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How to Start a Daycare in Idaho

Learn how to start a daycare in Idaho and keep your center compliant with all licensing requirements and regulations.

How to Start a Daycare in Idaho

How to Start a Daycare in Idaho

Opening a daycare is a rewarding business venture that requires dedication, careful planning, and hard work. Starting your own childcare business allows you to make a lifelong impact on the children of your community by enriching their lives with quality care and education. 

Before you can open a daycare in Idaho, you need to meet specific licensing requirements. This article explains the different types of childcare licenses in Idaho as well as the licensing requirements, application process, and how to stay compliant with regulations.

A young girl playing with wooden toy animals on a table.


Do I need a childcare license in Idaho?

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare requires that childcare programs that provide care to seven or more children and receive compensation become licensed childcare providers.

Religious schools, day camps, and individuals who care for a neighbor's, relative's, or friend's child do not need a childcare license.

There are different types of childcare licenses required by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare:

  • Daycare center: A place or facility that provides care for 13 or more children. This includes large centers that provide care for more than 25 children and small centers that provide care for 13 to 25 children.
  • Group daycare facility: A place or facility that provides care for seven to twelve children.
  • Family daycare home: A home, place, or facility that provides care for six or fewer children. This type of facility is not required to be licensed, however the provider may voluntarily elect to be licensed by the department. 

Childcare licensing requirements in Idaho

Before starting a daycare center in Idaho, providers must satisfy the Department of Health and Welfare's licensing and training requirements to receive a daycare license.

Provider requirements

All childcare license applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Provider must be at least 18 years old.

  • All childcare center applicants, staff, and any household members over the age of 13 must pass a background check.

  • There must be at least one staff member on the premises who is certified in pediatric CPR and first aid.

  • Staff members, including owners or operators, must complete four hours of ongoing training related to child development every 12 months.

  • Providers must keep thorough records on staff members, children receiving care, and individuals over 13 years old who have unsupervised direct contact with children or are regularly on the premises.

Facility requirements

Childcare facilities must pass a health and safety inspection and meet certain health and safety guidelines:

  • The facility must have a function telephone and adequate fire and smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and exits. 
  • You cannot provide care in a basement or second story without an approved fire exit.
  • Sleeping, play areas, and restrooms must be maintained in a safe, sanitary condition.
  • Water hazards like pools, hot tubs, or other bodies of water must be inaccessible to children and fenced off. 
  • If you are on well water, your local health district will need to confirm water is from an approved source and free of contamination.
  • All facilities are required to have a disaster and emergency preparedness plan.

Ratio requirements

In accordance with fire code standards, the department determines the maximum allowable child:staff ratio based on a point system. 

  • At least one adult employee must be present at all times when children are in attendance
  • The maximum allowable child:staff ratio is a maximum of twelve (12) points per staff member using the following point system which is based on the age of each child in attendance:
    • Each child under the age of 24 months is equal to two (2) points
    • Each child from 24 months to under 36 months old is equal to one and one-half (1 ½) points
    • Each child from 36 months to under five years old is equal to one (1) point
    • Each child from five years to under 13 years old is equal to one-half (½) point

Whether you are starting a preschool at home or managing a larger facility, a tool like brightwheel's center management feature can help you simplify your administrative tasks and give you easy access to enrollment information, staff room assignments, and staff and child records.

Childcare license application in Idaho

Before you can operate a childcare program, you must complete the license application process.

The best licensing option for your daycare will depend on your business needs. Before you submit a childcare licensing application, consider your goals, your business plan, and the needs of your community.

You have six months to complete the application process after IdahoSTARS receives the completed, signed application. You must submit all required documentation at least 45 days before the six-month deadline. Applicants who have had their application denied cannot reapply for a license for one year from the date of denial.

Follow these steps to complete your application:

Step 1: Pass criminal history and background checks

After completing a background check, obtain clearance from the Department of Health and Welfare's Criminal History Unit. Individuals ages 13 to 17 also need to complete a check of Juvenile Justice Records.

Step 2: Complete and submit your application

Complete all fields in the childcare licensing application. Incomplete applications will not be processed. Mail your completed application and documentation to IdahoSTARS Vendor Specialists, 4355 W. Emerald Street, Suite 250, Boise, ID, 83706, or email the application to

Step 3: Submit required documentation

Each county will have different compliance requirements that you must submit with your application. Examples include a special use permit, home occupation certificate, or business license. You must also submit proof of current fire and liability insurance coverage for the business, proof of a recently passed fire safety inspection, proof of completed required training hours, and proof of current pediatric rescue breathing, pediatric CPR, and pediatric first aid treatment certifications. 

Step 4: Pass inspection

Once your application has been received, IdahoSTARS will make a referral to your local public health district for a health inspection. After you have passed a health inspection, your local public health district will contact you to collect a non-refundable application fee.

IdahoSTARS processes all childcare license applications and can answer any questions and assist you with your application.

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Idaho

After you receive your daycare license, you can choose a name for your childcare business and develop your marketing strategies to enroll families. You’ll also need to stay in compliance with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare regulations by completing annual inspections and renewing your license on time.

License renewal

You must renew your daycare license by submitting an application and the required documentation at least 45 days before your current license expires. Renewal applications that haven't been completed by the license expiration date may be terminated. Applicants who have been terminated can't operate a center or group facility until a new application process has been completed and a childcare license has been issued.


You must pass annual health and safety inspections and fire safety inspections. During the health and safety inspection, an inspector will make sure your facility meets health and safety guidelines, your staff members have received proper training, you are adhering to proper child:staff ratios, the children in your care are healthy, and you have a disaster preparedness plan.

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 Idaho to make informed decisions about which ones to apply for.

Final thoughts

Obtaining the proper license is the first step in operating a childcare business. With research and adherence to state requirements you’ll be ready to start a program that enriches children’s lives for many years.

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