Start a Daycare in Tennessee – Licensing – Regulations – Laws
|START A DAYCARE IN TENNESSEE||LICENSING|
|OWNERSHIP, ORGANIZATION AND ADMINISTRATION||DAYCARE SUPERVISION|
|DAYCARE STAFF||EQUIPMENT FOR CHILDREN|
|DAYCARE PROGRAM||HEALTH AND SAFETY|
|FIND A DAYCARE OR CHILD CARE IN TENNESSEE|
The primary purpose of licensing is the protection of children. These minimum requirements seek to maintain the adequate health, safety, and supervision of children while in a group care setting. The secondary purpose of licensing is to promote developmentally appropriate child care.
Child care agencies are required by the laws of the state of Tennessee to be annually licensed by the Department of Human Services. Issuance of a license does not constitute an endorsement of child care methods or operational philosophy of a child care agency. A license issued by the Department for the operation of a child care agency is not transferable from one location to another or from one licensee to another. The license may be revoked by the Department at any time upon thirty days notice to the licensee; or if the health, safety, or welfare of the children in care requires the license or any part of the license to be suspended immediately.
A license to operate a child care agency may be issued upon the following criteria:
- The safety, welfare and best interests of the children in the care of the agency;
- The capability, training, and character of the persons providing or supervising the children and the use of judgment by a caregiver in the performance of any of the caregiver’s duties as will be reasonably necessary to prevent injury, harm or threat of harm to any child in care;
- The quality of the methods of care and instruction provided for the children;
- The suitability of the facilities provided for the care of the children; and
- The adequacy of the methods of administration and the management of the child care agency, the personnel policies, and the financing of the agency.
The licensee must maintain compliance with the licensing criteria mentioned above and any other licensing criteria throughout the licensing year.
Any individual or group who plans to open a child care service/business must first contact the local county office of the Tennessee Department of Human Services to obtain an application. The applicant must attend one pre-application training session that is provided by the Department. If the program is governed by a board of directors or trustees, the training must be attended by the applicant. In case the applicant will not be responsible for the day-to-day management of the program, the training must be attended by both the applicant and the individual who will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the child care service/business.
In addition to the pre-application training session, new directors/managers must attend a four hour pre-service orientation training provided by the Department. If the program is governed by a board of directors or trustees, the training must be attended by the individual who will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the program.
A completed application form, signed by the owner or by the owner’s authorized representative, must be submitted to the Department in the form and manner directed by the Department. Failure to fully complete all application forms and/or submit all required supporting documentation as required by the Department shall void the application for a license. Application fees must be submitted by certified check or money order prior to the issuance of a license.
Temporary license to new child care agencies will be issued upon completion of the following:
- Submission of all required application documentation and the license fee;
- Verification that the administrative structure of the agency properly identifies and provides structures and procedures for the full-time management of the center;
- Verification of the qualifications for management positions as to be in compliance with the requirements of the Department;
- Verification that the physical facilities have received fire safety and environmental approval;
- Verification that the on-site director/manager has successfully completed a criminal background check and has negative criminal history as required;
- Verification that the applicant and personnel who will care for the children are qualified and capable of providing care to the children;
- Verification that the applicant, owner, director or an employee of the agency has not previously been associated in an ownership or management capacity with any child care agency that has been cited by the Department for violations of regulations, including the agency for which the application is pending, unless the Department determines that a reasonable basis exists to conclude that such individual is otherwise qualified to provide child care; and
- Verification that the Department’s criteria support the issuance of a restricted or unrestricted license.
If the Department determines that any of the requirements above-mentioned has not been, or cannot be, satisfactorily met, it may deny the application for a temporary license. If the Department determines that the conditions of the applicant’s facility, methods of care or other circumstances warrant, it may issue a restricted temporary license that permits operation of a child care agency, but it may limit the agency’s authority in one or more areas of operation.
The temporary license shall be in effect, unless otherwise suspended, for a period of 120 days, or until such time as the Department grants or denies the application for an annual license, whichever is later. During the temporary licensure period, the licensee must attain and maintain compliance with all applicable licensing regulations. Failure to obtain and maintain such compliance during the period may result in the denial of the application for an annual license.
