Pennsylvania Child Care Licensing: Your Go-To Guide

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Planning to start a child care operation in Pennsylvania? 

First, you’ll need to successfully navigate the child care licensing process and obtain a certificate of compliance with local child care regulations.

In this go-to guide, we’ll explain the three different types of child care licenses offered in Pennsylvania and the operating standards that apply to each one. You’ll also learn step-by-step how to navigate the application process, from determining which license type is right for you, to finally obtaining your child care license.

Pennsylvania Child Care Licensing Overview

Pennsylvania provides licensing services for three types of child care operations. As you begin the child care licensing process, you’ll need to determine which of these license types is right for your business. The three types are:

  1. Child Care Center
  2. Group Child Care Home
  3. Family Child Care Home

The child care license type that applies to your business will depend on the specific care setting, the number of kids you serve and other factors. In the following table, you’ll find more information about the three different types of child care operations in Pennsylvania, how they’re defined, and where to find the operating standards that apply to each type.

Pennsylvania Child Care Operation/License TypeDefinitionLegal Compliance Standards
Child Care CenterA child care center is defined as a facility where seven or more children who are not related to the child care operator receive care.Legal requirements for child care centers are set forth in the Pennsylvania Code, Title 55, Chapter 3270.
Group Child Care HomeA group child care home is defined as a facility where 7-12 children of various ages, or 7-15 children from ages 9 to 15 who are not related to the child care operator, receive care.Requirements for group child care homes are set forth in the Pennsylvania Code, Title 55, Chapter 3280.
Family Child Care HomeA family child care home is defined as a child care facility located in a family home where 4-6 children who are unrelated to the primary caregiver receive care.Requirements for family child care homes are set forth in the Pennsylvania Code, Title 55, Chapter 3290.

Getting Your Pennsylvania Child Care License

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Step One: Understand the Child Care Licensing Process

As you begin working toward your child care license in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to understand a few things about how the process works.

You should be aware that all child care license types in Pennsylvania follow the same basic process. This is different from other states where the licensing process can vary based on the type of license you’re trying to obtain.

You should also know that all child care facilities (home-based and center-based) providing care for three or more children who are not related to the operator must obtain a child care license in Pennsylvania – with just a few exceptions.

Finally, you should know which departments of Pennsylvania’s state government are involved in child care regulation. 

Child care licensing in PA is regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS).

The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), jointly managed by the Pennsylvania DHS and the Department of Education, is responsible for overseeing every aspect of the child care licensing process. providing child care licensing orientations and conducting facility inspections to verify compliance with local regulations.

Through its Bureau of Certification Services, the OCDEL provides child care licensing orientations, manages the child care licensing process, drafts and amends regulations for child care operators, and certifies qualifying child care facilities in the state.

Step Two: Classify Your Operation & Understand Pennsylvania Child Care Regulations

As the next step in your child care licensing process, you’ll need to classify your operation as either a child care center, a family child care home or a group child care home. Once you’ve determined which option best applies to your business, you’ll need to thoroughly review and familiarize yourself with the state regulations for operating each type of child care business.

All of the resources you’ll need for this step are presented in the table above, including links to the corresponding Pennsylvania code regulations for each child care license type.

Step Three: Satisfy State and Local Zoning Requirements

Before you can get started on your Pennsylvania child care license application, you’ll need to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy from your township or municipality indicating that the facility is properly zoned and is permitted to operate at the desired location. 

Depending on where you live, you may have to satisfy additional local requirements before you are permitted to operate a child care facility in your city or town. State and local zoning requirements should be thoroughly investigated and fulfilled before you start applying for your child care license.

Step Four: Connect with Your Regional OCDEL Office and Complete Orientations

Before submitting a child care application, Pennsylvania law requires all applicants to complete both an online and in-person orientation.

