Virginia Child Care Licensing: Starting Your Center

    Getting ready to start a child care operation in the state of Virginia? Before you can get started, you’ll need to learn about the legal requirements for child care in Virginia, and apply for the right kind of child care license. 

    This handy guide will walk you through the process of opening a child care business in Virginia from A to Z, including finding out what kind of Virginia child care license you’ll need, links to resources to find out the state standards for your child care program, and a step-by-step guide to the Virginia child care licensing process.

    Virginia Child Care Licensing Overview

    Child care licensing in Virginia is managed by the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Development (OECD) at the Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS). Virginia provides two types of child care licenses: 

    • A Family Day Home (FDH) is a daycare program in either the care provider’s residence, or that of any of the children in care. A FDH provides care less than 24 hours a day for five through 12 children under 13, other than the provider’s own children and those who live in the home. Home-based daycares with fewer than five children can still voluntarily register with the DSS, except in counties with their own regulatory requirements for unlicensed care.
    • A Child Day Center (CDC) license applies to programs that provide daycare for at least two children in a facility other than the residence of the provider or a child in care, or for more than 12 children in any type of facility. 

    Some types of child care businesses, such as accredited private preschools and religious child care centers, are exempt from licensing requirements, but still must adhere to state regulations. These programs must file for a licensing exemption on an annual basis. Check with your regional licensing office to see if you qualify for one of these exemptions. 

    Getting Your Child Care License in Virginia

    No matter which kind of Virginia child care license you’ll need, the application process is lengthy, so it’s best to get started as early as possible. Read on to learn everything you’ll need to know to get your child care license in Virginia.

    Step One: Understand Your Licensing Requirements

    The Commonwealth of Virginia provides a number of documents and resources you need to familiarize yourself with before beginning your child care license application. Get started by reading the state’s Welcome Letter for either Family Day Homes or Child Day Centers

    After that, you’ll need to review:

    The DSS also recommends that you view its Phase I online child care licensing presentation, either for Child Day Centers or Family Day Homes. These presentations contain helpful information on the basics of child care licensing in Virginia, what to consider before opening your own child care program and the requirements you’ll need to meet.


    Finally, you’ll need to schedule a free pre-licensure orientation session, known as Phase II training, with your regional licensing office. You can find a list of licensing offices here, or call 1-800-543-7545 for more information.

    Step Two: Prepare to Apply for a Child Care License

    Before you attend Phase II training, get a head start on preparing to apply for your Virginia child care license. You’ll need to submit your application package in full, including all forms and fees, at least 60 days before the opening of your center.

    All child care license applications, whether for Child Day Centers or Family Day Homes, will include:

    • The relevant initial application form, for either a Family Day Home or Child Day Center
    • Background checks for yourself, all business partners, all caregivers and (for Family Day Homes) all adults residing in the home
    • A tuberculosis screening report for yourself, all care providers and (for Family Day Homes) all adults residing in the home
    • Copies of any written information, policies, procedures, brochures and forms used at your center, if you are not using the state-provided model forms and documents
    • Documentation of the qualifications of the program director
    • An annual operating budget (Child Day Centers, Family Day Homes
    • Confirmation of Phase II training

    Family Day Homes will also need to include a Contact with Local Zoning Administrator document, which ensures the home is appropriately zoned to run a child care facility. Finally, a Family Day Home must include certification of the providers’ CPR training.

    Additional application requirements for a Child Day Center include:

    • A credit reference for the business agency
    • Three reference letters for each person listed on the relevant business information page
    • Documentation of liability insurance
    • Floor plans and site plan for the facility
    • A copy of the building’s Certificate of Use and Occupancy
    • A fire inspection report and Request for Building Evaluation or Inspection form
    • The Sanitation Inspection Report from the health department
    • If the building was constructed prior to 1978, an asbestos inspection
    • A Statement of Sponsorship and Organization outlining the structure of your business 
    • Sample menu for one month
    • List of play equipment
    • Daily activity schedule

    It’s a good idea to prepare as much of this as you can before attending your Phase II training, so that if you run into any difficulties, you can get extra help at your session. Background checks, however, may be saved for last, since they must be completed no earlier than 90 days before the opening of the center.

    Step Three: Attend Phase II Training

    The Phase II orientation session is conducted by state licensing inspectors, and is focused on exploring the Virginia state standards for your type of child care business. It’s an excellent opportunity to ask questions and find out more about the process of obtaining and maintaining compliance with Virginia child care licensing. 

    The DSS asks that you bring a copy of the relevant licensing standards to your session.

    Step Four: Submit Your Child Care License Application

    After completing Phase II training, you can submit your completed application package to your regional licensing office. A complete application includes all of the attachments listed above, plus relevant fees made out to the Treasurer of Virginia. The fee schedule is printed on each application form.

    An incomplete application will not count toward starting the 60-day waiting period, so be sure to include all required attachments to avoid delays.

    Step Five: Licensing Inspector Visit

    After the completed application package is received and Phase II training is complete, a licensing inspector will be assigned to your child care program. The inspector will review your application and visit your center to determine whether you are in compliance with the standards that apply to you.

    Prepare ahead of time to make sure you will pass the inspection. Ensure you are meeting the licensing requirements you learned about in your Phase II training, such as safety and sanitation procedures, record-keeping and staff-to-child ratios for each age group.

    The inspection has six parts, detailed in the Protocols for Inspections at Licensed Child Day Programs:

    1. The inspector will introduce themselves to you and give you an overview of the inspection process.
    2. The inspector will take a tour of the building, speak to children and staff, and examine the facility.
    3. Inspectors will conduct interviews with staff, parents and children.
    4. The inspector will note their observations.
    5. The inspector will review all documentation and notes to form their assessment.
    6. Finally, the inspector will meet with you to discuss their findings and work on a plan to correct any violations.

    Major violations will require correction before licensing can proceed, but you may be allowed to continue with minor violations as long as you demonstrate your plan to correct them as soon as possible.

    Step Six: Receive Your Virginia Child Care License

    Once you have successfully completed your licensing inspection, you will be issued a conditional license to operate a child care business for up to six months. 

    During this time, you will be subject to further, unannounced inspections. When the conditional period is over, you will receive your regular child care license, which you will need to periodically renew.

    Congratulations on starting your child care business in the state of Virginia!

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    About The Author

    Francie Dudrey

    Francie Dudrey is Director of Content, Events and Brand at Procare Solutions, where she leverages Procare’s brand leadership to support our customers through meaningful content and compelling events. She also has two small children and deeply appreciates the value of high-quality child care.

    Procare is here to help.

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