Evaluation for Annual License
A temporary license is issued by the Department to authorize the beginning of child care operations while the agency attempts to attain full compliance with all other applicable regulations. The Department shall make at least two visits to the child care center during the temporary licensing period, one of which will be unannounced. The Department will perform at least one observation of the caregiver’s interaction with children during the temporary licensing period.
During the temporary licensing period, the temporary licensee must provide verification of compliance with all applicable licensing regulations, and also the temporary license must meet all the requirements for annual licensing as required by the Department.
During the temporary licensing period, the Department will determine whether an annual or restricted annual license shall be issued to the applicant. If the Department determines that any of the requirements has not been, or cannot be, met then it may deny the application for an annual license.
If the Department determines that the conditions of the facility, methods of care or other circumstances warrant, it may issue a restricted temporary license that permits operation of a child care agency, but limits the authority to one or more areas of operation.
An annual license shall be issued by the Department if it determines that the applicant:
- Has fully complied with all laws and regulations governing the specific classification of child care agency for which the application was filed;
- Has demonstrated a reasonable probability that the applicant can maintain compliance with the licensing regulations during the annual license period.
Upon issuance of an annual license, the licensee must comply with all applicable licensing regulations and restrictions on the license, if any, throughout the licensing period.
OWNERSHIP, ORGANIZATION, AND ADMINISTRATION
An applicant for a license to operate a child care agency must submit a written statement in the form and manner required by the Department which must include the following information:
- Description of all services to be offered by the center to children and parents;
- Age ranges of children to be served;
- Planned hours of center operation;
- Meal service plan to include the number and type of meals and snacks to be served;
- Admission requirements and enrollment procedures; and
- Plans for emergency medical care.
Once the license is issued by the Department, changes in the scope or type of services offered to children and families can be implemented only after submitting an amended statement to the Department.
A child care center must have an organizational structure with a clearly defined legal and administrative responsibility in the form and manner directed by the Department which must be submitted as part of the application for a license.
Every child care center must have on-site director. The child care center can only operate without an on-site director for a period not exceeding a total of sixty days within the licensing year. A qualified person must be in charge in the interim period.
Finances and Legal, and Regulatory Status
The applicant for a license must provide a reasonable budget plan for the financial support of the center in order to ensure the appropriate continuity of care for children. The applicant must demonstrate in the proposal adequate funding for both preliminary and ongoing costs associated with staffing, equipment and safe operation. The center must maintain adequate financing throughout the licensing year. Relevant financial records, such as proposed budgets, must be immediately available to the Department upon request.
When the child care center is the subject of any bankruptcy or receivership petition, or any action that may affect the financial or operational status of the child care center, such as foreclosure notices, liens, and others, or when the child care center is the subject of any local, state or federal regulatory actions, such as fire safety, health, environmental zoning, or local, state or federal compliance status or tax enforcement proceedings, the management of the child care center must immediately notify the Department and must provide current documentation of the status of the center, including copies of necessary administrative and/or court legal documents applicable to such status.
The child care center must maintain general liability, automobile liability and medical payment insurance coverage for the operations of the center’s facilities and on vehicles owned, operated or leased by the center as follows:
- General liability coverage on the operation of the child care center must be maintained at a minimum of $500,000 per occurrence and $500,000 general aggregate coverage.
- Medical payment coverage in the minimum amount of $5,000 for injuries to children resulting from the operation of the child care center.
- Centers that transport children must have automobile liability coverage in the minimum amount of $500,000 combined single limit of liability and medical payment coverage in the minimum of $5,000 for injuries to children being transported in vehicles owned, operated or leased by the center.
Documentations for the necessary insurances must be maintained in the records of the child care center and must be made available when requested for review by the Department.
A child care center is prohibited from enrolling children under six weeks of age. Children must not be in care for more than 12 hours in a 24 hour period except in special circumstances, such as acute illness or injury to parents, but efforts must be made to minimize the amount of time spend in the child care center by exploring alternatives, such as part time care or care with a relative.
Any individualized plan for the care of a child in excess of twelve hours due to special circumstances must be signed by the parent and the director and must be approved by the Department. The individualized plans must be updated on an annual basis.
The center must not admit a child until the parent has provided the center with a completed application, immunizations record, and a health history. The center must maintain a written documentation that the parent performed an on-site visit to the center to review its facility and child care policies and practices prior to the enrollment of a child.
