banner svg (1)

How to Start a Daycare in Florida

 A complete guide on how to apply for a daycare license in Florida.

How to Start a Daycare in Florida

How to Start a Daycare in Florida

Starting a daycare in Florida can be a fulfilling career path for people passionate about working with young children. It’s not only an opportunity to impact the lives of children positively but also an opportunity to run your business and be your own boss. 

However, starting a daycare in Florida requires thoughtful planning and compliance with state regulations. This guide will elaborate on the steps to start a daycare in Florida, including obtaining the necessary licenses and certifications and the requirements for your staff. 

Read on to learn more about the process of starting a successful daycare in Florida, whether you’re an experienced early childhood educator or a first-time business owner.

Do I need a childcare license in Florida?

According to Florida childcare regulations, you need a childcare license in Florida if you intend to operate a childcare facility with more than five children unrelated to you at a fee. You don’t need a license for the following childcare arrangements:

  • Public and nonpublic schools and their integral programs
  • Summer camps with full-time resident children
  • Summer day camps
  • Bible schools conducted during vacation periods
  • Operators of transient establishments, providing childcare services primarily for the guests

The Department of Children and Families Office of Child Care Regulation is responsible for childcare licensing in 62 of 67 Florida counties. The other five counties—Broward, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Pinellas, and Sarasota—have a local licensing agency to regulate childcare licensing programs in their jurisdictions.

The department regulates five childcare programs: Child Care Facilities, Licensed Family Day Care Homes, Large Family Child Care Homes, School-Age Child Care Facilities, and Child Care Facilities for Mildly Ill Children:

  • Child Care Facilities: Provide care for more than five children unrelated to the provider and receives a payment fee
  • Licensed Family Day Care Homes: An occupied residence in which childcare is regularly provided for children from at least two unrelated families and receives a payment fee
  • Large Family Child Care Homes: An occupied residence in which childcare is regularly provided for children from at least two unrelated families and receives a payment fee, and has at least two full-time childcare personnel on the premises
  • School-Age Child Care Facilities: Provide care only to school-aged children before or after school
  • Child Care Facilities for Mildly Ill Children: Provide care for young children with a short-term illness or symptoms of illness or disability

Childcare licensing requirements in Florida

Child Care Facility

Age requirement

  • Operator must be at least 21 years old

Training and credentialing requirements

  • The facility director must have an active director credential
  • Childcare personnel must complete the department’s 40-hour introductory Child Care Facility training
  • Other training requirements include early literacy training, safe sleep/shaken baby syndrome training, first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), fire extinguisher training, and annual in-service training

Background screening requirements

All daycare center employees must submit to a background check. According to the Florida childcare regulations, daycare center employees must undergo two types of background screening: initial and re-screening.

The initial background screening is a prerequisite for employment. Re-screening is often done after five years and is mandatory for all daycare personnel. You can learn more about background screening requirements here.

Licensed capacity

  • The total number of children in care cannot exceed the facility’s licensed capacity
  • Must have at least 35 square feet of usable indoor floor space for each child and a minimum of 45 square feet of outdoor play space per child
  • A childcare facility with a capacity of one to 15 children is required to have one toilet and one wash basin and must have an additional toilet and wash basin for every additional 30 children

Staff-to-child ratios

  • Infants under one year: One staff member for every four infants (1:4) 
  • One year olds: One staff member for every six children (1:6)
  • Two year olds: One staff member for every 11 children (1:11)
  • Three year olds: One staff member for every 15 children (1:15)
  • Four year olds: One staff member for every 20 children (1:20)
  • Five year olds: One staff member for every 25 children (1:25)

Childcare licensing fees

  • Licensed childcare facilities must pay a $1 per child licensing fee based on the facility’s licensed capacity. However, the minimum fee is $25 per facility, and the maximum is $100 per facility.