Here’s how to make it through this part of the process:

  1. Start by completing your online orientation session. There are two online orientations available: one for child care centers and group child care homes, and a separate one for family child care homes. Be sure to choose the right online orientation based on the child care license type you plan to apply for.
  2. Once you complete the online orientation, you’ll obtain a digital certificate of completion that is valid for 12 months. You’ll need to complete the application process before it expires. To book your in-person orientation, contact your regional OCDEL office. There are four regional child development offices in Pennsylvania, and you’ll be able to find their locations and contact information on the Regional Child Development Offices page of the DHS website. If your center will be located in the Southeast-North or Southeast-South regions, you can register for an in-person orientation by completing a digital form.
  3. Once you’ve contacted your regional OCDEL office, you’ll need to attend an in-person orientation session. There are additional guidelines for attending in-person orientation sessions that can be found on the Orientation Training page of the DHS website. After attending in-person orientation, you’ll receive a certificate of completion that remains valid for one year.

Step Five: Submit Your Completed Child Care License Application

At this point, you should have completed both the online and in-person orientation for the Pennsylvania child care licensing process. Now it’s time to get your documentation together and submit your licensing application.

The latest guidance from the PA DHS tells us that there are 14 components in a completed child care licensing application:

  1. A fully completed and signed copy of Form PW 633, Application for Certificate of Compliance, date-stamped by your Regional Office.
  2. A certificate of occupancy demonstrating your building’s compliance with the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) and that your building is properly zoned for a child care operation.
  3. A criminal history check from the Pennsylvania State Police, FBI fingerprinting results and documents for the Pennsylvania Child Abuse Registry. These checks should all pertain to the legal entity or the responsible person designated in your child care application, and should not be more than 60 months old.
  4. If the child care facility is in a residence, any household member over 18 years of age, and who is in the home for more than 30 days per year, must also provide FBI fingerprinting results, a state police background check and child abuse registry information.
  5. A disclosure statement for the legal entity or responsible person as required by Child Protective Services Law.
  6. Any applicable business documentation, such as articles of incorporation, registration for an LLC, LLP, or LP, or a Certificate of Registration to conduct business in Pennsylvania.
  7. Fictitious Name approval, if required.
  8. Certificate of Tax Exempt Status (if the center will be run as a non-profit).
  9. Civil Rights Compliance Approval letter.
  10. Certificates of completion for both the online and in-person child care licensing orientation sessions.
  11. Proof that the required pre-service training was completed by the applicant or a legal representative of the child care business entity.
  12. Certificate of completion for Mandated Reporter Training.
  13. A completed copy of the Civil Rights Compliance Questionnaire.
  14. If the facility is a child care center or a group child care home, applicants must show verification that the facility meets the requirements of the Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

Step Six: Obtain Your Certificate of Compliance and Prepare for Inspection

Once you submit your application for a Pennsylvania child care license, it will be reviewed by the supervisor at your regional office within 45 days. 

If your application is complete and correct, a certification representative will contact you to schedule an initial inspection of your child care facility. You may have to wait three or four weeks before the initial inspection is conducted.

If the inspection is a success (either no violations are found, or the applicant presents a plan of correction for any violations and corrects them), you will receive a six-month provisional compliance certificate. During this period, your center will receive an additional inspection to verify your compliance status with Pennsylvania child care regulations.

After passing this inspection, you will receive a regular certificate of compliance that allows you to operate your child care facility for one year. To renew your certificate, you’ll have to pass annual inspections to demonstrate your ongoing compliance with PA child care laws.

Launch Your Pennsylvania Child Care Operation with Procare

Getting your child care license in the state of Pennsylvania can take months – that’s the hard part of starting your child care business.

The easy part is launching your center with Procare Solutions and using our modern and innovative child care technology to make your business a success.

With Procare’s child care management app, you’ll be connected and in control of every part of your child care center – from staff and ratio management, to billing & payments, activity scheduling, bookkeeping and parent engagement. Child care centers trust Procare to provide the most expertise and support, easing the burden of child care center management and make life better for both parents and child care providers.

Ready to see what Procare Solutions can do for your child care operation?

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.

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