Are you thinking about opening your own daycare center? Do you hope to provide childcare for your neighbors while staying at home with your own children? In Minnesota, all childcare providers must be licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), with few exceptions. Some of those exceptions are:
- A caregiver providing childcare to a single family who the caregiver is not related to;
- A public school offering a childcare program for children 33 months or older;
- A recreational program for children that is operated by a park and recreation board;
- A childcare program for school-age children that is operated by a school, YMCA, or YWCA;
- “Head Start” programs that are offered by childcare centers for 45 days or less each year;
- Boys and girls clubs, scouting clubs, and various sports and art programs that care for children less than 30 days a year; and
- Religious programs for school-age children, Sunday schools, and childcare during religious services.
In general, a caregiver does not need to be licensed when he or she will be caring for children of one related family in his or her home (“in-home childcare”). If children of more than one unrelated family are cared for in-home, the caregiver needs to obtain a license. In-home childcare (sometimes referred to as family childcare) is limited to no more than fourteen children at a time. Childcare that occurs outside of the caregiver’s home is called a “childcare center.” Generally, childcare centers care for a larger number of children and require specific training and qualifications for staff members.
In-home childcare providers must follow the requirements under Licensing of Day Care Facilities (“Rule 2”) of the Minnesota Administrative Rules, and childcare centers must follow the requirements of Child Care Center Licensing (“Rule 3”) of the Rules. The purpose of childcare licenses is to protect the health, safety, development, and individual rights of the children receiving care. To ensure these protections, DHS is responsible for making sure licensed childcare centers comply with Minnesota rules and laws. However, counties are responsible for the monitoring of family childcare providers.
All potential care providers must first apply for a license, undergo a “background study,” and pass a preliminary facilities inspection. A background study is similar to a background check, as DHS will review an applicant’s criminal history information. Additionally, DHS will review records of substantiated maltreatment of a vulnerable adult or of a child and any other relevant records. DHS or county inspectors will visit an applicant’s physical facilities and review the childcare program. To pass the inspection, the facilities and program must meet the minimum standards under Rule 2 or Rule 3. Some requirements include the square footage of outdoor play space, specified newborn and infant sleeping space, and ratio requirements for age groups of children.
Every two years, inspectors will visit each licensed childcare provider to ensure continued compliance with these rules. If the inspector finds a violation, he or she may issue a correction order. The childcare provider will have a specified amount of time to fix the violation or be faced with a “negative action” – fines, conditional licenses, license revocation, or license suspension. It is a misdemeanor for any person or program to provide childcare without a license, whether they were denied an initial license or had their license suspended or revoked.