shall conduct a fire drill activity every at least 60 days participated by all children and staff in attendance. A record documenting this activity shall be file din the center.
Type of Play Equipment
A child care center shall provide a sufficient number of age-appropriate and developmentally-appropriate play equipment to children enrolled in then center.
All play equipment shall be able to facilitate each child’s cognitive, emotional, perceptual-motor, communicative, physical, and social development.
There shall be enough number of play equipment and materials for children intended for dramatic playing and toys for cognitive, visual, auditory, tactile, and small and large muscle development of children.
Condition of Play Materials and Equipment
All toys and other play materials and equipment shall be in good condition and free from sharp and rough edges, crush and pinch pints, exposed bolts and splinters. Toys that have been spoiled by child shall be immediately cleaned and disinfected the same way that all toys shall be kept clean always.
Outdoor play equipment such as swings, climbers and seesaws shall be anchored properly and installed firmly on the ground. There shall be protective covering surface on the playground meeting the recommendations of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Small Toys and Objects
All toys and objects with a diameter of less than 1 inch, objects with removable parts that have a diameter of less than 1 inch, plastic bags and styrofoam objects shall be kept away from or shall not be accessible to children who are still placing objects in their mouths.
All furniture in a child care facility shall be stable, durable, safe, easily cleaned, and appropriate to the age of the children in care.
School-age children enrolled in the center shall be provided with study space equipped with tables and chairs and paper and pencils.
Children who are not able to eat on their own such as infants and toddlers shall be provided each a high chair with a T-strap and a wide base.
Each child shall be provided with a clean and comfortable bed, crib or cot. All rest equipment shall be labelled for each use of child. Linens such as bed sheets, blankets shall be washed at least once a month or when necessary.
Cribs for infants shall not be placed with toys or any objects while the infant is sleeping to avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Food Equipment and Utensils
There shall be a refrigerator in a child care center used to store potentially hazardous foods. It shall be operable and capable of maintaining food at 45° F or below.
All utensils used to prepare and consume food shall be in good condition or free from cracks and chips. Disposable cups may be used but properly disposed of after use and Styrofoam cups and plates shall not be used.
Child Day Care Program
Each group of children in care shall have a written daily plan of activities which includes time for free play. This plan shall be flexible to adjust with the needs of individual children and the group.
This written plan shall be posted in the space used by the group.
Daily activities shall be designed to stimulate the senses of infants and toddlers and the children’s progress and development in skills, social competence, and self-esteem.
Supervision of Children
All children in care shall be supervised by staff persons at all times including filed trips. A staff person designated or assigned to a specific group of children shall be responsible in knowing their names and whereabouts. The assigned staff person shall always be present with the group.
Staff persons shall handle children gently and shall not use harsh words or demeaning and abusive language in the presence of children in care.
All children shall have the opportunity to be brought outdoors for activities and free play when weather permits.
A swimming pool in a child care center must conform to the guidelines of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. In-ground or aboveground swimming pool must be inaccessible to children when not in use suing protective measures such as barriers or fences. There shall be at least one staff person who had a lifeguard and first-aide training present in the pool with children. This applies to activities both for swimming and wading.
A wading pool shall be emptied daily and properly sanitized. An acceptable sanitizing solution is 3/4 teaspoon of bleach added to 50 gallons of water.
When a child care facility offers care program for school-age children, the center shall also provide homework supervision as arranged by the parent and the child care operator.
Release of Children
A child enrolled in a day care center shall be allowed to be picked up only by an authorized person as indicated and clearly identified in a written authorization by a parent. In case of emergency, a child can be released upon the oral designation of the parent to a person whose identity can be verified by a staff person. Information about the designated person shall be logged in the child’s record.
Only pets that are known to be friendly with children, clean and without diseases, and has a current rabies immunization shall be permitted to stay in a child care center.
At the time of application for child care by a parent, the operator shall discuss the general daily schedule of the facility, hours for which care is provided, fees, responsibilities for meals, clothing, health policies, supervision policies, night care policies, dismissal policies, transportation, and pick-up arrangements.
All these information shall be provided and given to the parent in writing upon enrolment.
A child applying for child care shall be interviewed or observed by the child care operator. The child shall be oriented about the services to be provided including things to expect when he or she enters child care.
Children with special needs shall be discussed by the parents and the operator.
An agreement shall be signed by the parent and the child care operator. The agreement specifies on the following:
- The amount of the fee to be charged per day or per week.
- The date on which the fee is to be paid.
- The services to be provided to the family and the child, including the Department’s approved form to provide information to the family about the child’s growth and development in the context of the services being provided. The operator shall complete and update the form and provide a copy to the family in accordance with the updates regarding emergency contact information
- The child’s arrival and departure times.
- The persons designated by a parent to whom the child may be released.
- The date of the child’s admission.
