Opening a childcare center in Georgia requires you to follow strict guidelines set by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. Whether you want to start a home-based or center-based program, it’s important to plan accordingly and understand all the licensing regulations. Read on to learn more about childcare licensing requirements and how to start a daycare in Georgia.
Do I need a childcare license in Georgia?
To start a daycare center in Georgia, you must hold a valid license.
There are two license options available depending on the type of center you plan to open.
Family Child Care Learning Home
A Family Child Care Learning Home (FCCLH), operates from a private residence. With this type of license, you may care for three to six children under 18 for less than 24 hours per day.
Child Care Learning Center
A Child Care Learning Center (CCLC) license applies to your center if you provide care for seven or more children under 18 for less than 24 hours per day. You must operate out of a facility that's not a private residence.
Georgia requires you to carry a license to ensure your services are appropriate and in the best interest of the children in your care. This includes your facilities, activities, and overall program. Licensure also ensures families know which daycare centers are best for their children.
Before you start writing your business plan, marketing your center, or choosing a name, you’ll need to determine the type of childcare facility you’ll open and examine specific licensing requirements.
Childcare licensing requirements in Georgia
To obtain your childcare license in Georgia, you must meet several requirements.
Family Child Care Learning Home provider licensing requirements
To become a licensed Family Child Care Learning Home provider in Georgia, you must:
- Be 21 years of age
- Meet Georgia's minimum educational requirements for providers by obtaining one or more of these approved childcare credentials:
- A Technical Certificate of Credit (TCC) in Early Childhood Education
- A Technical College Diploma (TCD) in Early Childhood Education
- An Associate degree in Early Childhood Education
- A Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education
- A Master's degree in Early Childhood Education
- An up-to-date Child Development Associate (CDA) professional designation from the Council for Professional Recognition
- Paraprofessional Certificate from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission
- Attend a Licensure Orientation Meeting (LOM)
- Obtain 10 hours of pre-service training:
- Early Learning Standards (2 hours)
- Communications (2 hours)
- Leadership & Professional Development (2 hours)
- Business Management (2 hours)
- Advocacy for Parents & Children (2 hours)
- Secure CPR & First Aid certifications
- Complete the Criminal Record Acknowledgement Form
- Get a fingerprint criminal record check for all adults over 17 residing in the home and other adults providing care
- Submit a copy of your business license or a letter stating no business license is required
- Submit a copy of your zoning approval letter or letter stating no zoning is required
Child Care Learning Center licensing requirements
If you’re opening a Child Care Learning Center, you must meet all of the same requirements to open a FCCLH, along with the following:
- The director must complete a 40-hour director training course approved by the Department
- Meet staff-to-child ratios as follows:
- 1 adult for every 6 children (birth to 18 months old - not walking)
- 1 adult for every 8 children (1-year-old - walking)
- 1 adult for every 10 children (2 years old)
- 1 adult for every 15 children (3 years old)
- 1 adult for every 18 children (4 years old)
- 1 adult for every 20 children (5 years old)
- 1 adult for every 25 children (6 years old)
- Meet capacity requirements as outlined in the applicant’s guide to licensing
Childcare license application in Georgia
There’s a detailed application process to secure your FCCLH or CCCL childcare license.
Family Child Care Learning Home license application process
Step 1: Become familiar with the application process
Step 2: Attend a licensing orientation meeting (LOM)
There is a free, mandatory six-hour meeting to secure your license. You can attend online in a webinar format or in-person, depending on what's available. The orientation teaches you how to manage your business and ensures your facility complies with state laws. You can register to attend here.
Step 3: Complete certifications and courses
You'll need CPR and First Aid certifications and 10 hours of online training courses. During these courses, you’ll learn about business management, leadership, communication, professional development, early learning standards, and advocacy for your children and families.
Step 4: Learn Georgia childcare laws
To operate a childcare facility in Georgia, you must know the laws for FCCLHs. When your facility is open, an inspection can occur at any time. You’re expected to be compliant with all rules at all times.
