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How to Start a Daycare in Connecticut

Learn more about the rules and regulations to become a licensed childcare provider in Connecticut.

How to Start a Daycare in Connecticut

How to Start a Daycare in Connecticut

Starting a daycare is an exciting venture. It can be a fulfilling and profitable business opportunity that also provides a much-needed service to working families in your community. This is especially true in Connecticut, where 44 percent of the state's residents live in a "childcare desert", or a location without childcare options. If you're wondering how to start a daycare in Connecticut, there are many licensing requirements to consider depending on the type of childcare program you open. This article will discuss licensing requirements, the application process, and how to remain compliant. 

Do I need a childcare license in Connecticut?

There are several steps involved with opening a daycare facility. From creating a business plan and brainstorming your marketing strategies to choosing a business name, there are many factors to consider before opening for business. After determining whether you’d like to open a home-based program or center-based program, it's time to understand what licensing is required and how to obtain it.

State licensing requirements for daycares vary, with each state setting its own training and licensing regulations. Fully understanding what it takes to open a daycare in addition to your state’s regulations ensures that you remain compliant and create a safe and educational environment for children. In Connecticut, a license is required to own and operate a childcare facility when caring for children unrelated to you. 

The Division of Licensing licenses over 4,000 childcare programs in Connecticut, overseeing the licensing program for child care centers, group child care homes, youth camps, and family child care homes. According to the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC), the different types of licensed programs are:

Family child care homes

Family child care homes are private homes that provide care for up to six children who aren't in school full-time. 

Group child care homes

Group child care homes provide regular care for no less than seven and no more than twelve related or unrelated children or meet the definition of a family child care home but operate in a facility other than a private home. 

Child care centers

Child care centers provide regular care to more than 12 related or unrelated children outside of their homes.

Youth camps

Youth camps are programs or organized activities that operate during school vacations or on weekends. Camps may accommodate five or more children between the ages of 3 and 16.

Some child care services are exempt from licensing requirements. A few of these services that fall under this exemption include those that are:

  • Administered by a public school system or a municipal agency or department
  • Administered by a private school 
  • Classes in music, dance, drama, or art that are no longer than two hours in length; classes that teach a single skill that are no longer than two hours in length; library programs that are no longer than two hours in length; scouting; programs that offer exclusively sports activities; rehearsals; academic tutoring programs; or programs exclusively for children 13 years of age or older
  • Informal arrangements among neighbors and formal or informal arrangements among relatives in their own homes, provided the relative is limited to any of the following degrees of kinship by blood, marriage or court order to the child being cared for: grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, aunt, or uncle

Childcare licensing requirements in Connecticut

As you go through the steps to start a childcare center, it's important to familiarize yourself with the requirements for the type of center you plan to open. Here are the licensing requirements for each childcare center type in Connecticut.

Family child care homes

Summary of center requirements

Before the inspection, you must:
  • Have an operable smoke detector on each level of the home 
  • Have a mounted 5lb ABC fire extinguisher 
  • Have a written evacuation plan identifying two safe and accessible escape routes
  • Have telephone and emergency phone numbers posted
  • Have all electrical cords/outlets protected
  • Have any weapons unloaded, stored, and locked away. They must also be separate from ammunition 
  • Ensure that the water temperature doesn’t exceed 120 degrees 
  • Ensure that you have a current rabies vaccination certificate for dogs and cats
  • Have a clean, sanitary home and equipment
  • Ensure dangerous items, such as sharp knives, scissors, razors, matches, tools,  and lawn and garden equipment, are inaccessible to children
  • Have protected stairways inside and outside
  • Consider regulatory requirements for the outdoor space you wish to use. Fencing may not be required (your licensing specialist will help you with this during the initial inspection)
  • Undergo a lead water test 
  • Undergo a well water test (if applicable) 
  • Undergo an auxiliary heating device inspection report (if applicable) 
  • Have a first aid kit on hand in the home

