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Nov 18, 2020 8 min read

Florida Child Care Licensing: Your Go-To Guide

Procare By: Procare

Are you interested in starting a child care business in the state of Florida? The different types of licenses, operations and facilities can seem a little overwhelming at first, but this go-to guide will help you to find the appropriate license for the business that you want to create.

Florida statutes describe the process by which child care licensing is administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), the regulatory body that helps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children enrolled in child care facilities. The DCF also allows for individual counties that meet or exceed the state standards to administer child care licensing through an appointed local agency. So far, five counties have chosen to exercise this option: Broward, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Sarasota.

This guide will describe the different types of child care licenses available in Florida, and explain how to apply for the license that best fits your business. We’ll provide a step-by-step explanation of the Florida child care licensing process, and connect you with the materials and resources you’ll need to start preparing your application.

Florida Child Care Licensing Overview

Finding the appropriate license for you will depend entirely on the type of operation you’re planning to start. The Florida Department of Children and Families regulates five different child care settings that each require their own operating license:

  • Child Care Facilities
  • Child Care Facilities for Mildly Ill Children
  • Licensed Family Child Care Homes
  • Large Family Child Care Homes
  • School-Age Child Care Facilities

The nature of your child care business will determine what license you need to apply for and what set of laws and regulations your facility will need to adhere to. For a description of the operation types and to start your application, consult the table below.

Child Care Operation TypeDescription/Key CharacteristicsApply for a License
Child Care FacilitiesAny child care center or child care arrangement that provides care for more than five children unrelated to the operator and which receives a payment, fee or grant for any of the children receiving care, wherever operated, and whether or not operated for profit. Some exceptions apply.Child Care Facilities Application
Child Care Facilities for Mildly Ill ChildrenThese facilities provide care for children with short-term illness, or symptoms of illness or disability, which have caused or will cause them to be excluded from regular child care facilities. 
This care is provided either as an exclusive service in a center specialized for this purpose, or as a component of other child care services offered in a distinct part of a regularly licensed child care facility, for a period of less than 24 hours per day.
Child Care Facilities for Mildly Ill Children Application
Licensed Family Child Care HomesAn occupied residence in which child care is regularly provided for children from at least two unrelated families and which receives a payment, fee or grant for any of the children receiving care, whether or not operated for profit.License Family Child Care Home Application
Large Family Child Care HomesAn occupied residence in which child care is regularly provided for children from at least two unrelated families, which receives a payment, fee or grant for any of the children receiving care, whether or not operated for profit, and which has at least two full-time child care personnel on the premises during the hours of operation.Large Family Child Care Home Application
School-Age Child Care FacilitiesAny child care facility serving only school-agedchildren in a before and after school or out-of-school time (OST) program. School-age children are described as being at least five years of age by September of the current school year.School-Age Child Care Application

Once you have determined which child care operation type applies to your business, it’s time to take your first steps in the application process. If you’re still unsure of which Florida child care license is best for you, the DCF offers a free online assessment that can help you decide. You’ll be asked to fill a survey about your child care operation and submit it to the Florida DCF before receiving guidance on how to proceed with the application process.

Getting Your Florida Child Care License

Step One: Understanding Child Care Licensing Requirements 

Each license has its own associated requirements and regulations. Your facility will need to undergo investigations to ensure compliance with health and safety guidelines. Understanding these guidelines is of paramount importance, and they are listed out in three handbooks:

1. Child Care Facilities
2. Large Child Care Homes and Licensed Child Care Homes
3. School-Age Child Care

Consulting with the handbook appropriate to your business type will provide guidelines for how to comply with Florida statutes, give you insight into what will be required of any personnel, and give you an easily accessible checklist you can use to verify that your child care operation meets minimum standards.

Step Two: Completing and Submitting Your Child Care License Application

Once you’ve verified that your facility meets the standards specified in your handbook, it is time to complete and submit your application along with all supporting documentation to the licensing authority. 

If your application is incomplete, it will be returned to you within 30 days with a note specifying what is missing. You’ll be able to update your application with the required information before submitting your documents a second time. Once your application has been accepted by the DCF, it can take up to 90 days for it to be processed.

Step Three: Completing a Pre-Licensing Inspection

Prior to your application being completed, an inspection of your facility will be conducted. If your facility is not in compliance with the specified standards, the Florida DCF will provide guidance and technical assistance to help you meet the requirements. After updating your standards and practices, your operation will be eligible for a second inspection. 

Once you have successfully passed the inspection, your application is officially completed. After your completed application has been processed, you will receive your license within 90 days. 

Step Four: Licensing and Inspections

Florida child care licenses are issued for a term of one year, after which they will need to be renewed. Child care facilities will receive a minimum of three inspections per year, and licensed and large family child care homes will receive a minimum of two inspections per year. 

Regular inspections make certain that kids enrolled in child care services are receiving care in compliance with the minimum standards described in Florida statutes. Child care center operators are encouraged to regularly review their operations for compliance with Florida law, the relevant child care facility handbook and Florida administrative code.

Florida Gold Seal Quality Care Program

The Gold Seal Quality Care program recognizes child care facilities and family daycares that have gone above the required minimum licensing standards and have been deemed by an approved accrediting agency to reflect quality in the level of care and supervision provided to children.

It’s important to note that the Gold Seal Quality Care Program is not an accreditation, but rather a designation that is voluntary. Here’s a list of a few of the potential benefits to child care businesses that participate:

  • A positive marketing tool for prospective parents
  • Tax exemptions on certain educational materials and property taxes
  • Higher reimbursement for School Readiness providers
  • Accepted to be eligible to participate in Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) 

Maintaining Your Florida Child Care License

All types of licenses last for one year and must be renewed if you wish to continue providing child care in your community. No later than 90 days from your renewal date, the DCF will send you a renewal reminder, and you must submit your completed renewal application by no later than 45 days from your renewal date. 

Failure to submit your renewal in time constitutes a licensing violation and may result in administrative fines or penalties.

Build a Successful Child Care Business with Procare Solutions

With more than 30 years in the business of child care and currently powering more than 30,000 child care operations, Procare is an industry leader in child care management software tools and technologies.

Procare’s child care management software offers powerful features like a secure child care billing system, child and family information management, contactless check-in and digital attendance tracking that keep you connected and in control of your child care operation. 

With Procare, you’ll be able to streamline key administrative tasks, stay compliant with Florida licensing requirements and minimum standards, and consistently deliver high-quality care to every child. 

Are you ready to find out how Procare Solutions can help you make your child care business a success?

Request a Demo

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Procare provides comprehensive child care management software with the power to help you take control at every point of your business.