Family Day Care Home

General requirements

  • The operator must be 18 years old
  • The daycare operation must be in the home where the operator resides 
  • The operator cannot work outside the home during the business hours of operation
  • Must have at least one other adult to substitute in case of emergency
  • Must provide a completed health and safety checklist to every family annually
  • Must verify the local zoning ordinances allow you to operate a daycare business in your home

Training and credentialing requirements

The following trainings are mandatory prior to licensure:

  • The department’s 30-clock-hour Family Child Care Home training
  • Training course in early literacy and language development of children ages birth through five years
  • Pediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) procedures and first aid training
  • Other training requirements include safe sleep/shaken baby syndrome training, fire extinguisher training, and annual in-service training

Background screening requirements

Two types of background screening are required to start and operate a home daycare facility:

  • Initial screening subjects operators, household members, substitutes, volunteers, and other employees to a level 2 background screening clearance from the department before obtaining a license
  • Re-screening subjects operators, household members, substitutes, volunteers, and other employees to a mandatory five-year re-screening

Licensed capacity

A family daycare home can care for one of the following groups of children, including children under 13 years old who are related to the operator:

  • A maximum of four children from birth to 12 months old
  • A maximum of three children from birth to 12 months old, and other children for a maximum of 6 children
  • A maximum of six preschool children if all are older than 12 months
  • A maximum of ten children, if no more than 5 are preschool age and, of those five, no more than two are under 12 months old

Childcare licensing fees:

  • $50

Large Family Child Care

Basic requirements

  • Operator must first have been licensed as a family day care home for two consecutive years within five years of the date of the application for a license to operate 
  • Operator must have a valid Staff Credential for one year prior to licensure
  • Operator must be at least 21 years old and reside in the home
  • Operator cannot work outside the home during the business hours of operation
  • Operator must have at least one full-time employee, 18 years of age or older, during all hours of operation
  • Current approved fire inspection

Training and credentialing requirements

The following trainings are mandatory prior licensure:

  • The department’s 30-clock-hour Large Family Child Care Home training
  • Training course in early literacy and language development of children ages birth through five years
  • Pediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) procedures and first aid training
  • Operator must have an active staff credential verification confirmation and maintain an active staff credential
  • Other training requirements include safe sleep/shaken baby syndrome training, fire extinguisher training, and annual in-service training

Background screening requirements

Two types of background screening are required to start and operate a large family child care home:

  • Initial screening subjects operators, household members, substitutes, volunteers, and other employees to a level 2 background screening clearance from the department before obtaining a license
  • Re-screening subjects operators, household members, substitutes, volunteers, and other employees to a mandatory five-year re-screening

Licensed capacity and ratio requirements

A large family child care home can care for one of the following groups of children, including children under 13 years old who are related to the operator:

  • A maximum of eight children from birth to two years old
  • A maximum of 12 children, with no more than four children under two years old
  • Must have at least 35 square feet of usable indoor floor space per child
  • Must have a minimum of 270 square feet of outdoor play space per child (does not apply to large family child care homes that only provide infant care)

Childcare licensing fees

  • $60

Childcare license application in Florida

Here are the steps to take when applying for a childcare license in Florida:

Step 1: Complete and submit the license application

Complete and submit the appropriate application form for your childcare program.

The department will inform you within 30 days if your application is incomplete or if any additional information is required.

Step 2: Prepare for a pre-licensing inspection

After you submit your application, the department will inspect your facility before issuing a license to determine compliance with state health and safety standards. The department will guide you on meeting the requirements if you don’t comply with the regulations. You’ll be eligible for a second facility inspection if you’re compliant.

Step 3: Wait for approval

Your license will be approved within 90 days after your application is processed. 

After securing your license, one of the next steps to starting your daycare business involves setting up organized systems and processes for your administrative tasks. A tool like brightwheel’s center management software saves you time by consolidating your operations in one centralized place and streamlines your admissions process, record keeping, and reporting.

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Florida

In addition to writing a daycare business plan, choosing the best preschool name, and implementing marketing strategies, you’ll also need to keep your license up to date.

All childcare licenses are valid for one year, so you must renew them annually to comply with Florida daycare regulations. The department will send you a renewal reminder at least 30 days before the current license expires. You must complete and submit the license renewal form by the 45th day after receiving the renewal notice.

Start a daycare business in Florida

Starting a daycare business in Florida is an opportunity for you to positively impact the lives of young children while also running your business. It’s essential to plan and comply with state daycare regulations, such as obtaining the necessary licenses and certifications, hiring qualified personnel, and meeting facility and safety standards. With careful planning, you can navigate all of Florida’s licensing regulations and focus on the next stage of your business.

Subscribe to the brightwheel blog