Center director qualifications

  • Must be at least 20 years old to open a family child care center
  • Must complete certification from approved first aid training 
  • Must complete certification from approved CPR training 
  • Must complete background checks for yourself and all household members who are 18 or older
  • Must complete adult medical statements for all adult household members (must be done within the last twelve months prior to the application)
  • Must obtain Connecticut Health Assessment Records for household children under 18 (must be done within the last twelve months prior to the application)
  • Must have reference forms from three individuals (only one may be a relative)

Staff qualifications

  • Substitute providers must be at least 20 years or older to assume the provider's responsibilities in their absence and must meet the same qualifications as the provider (this includes CPR and first aid certification)
  • Assistants must be at least 18 years or older and may work alongside the provider
  • Substitutes and assistants must submit to a background check, provide references, and complete applications with OEC

Staffing ratios

  • A child to caregiver ratio of 6:1 for:
    • Children less than school age (with no more than two children under 18 months old)
    • Groups including at least three school-age children
    • Ages one to six (includes provider’s children not in school full time)
  • During the school year, family day care providers may have up to three additional school-age children, including the provider's own children, attending school full time who receive less than three hours of before- or after-school care. The provider's own school-age children under age 12 count toward the three-child limit. However, if the provider employs an OEC-approved assistant or substitute, the provider may care for up to nine children, even if none attend school full-time

Group child care homes and child care centers

Group child care homes and child care centers have the same requirements for obtaining a license. 

Summary of center requirements

  • Develop and implement a written plan that includes the services of a:
    • Early childhood educational consultant
    • Health consultant
    • Dental consultant
    • Social service consultant
    • Registered dietician (if applicable)
  • Complete a detailed floor plan for the facility 
  • Complete a lead water test for all water supplies 
  • Complete a bacterial and chemical test (if the water source is a well) 
  • Complete a radon test and post results (if the program is located in a basement level or ground floor)
  • Post snack and meal menus a week in advance
  • Post emergency plans (fire, weather, medical evacuation)
  • Post “No smoking” signs
  • Post agency inspection report
  • Post emergency telephone numbers
  • Post diapering and hand washing procedures

Center director qualifications

  • Director must complete a three-credit course in the administration and supervision of early childhood programs
  • Must be at least 20 years old
  • Must have one of the following qualifications:
    • A high school diploma or equivalency certificate and at least one thousand and eighty (1,080) hours of documented supervised experience over a nine (9) month span of time, including working with children in a program with comparable standards in this or another state, serving children of the same ages and developmental stages, and one of the following: a current center-based Child Development Associate credential from the Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition, or twelve (12) credits in early childhood education or child development from an accredited institution
    • A high school diploma or equivalency certificate and at least one thousand and eighty (1,080) documented hours of experience over a nine (9) month span of time working with unrelated children of the same ages and developmental stages
    • A four (4) year college degree in early childhood education or child development from an accredited institution, and at least three hundred sixty (360) hours of documented supervised experience in working with unrelated children of the sames ages, and at least one (1) semester of student teaching with children of the same ages and developmental stages
  • Complete certification from approved first aid training 
  • Complete certification from approved CPR training

Staff qualifications

  • A designated head teacher must be on site for sixty percent (60%) of the time the child care center or group child care home is in operation on a weekly basis
  • Head teacher must be certified through the OEC
  • Complete background checks for all staff members

Staffing ratios

  • Children ages three and older: 10 children for 1 caregiver (10:1)
  • Children under three: Four children for 1 caregiver (4:1)

The interior of a modern preschool classroom with wooden furniture and colorful art supplies


Childcare license application in Connecticut

The license application fees and processes vary, depending on the license type. If you are planning to open a group child care home or child care center, the completed application must be submitted at least 60 days before your anticipated opening date. In addition, you must pay a non-refundable fee when applying. Use the checklists in the application packet to guarantee that all required certifications are completed and documentation is submitted. 

