Curious about how to get your home daycare license in Pennsylvania? You’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re starting to think about opening your own home daycare or are ready to begin the licensing process, learning what to expect is a great way to start.
The Basics: How to Get a Home Daycare License in Pennsylvania
Getting your license, also known as a Certificate of Compliance, is the first step to launching your daycare business. In Pennsylvania, child care is regulated by the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL). OCDEL oversees child care centers as well as smaller, home-based daycare programs.
Family Child Care or Group Child Care?
In Pennsylvania, family child care (FCC) programs can have up to six children. As the owner and caregiver, you’ll need to be over 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. Otherwise, you have to get a GED in less than 2 years.
Group child care (GCC) programs in Pennsylvania allow up to 12 children, but they have more requirements. You’ll need 40 square feet per child (480 square feet for a full program). You’ll also need additional experience or education: 30 credit hours in early childhood education or a related field, 600 hours of training, or 2 years of professional experience working with children. Plus, you’ll have to hire an assistant if you end up caring for more than six children.
Both FCC and GCC are great options. However, starting a GCC can be more costly than starting an FCC. You’ll need to invest more in your home, hire staff, and make sure your space meets requirements that can be pretty restrictive. So, if you’re looking to start a program quickly, then starting an FCC might be your best bet.
- Obtain your certificate of occupancy
- Attend orientations (online and in person)
- Get your pediatric CPR and first aid certification
- Take a health and safety training
- Pass a physical exam
- Complete background checks
- Take Mandated Reporter training
- Complete additional requirements for GCC
- Pass a home inspection
To get your home daycare license in Pennsylvania, you’ll need to make your way through these requirements. At a glance, they may seem simple, but there are lots of details to be aware of. Let’s dive in.
1. Obtain your certificate of occupancy
So you’ve decided which type of program you want to open. Now it’s time to make sure your home is child-care ready. Since your certificate of compliance is for both you as the provider and your home as the daycare space, it’s important to tackle these steps early on. That way, if there are any issues with your home, you’ll be able to fix them at the start and avoid any big surprises later on. Here are the steps to take:
- Request permission if needed: If you rent or belong to a homeowners’ association, you’ll need to get permission to run your daycare.
- Get zoning approval: Getting the green light from your local zoning authority is required to operate your daycare. Find out who to contact here.
- Apply for your Certificate of Occupancy: This is proof that your home has been properly inspected, is up to code, and is suitable for a daycare.
The steps to getting a Certificate of Occupancy depend on which type of program you’re planning to open and whether or not you live in Philadelphia. (The city has different rules). Visit the relevant link below for details on how to get your daycare Certificate of Occupancy in Pennsylvania.
2. Attend Orientations
After you get your Certificate of Occupancy approved, you’ll take two orientations. One is online and the other will be in person. You can get started with the online orientation here, but make sure you have enough time—it takes about 4 hours. Also, be sure to choose the right orientation based on your program type.
After your online orientation is complete, you’ll get a certificate and be able to register for the in-person orientation, which also takes 4 hours. You can view the schedule of in-person orientations here. Don’t forget to bring a photo ID and your online orientation certificate with you.
3. Get your pediatric CPR and first aid certification
To operate your home daycare in Pennsylvania, you need to have a valid pediatric CPR and first aid certification. Make sure to sign up for an in-person course, because online sessions don’t count.
4. Take a health and safety training
This 10-hour course is required and available online. Don’t worry—you don’t need to do it all at once. You can tackle it at your own pace over a few days or a week.
5. Pass a physical exam
Since you’ll be taking care of kids, having a clean bill of health is important. Your application includes a form for your primary care physician to fill out and sign. Your immunization record isn’t required, but do need to have a negative Tuberculin test and submit the results.
6. Complete background checks
When opening a daycare, it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone in your household has a clean criminal record before you submit your application. In many cases, this also includes college kids who live on campus but are still considered part of your household.
There are several types of background checks required, so make sure you complete all of the following:
- Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Criminal History Clearance: Request a PSP clearance for yourself and any assistants or volunteers you plan to have at your program.
- Child Abuse History Clearance: Submit an application for yourself, household members age 18+ (college kids included), and program assistants or volunteers.
- National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) verification: Submit an application for yourself, household members age 18+ (college kids included), and program assistants or volunteers.
- FBI fingerprinting: This one is just for you and your program staff, including volunteers. To get your fingerprinting, schedule an appointment online or by phone with IdentoGO.
7. Take Mandated Reporter training
As a home daycare owner and child care provider, you are a Mandated Reporter. This means you’re required to report any signs of child abuse or neglect to the state. To learn how to recognize child abuse and neglect and file reports, you’ll take an online course.
8. Complete Additional Requirements for GCC
If you’re planning to open a Group Child Care program in Pennsylvania, there are some extra requirements for your certification. The main two are:
- Civil rights compliance questionnaire and policy statement: As a GCC, you’ll hire an assistant so you can care for more than six children at a time. This means you’ll become an employer and must follow all equal opportunity and nondiscrimination laws. Fill out this form and write a statement declaring that you follow these laws.
- Water supply verification: If you use a water supplier for your home, make a copy of your water bill and submit it with your application. If you use a pond or well, you may need to have an inspection and submit a report from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
9. Pass a home inspection
Once you’ve completed the above and submitted your application, you’re well on your way to getting your home daycare license in Pennsylvania.
After you’re approved, your Certifier will schedule your home inspection. They’ll check that your home daycare space meets all safety requirements and that you have the needed supplies and materials for your program. They’ll also ensure that you have the paperwork required to maintain records for your program.
The inspection usually takes 2 hours. It’s a great opportunity to develop a positive relationship with your Certifier, so be as prepared as possible.
There are lots of specific regulations for your space and though we can’t cover them all in this blog post, our team is here to help. Contact us to connect with a home daycare specialist today.
Are you ready to get your home daycare license in Pennsylvania?
Opening a daycare in your home isn’t easy. There’s a lot to keep track of as you apply for your home daycare license in Pennsylvania. But by following the steps outlined above, you’ll be set up for success to meet OCDEL’s requirements and launch your new career.
And while getting your license is a huge step, it’s only one part of opening your home daycare. You’ll also need to register your business, market your program to families, enroll children, and learn about the ongoing operations to keep your business thriving. It’s a lot, but it’s worth it—you’ll get to be your own boss, make a good living, and support your community.
To learn more about what it takes, check out our Ultimate Guide to Opening a Home Daycare, written for new providers like you, by our team of home daycare experts. It details the five steps to opening a successful home daycare in your state.