Step 5: Submit your application
Once you’re ready to submit your application, it should include the following:
- A signed and completed FCCLH licensing application
- Documentation or evidence of having completed the education requirements described above
- A criminal record check acknowledgement form
- A signed and notarized affidavit indicating your lawful presence in the United States
- Documentation of having completed the required pre-service training
- A completed copy of the FCCLH rules and regulations checklist provided with the licensing application package
- A copy of a zoning approval letter from the appropriate jurisdiction permitting the home to be licensed as an FCCLH
- A copy of your business license or a letter stating that you don't require a business license for your childcare operation
- Proof of ownership of the residence, or a copy of your lease/rental agreement indicating that you’re allowed to operate a childcare business
- A copy of your water/sewage bill that identifies the water source for your home. If your home uses a septic tank, you'll need a local county health department letter indicating approval for your childcare business
- A readable floor plan of your residence
- A copy of a fire inspection for your home and certificate of occupancy, if applicable
Step 6: Complete your inspection visit
Once you submit your application and it meets all requirements, it's time for your site visit. A DECAL consultant will ensure your home complies with Georgia state laws. They'll also want to review your qualifications and those employed by the childcare center.
Step 7: Receive your FCCLH license and pay fees
After you complete the application successfully, you'll receive your FCCLH license from Georgia. At this time, you must pay your $50 non-refundable license fee. Your license will remain valid for one year.
Child Care Learning Center license application process
Step 1: Become familiar with the application process
Step 2: Attend the CCLC licensure orientation meeting
The first part of the application process is to complete your Child Care Learning Center licensure orientation meeting. You'll register through the Georgia Professional Development System for Early Childhood Educators (GaPDS).
Step 3: Complete the director training course
Next, you'll begin your 40-hour director training course that’s required to be a director by the state of Georgia. This is a $200 program that’s available online and in-person. You’ll cover various topics including fiscal management, licensing regulations, curriculum and child development, family engagement, and marketing. You can work on this course as you complete the other items to receive your license.
Step 4: Prepare your facility for compliance
You must determine which state and local agencies have jurisdiction over your facility. The fire, zoning, building, and health agencies will determine whether your facilities comply with Georgia state laws.
Step 5: Submit application part A
The first part of your application requires you to provide these items:
- Floor plan
- Site plan
- Operations plan
- Zoning letter
- Certificate of completion from your licensure orientation meeting
- Proof of property ownership or a lease
- LLC information, if applicable
- Any other items included in the checklist for your application
Step 6: Submit application part B
Once the first part of your application is approved, it's time to submit part B. You'll need to submit these items:
- Results of criminal record checks for all staff members
- Proof of the director's credentials or education
- Map directions to the facility
- Certificate of completion for the 40-hour director's training course
- Confirmation of public sewage and water or a letter from the local health department stating there's safe drinking water and/or the approval for septic tank usage at the center
- Completed vehicle inspection form for any vehicles used to transport children
- A completed copy of the Initial Licensing Study Staff Profile form for staff members
- Certificate of occupancy/approval from state/local agencies for building and fire
Step 7: Complete the onsite inspection
Once your application part B has been reviewed, an Applicant Services Unit (ASU) consultant will complete their onsite inspection to ensure your facility meets Georgia childcare laws.
Step 8: Pay licensing fees
If your onsite inspection is successful, you'll receive your permission to operate. Next, you'll need to pay your annual licensing fee ranging from $50-$250, depending on how many children are at your facility, within 30 days of receiving your license. Once you've paid the fees, you'll receive the CCLC license for the state of Georgia.
After you’ve completed all the steps to obtain the appropriate childcare license, you can move onto the next phase of operating your business. A tool like brightwheel’s center management software helps you simplify administrative tasks and saves you time by streamlining your center’s admissions process, record keeping, and reporting.
How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Georgia
Once you receive your childcare license in Georgia, you must remain compliant to keep it. Here are some details to keep in mind.
- License term: Whether you have an FCCL or CCL, it's valid for 12 months before renewal.
- Ongoing training: All staff members must obtain 10 hours of training related to the care of children annually. These trainings can cover child development, early childhood education, or related topics.
- License fee: You must pay your license fee annually, ranging from $50-$250.
- Annual inspections: A state inspector will visit your daycare center annually to ensure it complies with all rules and regulations.
Start a daycare business in Georgia
Owning a childcare center is a rewarding experience. Whether it's a home-based or center-based program, receiving your license is the first step toward starting your business and impacting the lives of children and families in your community.