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How to Start a Daycare in Alabama

Learn about the licenses needed to start a daycare center in Alabama.

How to Start a Daycare in Alabama

How to Start a Daycare in Alabama

Starting a daycare in Alabama can be a fulfilling business endeavor if you’re passionate about working with children. However, before opening for business, you’ll need to understand the licensing requirements in your state. 

This guide will explain the different types of licenses in Alabama, an overview of the steps to take to start a daycare business, including staff and capacity requirements, and how to remain compliant. Whether you're a seasoned childcare provider or a new business owner, these tips will help you succeed.

Do I need a childcare license in Alabama?

The Alabama Department of Human Resources regulates childcare licensing in Alabama. You need a childcare license to operate a childcare business in Alabama if you care for one or more children unrelated to you, at a fee or without pay, away from the child’s home, and for more than four hours daily. 

However, state regulations allow some childcare centers to operate without a license, and these are known as license-exempt daycare facilities. You’re eligible to run one if you intend to start a daycare center that is part of a local church ministry or a religious nonprofit elementary school. 

The Alabama Department of Human Resources licenses the following types of daycares:

Daycare center/nighttime center

  • A daycare center is a facility receiving more than 12 children for daytime care. This includes facilities commonly referred to as childcare centers, day nurseries, nursery schools, pre-kindergartens, preschools, kindergartens, and playgroups with or without stated educational purposes. 
  • A nighttime center is established to receive more than 12 children for nighttime care after 7:00 p.m.

Family daycare home/group daycare home/family nighttime home/group nighttime home: 

  • A family daycare home is a childcare facility located in the home of the applicant/licensee with no more than six children during the day. 
  • A group daycare home is a family home with at least seven but no more than twelve children under care during the day with at least two adults present. 
  • A nighttime home is a family home with no more than six children under care after 7 p.m. 
  • A group nighttime home is a family home with at least seven but no more than twelve children for nighttime care and has at least two adults present.

Childcare licensing requirements in Alabama

Creating a business plan and complying with Alabama license requirements are crucial if you intend to run a thriving childcare business. Here are the licensing requirements in Alabama:

Daycare centers 

Daycare center requirements summary

A licensed daycare center must:

  • Have a valid license, a current licensing evaluation, and fire and health department approvals posted in a conspicuous place
  • Not exceed the maximum capacity for which the center is licensed as stated on the license
  • Post a schedule of daily activities
  • Post emergency procedures
  • Provide parents with a copy of the center’s operating policies before the child’s admission
  • Have a working telephone in the center
  • Have a physical environment that is clean, uncluttered, and free of hazards
  • Have child-sized and/or child-adapted furniture and bathroom facilities
  • Post weekly menus
  • Serve nutritious meals and snacks in accordance with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service
  • Have clean cots and/or cribs for each child
  • Have a fenced, outdoor play area
  • Fence in a swimming pool
  • Allow parental access
  • Provide proper supervision of all children at all times

Center director qualifications

  • Be at least 19 years old
  • Have at least 20 hours of training in administration and management and at least four hours of training in a quality childcare facility
  • Have 120 hours of training in child care; a high school diploma or general education diploma (GED); and
  • Have at least twelve 12 months of working experience as a childcare worker/teacher or as a director/program director in a licensed daycare center; or a child development associate credential (CDA) or a certified childcare professional certificate (CCP) from the National Child Care Association Inc. (NCCA) and a high school diploma or general education diploma (GED) and at least 12 months of working experience as a childcare worker/teacher or as a director/program director; or an associate’s degree in child development or early childhood education from a post-secondary school (technical, vocational, junior college) and at least nine months of working experience as a childcare worker/teacher or as a director/program director; or a bachelor's degree in child development or early childhood education and at least six months of working experience as a childcare worker/teacher or as a director/program director

Childcare worker/teacher qualifications

  • Be at least 19 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or general education diploma (GED)
  • Have at least 12 clock hours of training in child care and development through participation in workshops, meetings, videotapes, or one-to-one consultations within 30 days after employment

Aide/assistant teacher qualifications

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Have at least an 8th grade education
  • Work under the supervision of a qualified childcare worker/teacher
  • Not be counted in the required staff:child ratio

Staffing

Staff to child ratio shall be:

Age

Staff to child ratio

0 up to 18 months

1 to 5

18 months up to 2½ years

1 to 7

24 months up to 36 months

1 to 8

2½ years up to 4 years

1 to 11

4 years up to school age

1 to 18

School age up to 8 years

1 to 21

8 years and older

1 to 22

 

Family daycare homes and group daycare homes

Family daycare home and group daycare home requirements summary 

  • Child care must be provided within the family home and not in a separate building
  • You must get a written statement from the property owner granting permission to operate a childcare home if you use a rental property
  • You must have a written statement of compliance with applicable zoning requirements
  • You must have a written inspection report from the fire and health departments
  • The home must be maintained in a clean and safe condition
  • The home must have a crib, playpen, bed, or cot for each child who requires rest or sleep during care
  • Must provide a medical report
  • Clearance of State Central Registry on child abuse/neglect
  • Criminal history background information checks

Applicant requirements

  • Be at least 19 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or general education diploma
  • Submit to the department current infant-child (pediatric) CPR certification and a current first aid certificate
  • Have at least 24 hours of training in child care and development through participation in workshops, meetings, recorded/printed materials, or one-to-one consultation

Capacity requirements

  • Family daycare home: Maximum of six children
  • Group daycare home: At least seven children but not more than 12

Ratios

  • Where seven or more children are present: At least two adult caregivers are required
  • Where children are younger than 12 months: At least one caregiver for three children must be present

Childcare license application in Alabama

Below are the steps to take when applying for a childcare license in Alabama:

Step 1: Complete and submit an application form

Call the Alabama Department of Human Resources Office of Child Care Licensing at (866) 528-1694. They’ll email you a packet of information upon request. 

Application for a license to operate a daycare center/nighttime center

If you are opening a daycare center, you must include the following information with your application: 

  • Copy of written operating policies
  • Copy of policies regarding charges and services
  • Name, address, and telephone number of Board Chairman or President of the corporation, if applicable
  • Names and addresses of the Executive Board, if applicable
  • Certified copy of Incorporation papers, if applicable
  • Copy of By-Laws and Constitution, if applicable
  • A written fire department inspection report
  • A written health department inspection report
  • A current health department food permit
  • A written statement of compliance with applicable zoning requirements
  • Floor plan of the building
  • Copy of the center’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan
  • Request for clearance of State Central Registry on child abuse/neglect
  • Criminal history background information check
  • Medical examination report, including TB test results, for the center director
  • Verification of education and training for the center director

Application for a license to operate a daycare home

If you plan to operate a family daycare home or group daycare home, you will need to include the following information with your application:

  • Written permission from property owner if rental property is being used for child care
  • Written statement of compliance with applicable zoning requirements
  • Written inspection report from the fire department with no violations
  • Copy of written statement of the rules and policies of the home
  • Copy of the home’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan
  • Request for clearance of State Central Registry on child abuse/neglect
  • Criminal history background information check
  • Medical examination report, including TB test results, for applicant and each household member who lives in the home
  • Current immunization certificate for each child (two months to five years old) who resides in the home
  • Verification of education
  • Verification of training for applicant
  • Current CPR and first aid certificate

Step 2: Prepare for facility inspection

The Department of Human Resources will send a representative to inspect your facility and all personnel for compliance upon receiving your application. They’ll issue a license valid for two years if you meet all minimum license requirements. They can also issue a six month permit if you don’t meet all the requirements. If your application is denied, the department will notify you in writing, indicating the reasons for their decision.

Starting a daycare business can be a fulfilling career, but it can also be challenging if you are a first-time business owner. Manage your day-to-day operations and save time on administrative tasks with a tool like brightwheel’s center management feature. It’s a complete preschool and childcare administrative software that will streamline your center’s admissions process, record keeping, and reporting. 

Whether you open a center-based program or start a preschool at home, it’s important to choose a memorable daycare name for your business and employ the best marketing strategies to attract new families to your center.

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Alabama

The daycare license is valid for only two years, so you must renew it to remain compliant. Submit your license renewal application to the department at least 30 days before the current license expires. Other compliance requirements include:

  • The number of children in the facility must never exceed the number specified on the license
  • The current license must be posted where parents or guardians can easily see it
  • The license must not be transferred to another person or location

Start a daycare in Alabama

Starting a daycare business in Alabama requires careful planning and understanding of licensing requirements. With thorough research and organization, you can complete this necessary first step and focus on the next stage of growing your business.

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