Communication with Parents
Upon admission of a child in the center, the parents must be provided by the center with a copy of its policies and procedures, and the Department’s Summary of Licensing Requirements. The center’s policies must include the criteria for the disenrollment of the children and specific criteria concerning the release of children to anyone whose behavior may place the children at immediate risk. The parent must sign the receipt of the polices and the Licensing Summary and the signed receipt must be part of the child’s file.
Parents are permitted to see the professional credentials of the staff members if so requested. The center must have a plan for regular and ongoing communication with the parents concerning curriculum, changes in personnel, or planned changes affecting children’s routine care. Parents must be permitted immediate access to their children during the center’s operating hours. Access to the child will be granted by the center to a non-custodial parent if such parent can provide a valid court order to warrant such visit.
A child must be signed in and out of the center by a custodial parent or a person authorized by the parent in writing. A center staff must verify parental authorization and the identity of any person to whom the child will be released. The center will offer an abuse prevention awareness program, which includes a child abuse prevention component, for parents at least once a year.
All necessary records must be kept at the center in an organized manner and must be made available to the Department upon request. A child’s records must be kept for one year following the child’s leaving the agency while staff records must be maintained for at least one year following the separation of the staff from the agency.
Children’s Records must include:
- Current information form, updated annually, which should contain the personal information about the child including the name, address, home phone number and work phone number of parents.
- Name, address, and telephone number of a physician to be called in case of an emergency.
- Written consent of parent for emergency medical care.
- Written plan for the release of the child.
- Written transportation agreement between the center and the parent.
- Child’s health history.
- Daily attendance records of the child.
- Record of child’s immunization.
Staff Record requirements must include the following:
- Name, date of birth, social security number, address, and telephone number of all staff members, including volunteers, and a contact person for each staff member in case of an emergency.
- Educational qualifications including conferences, courses, and workshops attended in the previous year.
- Documentation showing that the staff member is physically, mentally and emotionally capable of safely and appropriately providing care for children in a group setting.
- An updated statement of the staff member’s physical health obtained every three years.
- Three references from non-relatives, either written or with documented interviews.
- Written, verified record of employment history.
- Annual performance review documents.
- Date of employment and date of separation from the center.
- Daily attendance record of staff.
- Completed criminal history disclosure form.
- Verified criminal background check results.
- Results of staff member’s Verification of Vulnerable Persons Registry.
The child care center’s management must maintain a system that will enable children in their care to receive a level of supervision of their status and activities that is appropriate to their age and developmental, physical and mental status in order to ensure their health and safety and will allow the personnel of the center to know the children’s whereabouts. The system must include a visual inspection of all areas of the building and grounds prior to closing the center for the day in order to ensure that no child has been unintentionally left behind.
The adult child ratios must be observed by the center while the children are indoors and on the playground of the center.
The management of the child care center is responsible for selecting qualified individuals of suitable character and ability to work with children. The director is responsible for supervision, training and evaluation of the staff, the program and the day-to-day operation of the center. As assistant director or person in charge must be designated in the absence of the director and the staff of the center must be notified of this designation.
Every staff member, including auxiliary staff, substitutes, volunteers, and practicum students must be physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of using their appropriate judgment in the care of children. Any person who has a physical, mental, or emotional condition that may harm the children must not be allowed to be present with the children.
Prior to assuming duties, new employees must receive orientation on the program philosophy, job description, emergency procedures, policies regarding discipline of children, policies on child abuse reporting, and policies for receiving and dismissing children.
Within the first two weeks on the job, staff members must receive instruction in child abuse detection, parent-communication, disease control and health promotion, overview of the licensing requirements, and information on risks of infection to female employees of childbearing age.
EQUIPMENT FOR CHILDREN
All equipment, both indoor and outdoor, must be well-made and safe. The manufacturer’s safety instructions must be followed for the use and installation of all equipment and appliances.
Damaged equipment must either be removed or repaired to prevent injury to the children. Equipment must be kept clean by washing frequently with soap and water. Equipment and furnishings must be developmentally-appropriate for the children’s age group.
Pieces of equipment, such as television sets, bookcases, and others, must be secured or supported so that they will tip over. Toys, educational materials, and play materials must be organized and displayed so that the children can select and return items independently.
The center must provide adequate developmentally appropriate outdoor materials for all children who are in the center for more than three daylight hours. Outdoor play equipment and materials must be sufficient in amount and variety to give children the opportunity to participate in a minimum of three different types of play using either stationary equipment or portable play materials. Outdoor play equipment must installed or placed in such a way they will avoid injury to children.
