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How to Start a Daycare in Kentucky

Learn how to start a daycare that meets Kentucky's licensing requirements.

How to Start a Daycare in Kentucky

How to Start a Daycare in Kentucky

Starting a daycare allows you to impact the lives of children in your community and help them learn and grow. Before opening a daycare, you need to consider the type of facility that is right for you and the licensing requirements for your particular state. Follow this guide to learn more about Kentucky's childcare licensing requirements, how to apply for a license, and tips to remain compliant.

Do I need a childcare license in Kentucky?

The Kentucky Office of the Inspector General's Division of Regulated Child Care requires that educators acquire a childcare license to start a daycare business. Kentucky's childcare licensing requirements and regulations help educators provide quality child care that supports children's health, growth, and development.

There are four childcare businesses regulated under Kentucky law:

  • Licensed early childhood facility type I: Provides childcare services for four or more children in a non-residential setting or 13 or more children in a residential setting.
  • Licensed early childhood facility type II: Provides child care for seven to 12 children, including children related to the licensee.
  • Certified family child care home: Provides care for up to 10 children, including no more than six unrelated children and four related children in a caregiver's home.
  • Registered early childhood professional: A family member, friend, or neighbor who cares for children in their own home or the child's home. A registered early childhood provider may not care for more than three children that they are not related to or more than six children in a sibling group.

The Kentucky Division of Regulated Child Care does not regulate providers caring for up to three children who are not related to them. Providers who care for more than three children who are not related to them must be certified or licensed unless they fall into an exempt category.

Group of preschool children outside, raising their hands in the air.

Source

Childcare licensing requirements in Kentucky

Daycare facilities in Kentucky must satisfy the Division of Child Care's licensing requirements to receive a daycare license. In addition to a license, you will also need a solid business plan that explains your center’s mission, vision, and values. Knowing the purpose that drives your business will help you create marketing strategies to target prospective families in your community who can benefit from your childcare services.  

Licensed type I and type II early childhood facility licensing requirements

Director qualifications

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Complete child development training
  • Have one of the following credentials:
    • A master’s degree in education or a child development field
    • A bachelor’s degree in education or a child development field
    • A master’s degree or bachelor’s degree in a field other than education or child development and 12 clock hours of child development training
    • An associate’s degree in early childhood education and development
    • An associate’s degree in a field other than early childhood education and development and 12 clock hours of child development training, and two years of documented paid experience working directly with children
    • A child development associate’s degree plus one year of paid experience working with children in a school-based program, an early childhood development program, or a licensed or certified childcare program

Staff member qualifications

  • Be free of active tuberculosis and provide confirmation that one is free of tuberculosis infection from a healthcare provider every two years
  • Complete 15 hours of training annually
  • Complete six hours of orientation training and one-and-a-half hours of pediatric abusive head trauma training
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Have a Commonwealth Childcare Credential

Staff-to-child ratios and group sizes

Licensed type I and type II early childhood facilities must maintain specific staff-to-child ratios. Type I childcare centers must also maintain specific group size requirements. The age of the youngest child in a mixed-age group determines its ratio and group size requirements.

Age of children

Staff-to-child ratio

Maximum group size (type I childcare centers)

Infants under 12 months

1 staff member for every 5 children (1:5)

10

Young toddlers from 12 to 24 months

1 staff member for every 6 children (1:6)

12

Older toddlers from 24 to 36 months

1 staff member for every 10 children (1:10)

20

Preschoolers from 3 to 4 years

1 staff member for every 12 children (1:12)

24

Preschoolers from 4 to 5 years

1 staff member for every 14 children (1:14)

28

School-age children from 5 to 7 years old

1 staff member for every 15 children (1:15)

30

School-age children over 7 years old (before and after school only)

1 staff member for every 25 children (1:25)

30

School-age children over 7 years old (full day of care)

1 staff member for every 20 children (1:20)

30

 

Physical space and activity requirements

  • Indoor and outdoor play spaces where children can make use of their large and small muscles must be provided
  • Smoking is only permitted in designated outdoor areas, and never in the presence of a child
  • Children must be provided with options for a variety of creative activities and learning experiences, including dramatic play, stories and books, and multicultural exposure
  • Children must be given a balance of active and quiet play and a balance of individual and group play
  • Screen time is prohibited for children under 2 years old

