What is Child Care Licensing? 

Licensing is a process administered by state and territory governments that sets a baseline of requirements below which it is illegal for child care facilities to operate. States and territories have regulations with which facilities must comply and policies to support the enforcement of those regulations.

What is the Purpose of Child Care Licensing?

Within the early care and education system, licensing provides the baseline of protection for children and covers the broadest content, the largest number of children from birth to school age, and the largest population of providers. Licensing helps prevent various forms of harm to children—risks from the spread of disease; fire and other building safety hazards; injury; and developmental impairment from the lack of healthy relationships with adults, adequate supervision, or developmentally appropriate activities.

Visit the National Resources page for resources about child care licensing requirements and other early childhood program standards.

What is the National Database of Child Care Licensing Regulations? 

The National Database of Child Care Licensing Regulations is a repository of state and territory licensing regulation documents and data about child care licensing policies, practices, and requirements. There are three features of this tool:

  • State Profiles that contain licensing agency contact information, links to licensing regulations for all types of licensed child care facilities, and links to other state and territory early childhood program standards (such as, quality rating and improvement system standards, prekindergarten program standards, and requirements for providers receiving payment from the Child Care and Development Fund subsidy program). 

    If the information in the profile for your state or territory is not correct, please contact the National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance at [email protected]
  • Regulation Search that allows users to search licensing regulations by keyword and filter regulations by state, facility type, and date. Included are regulation documents that apply to child care centers, family child care homes, group child care homes, school-age programs, infant care programs, and other specialized programs. 

    Note: Additional requirements for child care facilities may be in state statutes; administrative codes; or other local, state, or Federal laws not included in this database. Such information can be requested through the agency contact information in the state profiles.
  • Data Set Search that allows users to generate tables of data about licensing policies, practices, and facility requirements collected in the 2017 and 2020 Child Care Licensing Studies (CCLS). The CCLS data are collected by reviewing and coding directly from child care licensing regulation documents posted on public websites and surveying state child care licensing agencies. 

There are two data sets to search:

  • Licensing Agency Policies. This data set includes the results of the 2017 NARA Child Care Licensing Programs and Policies Survey. Responses were from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

    Click here for an index of the categories and topics included in the Licensing Agency Policies data set. 
  • Facility Requirements. This data set includes data collected from a review of child care licensing regulations from all 50 states and the District of Columbia that were current as of December 31, 2020. Some data have been updated in 2023. Updated topics include a date, for example, Group Size Required for Centers (2023). 

    Click here for an index of the categories and topics included in the Facility Requirements data set. 

Licensing requirements are frequently updated in response to new legislation, data analysis, provider feedback, and in response to new research and industry trends. This database can support licensing and Child Care and Development Fund administrators in exploring how other states and territories have developed clear, measurable, and achievable regulations to better inform child care providers and safeguard children’s health, development, and well-being.

This database was developed by the National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance with funds from Grant #90TA0002-05-02 for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Care and Office of Head Start. This resource may be duplicated for noncommercial uses without permission.