A. Schedules and Routines
Routines like snacks, meals, and rest must occur at approximately the same hour each day. There must be a balance between child’s choice and adult-directed activities. Vigorous activity and quiet play must be alternated throughout the day.
B. Outdoor Play and Playground Routines
All children must be given an opportunity for outdoor play when they are in the center for more than three daylight hours. Children must be allowed to experience a variety of weather conditions provided that they are properly dressed according to the weather conditions.
C. Behavior Management and Guidance
Attention spans and skills of children must be taken into consideration when planning developmentally appropriate activities. Discipline must be reasonable, appropriate, and in terms the children will be able to understand. The center must see to it that potentially shaming, humiliating, frightening, verbally abusive or injurious discipline will not be used. Spanking or any other type of corporal punishment is absolutely prohibited. Praise and encouragement of good behavior must be used and caregivers must not solely focus on unacceptable behavior.
Caregivers must exert efforts to help children develop a feeling of self-worth. When a child is engaged in unacceptable behavior, the caregiver must first try to distract the child’s attention and substitute a desirable activity before disciplining the child.
D. Educational Activities
Activities of the children in a child care center must be based on developmentally appropriate educational practices. Daily programs must provide opportunities for learning, self-expression, and participation in a variety of creative activities. The center’s staff must plan for developmentally appropriate activities and prepare lesson plans that are geared to children’s age group.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
The child care center must maintain children’s health records as directed by the Department. Children must be immunized in accordance with the guidelines of the Department of Health.
Children must be checked upon arrival and observed for any sign of communicable disease during the day. A child’s temperature must be taken using non-invasive method unless required by a physician. Children with symptoms of illness must be removed from the group until the parents are contacted and the health issues are resolved.
A standard first aid kit must be available to all staff who must be familiar with its content and use. There must be at least one staff member who has current certification or equivalent in first aid from a certifying organization recognized by the Department. Current and comprehensive first aid information must be made available to all staff who interact with children.
At least one staff member on duty must have a current certification in Infant/Pediatric Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) from a certifying organization recognized by the Department.
The child care center, in consultation with appropriate local authorities, must develop a written plan to protect children in the event of disaster such fire, tornado, earthquake, chemical spills, and the like and must inform parents of the plan. The center must implement these emergency procedures through regular practice drills and must maintain documentation for such drills.
The center must post next to all telephones the following telephone numbers:
- Fire Department
- Police/Sheriff Department
- Nearest Hospital or Emergency Room
- Child Abuse Hotline
- Local Emergency Management Agency
- Poison Control Center.
All home and work contact numbers of parents must be available to the staff.
Parents of children enrolled in a child care center must be notified immediately if one of the following communicable diseases has been introduced into the center:
- Hepatitis A;
- Food poisoning outbreak;
- Measles, mumps, and rubella;
- Hemophilus influenza type B;
- Meningococcal meningitis; and
- Other illnesses identified by the state or local Department of Health.
The child care center must report the occurrence of any of the above-mentioned diseases to the local health department as soon as possible but not later than the day’s end when it occurred.
Parents must be notified of serious injuries or signs of serious illnesses immediately in order for them to arrange for emergency treatment. The child care center must never delay seeking emergency treatment due to failure to contact the parents in a timely manner.
All medications, prescribed and non-prescribed, must be received from parents by a designated staff person or management level staff person. An alternate staff member must be available to administer medication in the absence of the designated person. The center must document verification of the following:
- Parent’s written authorization to administer the medication;
- The medicines or drugs, in their original prescription container, are not out of date and are labeled with the child’s name;
- The specific dosage and times of administration of the medicine; and
- That the parent has provided the center with instructions on the methods of administration.
The center must document and maintain the child’s file the times medications were administered, noticeable side effects, and name of staff member who administered the drug.
If the child care center provides meals, it must ensure that it provides each child developmentally appropriate meals, snacks, and drinks that are of sufficient proportions and nutritional value to meet each child’s health needs. Appropriate foods shall be encouraged to help meet the child’s nutritional requirements. Special diet meals must be prepared as prescribed by a physician or by the written instructions of the parent.