- The services which are to be considered as extra.
A parent shall receive the original agreement. The facility shall retain a copy of the agreement.
Contact Information In Case of Emergency
Each child enrolled in a child day care center shall have contact information in case of emergency. The contact information includes, among others, the home address and telephone numbers of the enrolling parent, written consent signed by a parent for emergency medical care, written information on the special needs of a child specifying the child’s physician, heath insurance coverage and policy, and the full contact details of the designated person to whom the child is to be released.
The parents shall update this emergency contact information at least once every 6 months.
Health of Children in Care
All children enrolled in a child day care center shall have health information provided by the parent to the operator upon enrolment. An initial health report shall be provided by a parent no later than 60 days after the child’s first day of enrolment in the center.
This health information or report shall be updated at least every 6 months for infants and young toddlers and every 12 months for an older toddler and preschool child.
The health report shall be written and signed by a medical professional such as a physician, his or her assistant, or a CRNP.
Emergency Medical Care and Administering Medications
The parent of the child shall be immediately notified or contacted once his or her child undergoes or is submitted to an emergency medical care. If the parent can not be reached, the medical care given or administered to child shall be documented or recorded and filed in the center.
Administering medication to a child shall be in accordance with applicable Federal and State laws and shall be with the consent of parents. A staff person may only administer a prescription medication to a child only if written instructions are provided.
All medications shall be stored and labelled properly.
Staff person and children shall wash their hands very before and after meals and snacks and after participating in child care activities and play.
A child care center shall provide sufficient supply of liquid soap, towels, washcloths, diapers, and changing clothes to each child in care. Each cloth towel and washcloth shall be labelled by the name of the child and laundered weekly.
Children shall be assisted by a caregiver or staff person when performing their hygienic routine.
Disposable diapers shall be used to children who are still diapering. NO child shall be left alone while being diapered. Soiled diapers shall be immediately changed and disposed of properly.
A diapering staff person shall wash his or her hands before and after diapering.
When there is a communicable disease or outbreak of unusual illness in the center, the Health Department and the parents shall be immediately informed.
In transporting children away from the child care facility, the staff to child ratios shall be maintained. All children shall be accompanied by at least 1 qualified staff person per vehicle when being transported.
Pick-up and Drop-off Points
A child care operator shall annually inform in written notice the local traffic authorities regarding the child care facilities use of traffic routes and the location of the center.
A written notification of safe routes shall be posted in the center. Children shall be dropped off and picked up only at the designated areas.
Children participating in filed trips or are being transported from the center during child care related activities shall have a written consent from their parents. This shall be provided to the center and filed on its records.
The child care center shall file each child’s complete individual records which include:
- health reports;
- date of application, admission and withdrawal of the child;
- signed parental consent for emergency medical care;
- signed parental consent for administration of medications
- signed parental consent for administration of minor first-aide procedures;
- signed parental consent for transportation, walking excursions, and swimming/wading;
- accident reports including illness and injuries; and
- copy of initial agreement and subsequent agreements signed between the parent and the child care operator.
A complete individual record of each staff person employed in a child care facility shall be filed in the center.
The staff record shall include:
- name and complete contact details of the facility person;
- report of initial and subsequent health assessments;
- criminal history record; and
- written reference from non-relatives attesting to the person’s suitability to provide child care.
All records are confidential and shall be kept in a locked cabinet in the center. Any staff person shall not disclose any information about another staff person except during Department investigations.
FIND A DAYCARE OR CHILD CARE IN PENNSYLVANIA
- Back Mountain
- Bethel Park
- Drexel Hill
- East Goshen
- East Hempfield
- East Pennsboro
- King of Prussia
- Lower Allen
- Lower Macungie
- Lower Makefield
- Lower Merion
- Lower Paxton
- Lower Providence
- Lower Southampton
- Mount Lebanon
- Mountain Top
- Municipality of Monroeville
- Municipality of Murrysville
- New Castle
- North Huntingdon
- Penn Hills
- South Whitehall
- State College
- Upper Allen
- Upper Chichester
- Upper Darby
- Upper Dublin
- Upper Merion
- Upper Moreland
- Upper Providence
- Upper Southampton
- Upper St Clair
- West Chester
- West Goshen
- West Hempfield
- West Manchester
- West Mifflin
- West Whiteland
- Willow Grove
State Licensing Contact
Division of Regulatory Administration
Bureau of Certification Services
Office of Child Development
Department of Public Welfare
Contact Regional Office: http://www.dpw.state.pa.us/PartnersProviders/ChildCareEarlyEd/003670452.htm
Phone: To find the phone number for your regional office, please go to http://www.dpw.state.pa.us/PartnersProviders/ChildCareEarlyEd/003670452.htm
Web Page: http://www.dpw.state.pa.us/ServicesPrograms/ChildCareEarlyEd/