Health and safety requirements

  • Children may not be subject to corporal physical discipline
  • Children may not be subject to loud, profane, humiliating, or abusive language
  • Children must be helped with personal care and hygiene based on their developmental skills
  • A staff member who is suspected of having a communicable disease shall not perform duties that could cause transmission of the disease
  • Children must be given opportunities to practice developmentally-appropriate self-care and hygienic procedures, such as hand washing and toileting
  • Cleaning supplies, pesticides, flammable liquids, matches, lighters, and staff members’ personal belongings and medications must be inaccessible to children

Certified family child care home licensing requirements

A certified family child care home provider must display the certificate of operation in a prominent place within the residence in which care is provided.

Provider qualifications

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school diploma, GED, or Commonwealth Child Care Credential
  • Be certified in infant and child CPR and first aid
  • Complete at least six hours of training, including first aid, CPR, and pediatric abusive head trauma training
  • Not be employed somewhere else during the childcare center’s hours of operation

Assistant qualifications

An assistant at a certified family childcare home must be supervised by a certified provider.

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school diploma, GED, or Commonwealth Child Care Credential
  • Be certified in infant and child CPR and first aid
  • Complete at least six hours of training, including first aid, CPR, and pediatric abusive head trauma training

Capacity requirements

In a certified family child care home, care cannot exceed six unrelated children or four related children in addition to six unrelated children for a maximum of 10 children at any time. Children who are considered related have the following relationships with the caregiver: child, grandchild, niece, nephew, sibling, step-child or child in legal custody of the provider. 

Physical space and activity requirements

  • Indoor areas must allow for at least 35 square feet of space per child
  • Facility must be clean, uncluttered, and free of insects and rodents
  • Provider must create planned daily programs of developmentally-appropriate activities
  • Stationary outdoor play equipment must be safe, securely anchored, and developmentally appropriate

Health and safety requirements

  • The facility must have adequate heating, cooling, light, and ventilation
  • Each floor of the facility that is used for child care must have at least one unblocked exit to the outdoors, and at least one smoke detector and fire extinguisher. The facility must also have a carbon monoxide detector if it uses fuel-burning appliances or has an attached garage
  • Areas of the home that are accessible to children must be free of harmful items
  • Alcohol must be kept out of reach and sight of children in care and cannot be consumed by anyone on the premises during the facility’s hours of operation 

Registered early childhood professional licensing requirements

Provider qualifications

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school diploma, GED, or Commonwealth Child Care Credential
  • Complete six hours of training in health, safety, and sanitation, recognition of child abuse and neglect, and developmentally appropriate childcare practice
  • Be free of tuberculosis and in good general health

Building requirements

  • The home and each play area must be safe and have adequate heat, light, and ventilation
  • Each floor of the facility that is used for child care must have at least one unblocked exit to the outdoors, and at least one smoke detector and fire extinguisher. The facility must also have a carbon monoxide detector if it uses fuel-burning appliances or has an attached garage
  • Areas of the home that are accessible to children must be free of harmful items

Health and safety requirements

  • Firearms and ammunition must be locked in separate secure locations that are not accessible to children
  • The home must have at least one working telephone with a residential line or active mobile service
  • There must be an accessible list of emergency telephone numbers, including the numbers for the police, fire station, emergency medical services, and poison control center
  • Pets or livestock may not be left alone with children

The Family Child Care Network (FCCN) of Kentucky can help you open and maintain your certified family child care home or become a registered early childhood professional. FCCN also provides technical assistance and training. Email FCCN or call toll-free at (800) 621-5908 to reach the correct specialist in your area.

Childcare license applications in Kentucky

Licensed type I and type II early childhood facility application

Follow these steps to obtain a childcare license for your early childhood facility type I or type II: 

Step 1: Schedule a meeting with a Child Care Aware health and safety coach

Child Care Aware of Kentucky offers free coaching sessions for prospective childcare providers. These sessions teach childcare providers how to:

  • Obtain and maintain a rating in Kentucky All STARS to increase the quality of their child care
  • Meet childcare licensing standards and maintain licensure
  • Gain professional development training and scholarships to pursue studies in early childhood education
  • Pursue training and early childhood education credential renewal

Step 2: Receive zoning approval and approval from the state fire marshal

Before you can receive a childcare license, you must receive zoning approval and approval from the Kentucky fire marshal that states your facility meets necessary fire safety and zoning standards.

