If you’re passionate about educating young children or have several years of experience caring for children, you’ve probably considered starting a daycare. However, your passion and entrepreneurial streak may not suffice to successfully get your business off the ground. Before operating, your childcare center must meet certain licensing requirements and state health and safety codes.
Do I need a childcare license in Louisiana?
The Louisiana Department of Education defines a child daycare center as “any facility that provides care to seven or more children on a regular basis for at least 12.5 hours a week”. All center-based childcare providers in Louisiana must be licensed before starting operations. Operating without a valid license “may result in fines imposed by the department to a maximum of $1,000 per day for each day of such offense”. License-exempt care providers include public or private day schools serving children in kindergarten, grade one and above, and camps and all care provided without charge.
The types of child care center licenses you can apply for include the following:
Type I license
This license is issued to a daycare center owned or operated by a church or religious organization qualified as tax-exempt under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code and receives no state or federal funds directly or indirectly from any source.
Type II license
This license is issued to early learning centers that either receive no state or federal funds directly or indirectly from any source or whose only source of state or federal funds is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food and nutrition programs.
Type III license
This license is issued to an early learning center that directly or indirectly receives state or federal funds from any source other than the federal food and nutrition programs.
You can also offer home-based/ in-home child care or family child care (FCC) in Louisiana. While you may not require a license, you must register and apply for a certificate from the Louisiana Department of Education. A home-based provider cares for a child in the child’s home, while a family child care provider cares for up to six children in the provider’s home. After registration is complete, you’ll need to become certified with the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). The CCAP provides financial assistance to low-income families, helping them access high-quality child care while working or attending school.
Childcare licensing requirements in Louisiana
Below are the state licensing requirements in Louisiana:
- Must be at least 21 years of age
- Must have documentation of at least one of the following:
- A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college/university with at least six credit hours of child development or early childhood education and one year of supervised childcare experience in a licensed center or comparable setting
- A Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, which includes practicum and one year experience in a licensed center
- An associate’s degree in child development or a closely related area and one year of supervised childcare experience in a licensed center or a comparable setting
- One year of experience as a director or staff in a licensed child care center plus 12 credit hours in child care, child development, or early childhood education. Fifteen “clock hours” may be substituted for each three credit hours
- A diploma from a vocational childcare training program approved by the Board of Regents or equivalent plus one year of supervised childcare experience in a licensed childcare center or comparable setting
- The National Administrator Credential as awarded by the National Child Care Association, and one year experience in a licensed childcare center or comparable setting
- A certificate of completion from the International Correspondence School and one year of experience in a licensed childcare center or comparable setting
- A certificate of completion from the Professional Career Development Institute and one year of experience in a licensed childcare center or comparable setting
Childcare center ratio requirements
Below are the staff-to-child ratio requirements regarding infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children:For 10 children or fewer, including the provider’s and/or staff members’ children:
- One teacher for 10 children (if no more than two children under age two) (1:10)
- Two teachers for 10 children (if three or more children under age two) (2:10)
For 11 or more children:
- One teacher for six non-walkers and toddlers below 12 months (1:6)
- One teacher for eight toddlers between 12 and 23 months (1:8)
- One teacher for 12 children from two years old to three years old (1:12)
- One teacher for 14 children between three and four years old (1:14)
- One teacher for 16 children between four and five years old (1:16)
- One teacher for 20 children between five and six years old (1:20)
- One teacher for 25 school-age children six years and older (1:25)
You’re required to pay all fees to the Louisiana Department of Education via its electronic payment system. All fees are non-refundable.
You’ll pay an administrative fee of $25 for initial licensure. This fee will be applied to the total licensure fee, due before issuing an initial license. Also, you’ll pay an administrative fee of $25 for any change requiring the issuance of a new license or the reissuance of a current license—for example, changes in the facility’s name, capacity, age ranges, and transportation.