Here are the steps for completing a childcare license application in Connecticut:

Step 1: Learn about licensing and child care regulations

Visit the OEC website to watch videos and read information on opening a childcare center, maintaining compliance, and more.

Step 2: Complete your application

Family child care homes

If you’re opening a family child care home, the following information must be included with your application for a 4-year license:

  • Initial application fee of $40
  • Completed application fee form
  • Foster care verification form
  • Adult medical statement for child care
  • CT Early Childhood Health Assessment Record (for children ages birth to five) or Health Assessment Record (for school-age children)
  • References
  • Lead water test

Group child care homes and child care centers

If you’re opening a group child care home or child care center, the following must be included with your license application:

  • Initial application fee of $500 for child care centers and $250 for group child care homes
  • Completed application fee form
  • Affidavit
  • Property history form
  • Fire approval
  • Building approval
  • Zoning approval
  • Local health approval
  • Comprehensive lead inspection for buildings constructed before 1978
  • Days and weeks that the program’s scheduled to be closed
  • Staff work schedule
  • Head teacher verification
  • Organizational chart
  • Certificates for approved first aid training
  • Certificates for CPR training
  • Food service certificate
  • Floor plan (indoor)
  • Sketch (outdoor space) 
  • Water supply form
  • Radon test
  • Pool approval
  • Development of the following policies, plans, and procedures for your center to be reviewed during the inspection:
    • Discipline/behavior management
    • Closing time policy
    • Emergency protocols
    • Supervision
    • General operating policies
    • Personnel policies 

Step 3: Prepare for the inspection

Once your application is submitted and accepted, you’ll receive an email invite from the legal division to start the background check process. 

After the application is processed, a member of the OEC licensing staff will reach out to schedule an inspection. At this time, they'll review the facility and ensure adherence to all requirements, such as health and safety regulations and necessary signage postings.

Once you’ve completed the application and passed the inspection, then it’s time to consider the best tools for managing your center. Platforms such as brightwheel’s center management software can simplify administrative tasks and streamline your record keeping, reporting, and admissions processes. 

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Connecticut

All licensed childcare programs in Connecticut carry a four-year license. While you don't have to renew your license annually, you must renew it before the expiration date and keep it posted in your facility. You and your staff must also stay current on your certifications, including first aid and CPR. 

Compliance recommendations and requirements vary, depending on the facility type. 

Family child care homes

For your family child care home to maintain regulatory compliance, you must: 

  • Keep a current adult medical statement on file (every three years) 
  • Keep current first aid certification on file 
  • Keep current CPR certification on file 
  • Utilize only OEC-approved staff 
  • Maintain a clean and safe home 
  • Keep all hazards and toxins inaccessible to children 
  • Practice fire drills quarterly 
  • Keep emergency numbers current and posted 
  • Stay current on pets' rabies certification and protect children from them 
  • Maintain working carbon monoxide and smoke detectors 
  • Maintain licensed capacity at all times

Group child care homes and child care centers

Here are some guidelines for maintaining compliance for group child care homes and child care centers: 

  • Follow staffing requirements for all staff
  • Keep at least one person on-site during all operating hours, with proper certifications and training 
  • Keep facility clean and safe from hazards
  • Properly sign children in and out
  • Keep current documentation on all children

Funding resources for your childcare business

As you go through the licensing process, you may come across grants or other funding resources that can help fund your childcare business. A grant is an often overlooked financial resource given by a government agency or private foundation that does not need to be repaid. This makes them an attractive funding option if you are looking to expand or enhance the quality and accessibility of your program.

Grants provide funding that can be used towards a variety of purposes, such as improving facilities, purchasing new equipment or materials, or offering professional development opportunities for staff. The available resources vary by state so it is crucial to research and understand the grants for childcare providers in Connecticut to make informed decisions about which ones to apply for.

Start a daycare in Connecticut today

Opening a daycare requires detailed planning, training, and compliance with all regulatory steps. Understanding the process beforehand can help tremendously and ensure that you meet all the requirements to start a thriving business.

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