Step 3: Develop an evacuation plan for your childcare center

An evacuation plan outlines the procedures that you, your staff, and the children you care for will follow in the event of an emergency that requires you to evacuate your facility.

Your evacuation plan must include:

  • Your designated relocation site
  • The procedures that your staff will follow to notify children’s families of the relocation site so they can easily reunite with their children
  • Procedures to address the children’s individual needs during the evacuation
  • Instructions for staff training and reassigning staff members’ duties
  • An explanation of how you and your staff will coordinate with emergency personnel

Step 4: Submit background checks

All childcare staff must submit background checks through the KARES platform on the Kentucky Online Gateway. To open a Kentucky Online Gateway account, email the Division of Child Care Help Desk at CHFSDCCNBCP@ky.gov. There is a $10 fee to complete a background check.

Step 5: Submit an initial childcare center license application

Submit an initial childcare center license application and required documentation to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. There is a $50 fee for initial licensing.

If you are applying as a corporation or a limited liability company, your application must include a current certificate of existence or authorization from the Secretary of State. The daycare name on your license must match the name on file with the Secretary of State.

If your application is approved, you will receive a preliminary license and enter a six-month probation period.

Family child care home certification application

To certify your family child care home, you must complete the following steps:

Step 1: Obtain commercial liability insurance

Before you can receive certification for a family child care home, you must obtain at least $50,000 of commercial liability insurance.

Step 2: Submit your application and documentation

Submit a certification application, a $10 certification fee, and additional documentation to the Cabinet for Health and Family within 90 days of starting the application process.

Step 3: Complete an inspection

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services will review and process your application, conduct an unannounced visit to inspect the home, and approve the family child care home within 15 calendar days of receipt of your certification application if all regulations are met.

Registered early childhood professional license application

Complete these steps to become a registered early childhood professional: 

Step 1: Contact a registered provider specialist

To begin the registration process, contact a registered provider specialist at the Division of Child Care (DCC) at 844-209-2657.

Step 2: Complete and submit the required documentation

After you’ve notified a registered provider specialist that you would like to apply, you will have 30 days to complete and submit the required documentation. The documentation includes:


Once you have received your license, certification, or registration, you can use administrative software such as brightwheel's center management feature to create your admissions process, simplify paperwork, and review important staff and child records.

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Kentucky

Follow these guidelines to keep your daycare in compliance with Kentucky's laws and regulations.

Licensed early childhood facility type I and type II

A type I or type II early childhood facility license expires one year from the effective date or last renewal date. To renew your license, you need to submit a form one month before the anniversary of the regular license's effective date and pay the $25 nonrefundable fee.

To remain compliant with your license for a type I or type II early childhood facility, you must have written documentation from your local authority showing compliance with local zoning requirements. You can't use any form of corporal punishment on the children in your care, and you must complete annual inspections by the state fire marshal and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Division of Regulated Child Care.

If your facility has a food service permit, you must complete an annual health department inspection.

Certified family child care home

A family child care home certification expires two years from the date of issuance. To renew your certification, you need to submit a Certified Family Child Care Home Renewal Form, a physician’s statement, and proof that you continue to meet the minimum provider qualifications one month before the certification expires.

There is a $10 nonrefundable certification renewal fee. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services will review and process the certification renewal form, conduct an unannounced home inspection, and approve the family child care home's certification renewal within 15 calendar days.

Registered early childhood professional

To remain compliant with your early childhood professional registration, you must complete annual health and safety inspections, verify that you have completed the necessary training for a registered early childhood professional, and submit a copy of an updated version of your evacuation plan. Be sure to retain a copy of the updated evacuation plan and provide a copy to each child's family.

Final thoughts

Acquiring a childcare license is one of the most important steps to opening a childcare business. After you decide which type of program best suits your goals, complete the licensing process to show the Kentucky Division of Regulated Child Care that you are committed to providing quality child care. Once you have received your license, you’ll be one step closer to supporting the children in your community as a licensed early childhood facility, certified family child care home, or registered early childhood professional. 

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