Annual licensure fees
You’re required to pay the full licensure fee based on licensed capacity. The annual license fees are below:
- 15 or fewer children: $25
- 16 to 50 children: $100
- 51 to 100 children: $175
- 101 or more children: $250
You must pay all fees by certified check or money order to the Department of Social Services. Childcare facilities owned or operated by a religious organization or church are exempt from annual license fees.
Before issuing a license, the bureau will require these daycare center approvals:
- Office of State Fire Marshal approval
- Office of Public Health approval
- City fire approval, if applicable
- Zoning approval/certificate of occupancy, if applicable
- Academic approval by the department, if applicable
- Licensure inspection verifying compliance with all minimum standards
- Child Care Criminal Background Check (CCCBC)-based determination of eligibility for child care purposes from the department for all owners, operators, and staff
- Written documentation establishing ownership of the center
Childcare license application in Louisiana
Follow the below steps to complete your license application:
Step 1: Check zoning and building ordinances
Before purchasing or leasing a building for your daycare center, check the local zoning and building ordinances where you plan to set up the business. Ensure you obtain the required authorization from the Office of Public Health, Office of the State Fire Marshal, Sanitation Services, and Code Enforcement and Building Safety.
Step 2: Complete and submit the application form
The next step is to complete the license application form. The completed application should indicate “type I license” unless you’re applying for state or federal funding. The application form includes the following:
- Important notes about the initial application fee, change of daycare ownership licensure, license renewals, and mode of payment for all fees
- Type of license: Initial application or renewal, change in ownership, change of director, or change of location
- Center information: Center name, location address, mailing address, phone numbers, and email address
- Organizational structure and owner’s details
- Appointed director’s details
- Director designee details
- Three personal references for the director and director designee
- Funding source
- Services: All day, half-day, night time care (after 9 pm), and transportation
- Center operations: Licensed capacity, number of buildings used by children, age range, months open during the year, days available during the week, and hours open
- Declaration statements
- Disclosure form for background information
After completing the application, return the form to the Bureau of Licensing.
Step 3: Await inspection and approval
After receiving your application, the Bureau of Licensing will request required local agencies, including the Office of Public Health, Office of the State Fire Marshal, and Office of the City Fire Department (if applicable), to inspect the daycare location. Remember, it’s your duty to ensure you obtain these inspections and approvals.
Next, a licensing specialist will visit your facility to conduct a licensing survey. Finally, after receiving all relevant approvals, the bureau will issue a license on an initial application. After receiving your license and choosing a name for your business, you can start marketing your daycare in the community.
How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Louisiana
Securing your license will get your business off the ground, but staying compliant will keep your daycare operating smoothly without interference from the authorities. Below are ways to remain compliant.
Renew your license in time
The department determines how long your license is valid. Ensure you renew your license before the last day of the month the running license expires; otherwise, it won’t be renewed, and your daycare will cease operations. You’ll need current approvals by the Office of State Fire Marshal, Office of Public Health, and annual licensing inspections by the department for a renewed license.
Do not transfer a license
Complete a new application form before changes in location or ownership. Your license only applies to the area for which it was issued. It’s not transferable from one owner or location to another. Your license will be automatically revoked if location or ownership changes.
Communicate relevant changes
You must notify the Bureau of Licensing in case of any changes that may affect your license. For example, a change in the space occupied by children and the age range or the number of children you serve.
In specific cases, the Secretary of the Department of Social Services may waive compliance for certain changes after determining that the economic impact is significant enough to make compliance impossible. Also, compliance may be waived if it doesn’t put the health and well-being of the staff and children at risk and if the facility meets or exceeds the intended expectations and standards.
Opening a center-based childcare business or starting a preschool at home can be overwhelming. However, handling the various administrative aspects like enrollment, reporting, and record keeping doesn’t have to be complicated. A tool like brightwheel’s center management feature will help you simplify your administrative tasks and save you time.
Start a daycare in Louisiana
Starting and operating a daycare in Louisiana requires obtaining the right license for your program and staying compliant with all licensing regulations. With proper planning, preparation, and due diligence, navigating the requirements can be a smooth process.