New Jersey Child Care Licensing: Starting Your Center

  • Business
  • Software

Are you planning to open a child care business in New Jersey? To get started, you’ll need to learn about the legal requirements for child care in New Jersey, register your business and attain compliance with zoning laws. 

Our go-to guide to New Jersey child care licensing will help you through all the steps of opening a child care business in New Jersey. We’ll look over who needs to be licensed, explain the requirements of licensing and link to resources to help you meet those requirements. Then, we’ll provide step-by-step instructions for navigating the child care licensing process in New Jersey and successfully submitting your application.

New Jersey Child Care Licensing Overview

Child care licensing in New Jersey is overseen by the Licensing Office of the state Department of Children and Families (DCF). In New Jersey, all programs that provide daycare for at least six children under the age of thirteen are required to obtain a state license. 

If your center provides daycare for fewer than six children in your own home, you can voluntarily register with the state as a Family Childcare Provider. You’ll need to complete eighteen hours of free child care training, undergo a background check and pay a $25 fee. Contact your local Child Care Resource & Referral Agency for more information.

Some types of child care business, such as accredited private preschools, religious educational programs, after-school activities and tutoring groups or homework clubs, are exempt from licensing. Review the Manual of Requirements for Child Care Centers to see if you qualify for one of these exemptions. 

Getting Your Child Care License in New Jersey

The Department of Children and Families requires that you submit your child care center application no later than 45 days before the anticipated opening of your center. Get a head start on your application by preparing early. Here’s the process for applying for a child care license in New Jersey, and what you’ll need to do at every stage.

Step One: Find a Site For Your Center

The first step to opening a child care center is New Jersey is making sure your chosen site complies with zoning laws and state child care regulations. Once you’ve identified a site, you’ll need to get in touch with your municipal construction official to confirm that the intended site is properly zoned for a child care center.

If your desired site is not in a business zone, you may be able to obtain a zoning variance from the municipality. This variance constitutes city permission to run your center outside of a business zone.

The construction official should also provide you with a Certificate of Occupancy (CO), which will verify that the building you chose is appropriate for use as a child care center. Your CO must allow the building to be used for one of the following categories:

  • For children 2 ½ years or younger, Institutional (I-4)
  • For six or more children older than 2 ½ years of age, Educational (E)
  • For a school-aged child care program, either of the above or Assembly (A-3 or A-4)

After establishing your zoning compliance and obtaining your CO, you can contact the Office of Licensing at 1-877-667-9845 for a free site inspection and review of any architectural plans for the building. This is an excellent way to ensure your compliance well ahead of time, so it’s a good idea to take advantage.

Step Two: Understand Your Licensing Requirements

Once you’ve secured a site for your child care center, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the licensing requirements for child care centers in New Jersey. Everything you need to know is in the Manual of Requirements for Child Care Centers. It includes requirements for insurance, health and safety procedures, record-keeping, staff qualifications and more. 

In case you need help navigating the Manual, the state has provided resources to help you make sure you’re meeting all the requirements. The Understanding Licensing Packet contains over 60 pages of checklists, forms and templates, including a helpful self-assessment checklist that can help you bring your center into conformity with state standards. Other useful links, such as a list of recalled products, are listed on the DCF website.

Step Three: Prepare to Apply

The New Jersey child care license application requires documentation of the center’s status as a business entity, building inspections and history, and the building’s water system. 

Business entity documentation required includes:

  • Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). The FEIN is an identification number used by the IRS for employment tax reporting purposes. It can be obtained for free on the IRS website. You’ll need to submit IRS Form SS-4 or LTR 147C with your application to verify your FEIN. 
  • NJ Business Registration Certificate. You can register your business online at the New Jersey Department of Treasury.
  • Certificate of Formation or Incorporation. These certificates authorize you to operate a business and, if applicable, create your business corporation. Check with New Jersey’s Online Business Formation Portal for more information on forming your business. 
  • If incorporated, a list of board members and their contact information.

Required building documentation includes:

  • A Letter of Prior Use from your municipal construction officer, which certifies your building’s history to avoid environmental hazards at your center. 
  • Water bills and testing reports, depending on the type of water system your center uses. If your center uses the public water system, you can obtain these from your municipality. If you are on a private well, contact the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection at 609-292-5550 for water safety certification. Finally, if your center is in a public school building, you can submit testing reports obtained from the school. 
  • A site map of your center, plus a map showing the location of the outdoor play area.

Step Four: Submit Your Application and Pay Fees

New Jersey has an online child care license application on the New Jersey Child Care Information System website. To apply, register for an account, select Applications in the navigation menu, and choose Child Care Center New Application.

In addition to the documentation outlined above, you’ll provide information about your center, its staff and your program, such as your operating hours and language(s) of instruction. The state may contact you for additional documentation after you apply.

Submit your licensing fee as a check or money order made out to the Treasurer of New Jersey. The fee scales with the size of your center and ranges from $110 to $250. A complete fee schedule is included in the application. 

Step Five: Obtain Background Checks

Criminal background checks and Child Abuse Record Information (CARI) checks must be requested from the state after you apply. You’ll need checks for all representatives of your business and regularly scheduled staff. There is a $10 processing fee associated with each CARI form. Contact the Office of Licensing at 1-877-667-9845 for more information.

Step Six: Prepare for Your Licensing Inspector Visit

After you apply, you’ll be contacted by a representative from the Office of Licensing to arrange for an inspection visit of your center. When you’re visited by the licensing inspector, it’s your job to demonstrate compliance with all the requirements you learned about in the Manual of Requirements for Child Care Centers. This includes:

  • Adequate supervision of children
  • Publicly posted, approved discipline policy
  • Safety of the classroom and outdoor areas
  • Adherence to fire safety regulations and municipal codes
  • Proper record-keeping, including maintenance of background checks on site.

Step Six: Receive Your New Jersey Child Care License

Now that you’ve completed your licensing inspection visit, you’ll be issued a provisional child care license for up to six months. During this time, there will be further, unannounced inspections at your center. If you maintain compliance through the entire provisional licensing period, you will receive your child care license — congratulations! You will need to renew your license every three years.

Launch Your Child Care Business with Procare Solutions

Achieving your child care license in New Jersey is a big step. Procare is here to help with what comes next: nurturing a thriving, happy community of children and families. 

Child care centers across the country trust Procare’s expertise to help them successfully run their day care center. We support centers big and small with our trustworthy, modern and easy-to-use child care management app that gives you the tools and support you need to do your job.

Procare provides easy solutions for child care billing, parent engagement, record-keeping and more, leaving you free to focus on what matters most: caring for kids!

Ready to see how Procare’s all-in-one child care solution can help you launch your child care business?

Request a Demo

About The Author

Amelia Schrader

Amelia is the Director of Demand Generation at Procare Solutions. A graduate of University of Colorado at Boulder with a Bachelor of Business Administration (Marketing emphasis), Amelia spends her free time outdoors with her husband and their energetic goldendoodle, Finn.

Ready to get started?

Discover how Procare has helped hundreds of thousands of early childhood professionals streamline child care management.