Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 10: Licensing and Community Action

10.3 Licensing Agency

10.3.1 The Regulation Setting Process Operation Permits

The licensing agency should issue permits of operation to all facilities that comply with the state’s licensing regulations and rules.


Every child has a right to protective care that meets the regulations and rules, regardless of the child care setting in which the child is enrolled. Public and private schools, nurseries, preschools, centers, child development programs, babysitting centers, early childhood observation centers, small and large family child care homes, drop-in care, and all other settings where young children receive care by individuals who are not close relatives should be regulated. Facilities have been able to circumvent rules and regulations in some states by claiming to be specialized facilities. Nothing in the educational philosophy, religious orientation, or setting of an early childhood program inherently protects children from health and safety risks or provides assurance of quality of child care.

Any exemptions for care provided outside the family may place children at risk. In addition to the basic protection afforded by stipulating requirements and inspecting for licensing, facilities should be required to be authorized for operation. Authorization for operation gives states a mechanism to identify facilities and individuals that are providing child care and authority to monitor compliance. These facilities and individuals may be identified as potential customers for training, technical assistance, and consultation services. Currently, many church run nurseries, nursery schools, group play centers, and home based programs operate incognito in the community because they are not required to notify any centralized agency that they care for children (2).

The lead agency for licensing of child care in most states is the human services agency. However, the state public health agency can be an appropriate licensing authority for safeguarding children in some states. The education system is increasingly involved in providing services to children in early childhood. The standards should be equally stringent no matter what agency assumes the responsibility for regulating child care.

In-home care, which is the care of a child in his/her own home by someone whom the parent has employed, not a family child care home, should not be licensed as a child care facility. The relationship between the parent and caregiver/teacher is that of employer and employee rather than that of purchaser and provider of care, thus licensing or certification of the individual who provides such care, rather than of the service itself, is desirable and recommended.

A good resource on licensing, regulatory, and enforcement issues is the National Association for Regulatory Administration (NARA) at, an international professional organization for licensors, dedicated to promoting excellence in human care regulation and licensing through leadership, education, collaboration, and services. In addition, the “Licensing and Public Regulation of Early Childhood Programs” document published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) includes rationale for policy decisions related to licensing and regulation (1). In addition, the National Association for Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) publishes periodic reports comparing the licensing regulations of the states against standards formulated by NACCRRA; these reports are available at
Appendix GG: Licensing and Public Regulation of Early Childhood Programs
  1. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). 1997. Licensing and public regulation of early childhood programs: A position statement. Revised ed. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
  2. National Association for Regulatory Administration (NARA), National Child Care Association (NCCA). 2004. License exempt early care and education programs: Equal protection and quality education for every child. Joint position paper.