Potentially hazardous foods requiring cold storage must be maintained at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and thermometers for accurate measurement of the food temperature must be kept in the refrigerators where the food is stored. Potentially hazardous food that require hot storage must be maintained at an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Frozen foods must be maintained at a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Dry food supplies must be stored in closed containers and stored in a manner that will prevent possible contamination and to allow for proper cleaning of the storage area.
All food must be protected from contamination during storage, preparation, transportation, and serving. Poisonous or toxic materials, except as required for sanitation purposes, may be used or stored in food-service area of a child care center.
All child care centers must pass an annual inspection and verification with compliance with all applicable state and local fire and environmental requirements. The following facilities must pass inspection by the State Fire Marshall’s Division of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and the Food and General Sanitation Division of the Tennessee Department of Health:
- Currently unlicensed facilities;
- Facilities that do not have previous approval of the State Fire Marshall;
- Relocated facilities; and/or
- Existing facilities that are undergoing renovations, having new construction, additions to, and/or changes in occupancy.
At least one working land line phone must be present in the center. Cellular phones and cordless phones are potentially unreliable during power outages and other emergencies.
The maximum number of children who may be present in the physical space of the child care center must be determined in accordance with the minimum square footage required by the Department. A minimum of thirty square feet of usable indoor play space must be provided for each child; nap room must have a minimum of 30 square feet of floor space per child.
Outdoor Play Area
Outdoor play areas must have a minimum of fifty square feet of usable play space for each child. The areas where children are cared for must be properly maintained.
Sanitation and Safety of Buildings and Grounds
The child care center must provide every child drinking water from a source approved by the health authority having jurisdiction on the area. Drinking water from individual single service cups or approved drinking fountain must be provided in all occupied rooms.
Connection to a public sewage disposal system must be made or a private sewage disposal system approved by the local health department must be made operational.
Garbage must be stored in covered receptacles and must be removed on a daily basis.
The child care center’s management must be responsible for the transportation of children between the child’s home and the center, to or from school, and/or for off-site activities, on vehicles it operate, for which it contracts, or which is otherwise under its direction or control. All vehicles used in the transport of children must carry liability coverage for each vehicle.
An adult must be in the vehicle whenever a child is on board. An adult monitor, in addition to the driver, must be in the vehicle for the transportation of four or more children ages six weeks through five years of age.
All drivers and monitors must comply with all applicable transportation staff qualifications as required by the Department. Documentation of transportation qualifications must be on file at the child care center and must be made available to the Department upon request.
A person driving a vehicle to transport children in a child care center must possess a current, valid Tennessee driver license with an “F” (“For Hire”) endorsement recognized by the Department of Safety as meeting the minimum qualifications for transportation of children enrolled in a child care agency.
Drivers of center vehicles must pass a drug screening test in accordance with procedures established by the Department. The child care center must immediately review the results of the drug screen upon receipt.
REPORT CARD AND STAR QUALITY PROGRAM
There is a universal recognition of the impact of quality child care on the child’s ability to learn, to build healthy relationships, and to become the best they can be. The decision of where to place a child is always difficult and confusing for parents. Since the quality of child care and a positive future for the children depends largely on parents having the necessary tools for making informed choices for the family, the Tennessee Department of Human Services is providing assistance to parents with this very important decision through Tennessee’s Child Care Report Card System.
Every licensed child care agency in the state must undergo an annual evaluation and post a report card of the results. Child care agencies are required to post their report card with their renewal license where parents can clearly see them. The Report Card system is mandatory for all licensed providers. A child care center must be in operation for one year before it is assessed.
The Star Quality Program is a voluntary program that will recognize child care agencies that exceed minimum licensing standards. These agencies can receive a rating of one, two or three stars. A child care agency must be in operation for one year before it is eligible to receive stars.
STATE LICENSING CONTACT
Different cities and counties might have additional licensing requirements in addition to the requirements of the Department of Human Services. It is advisable to contact the local government units for more information about their additional requirements.
FIND A DAYCARE OR CHILD CARE IN TENNESSEE
- East Ridge
- Johnson City
- La Vergne
- Oak Ridge
The main licensing contact in the state of Tennessee is:
Department of Human Services
400 Deaderick Street, 15th Floor
Nashville, TN 37248-0001
Phone: (615) 313-4778
Web Page: http://tennessee.gov/humanserv/adfam/cc_main.htm