Starting a daycare center in Maine is an exciting prospect—not only can it be a profitable venture, but it’s also an opportunity to follow your passion for helping children reach their full potential. However, before starting business operations, you’ll need to obtain the required licenses.
This guide covers the childcare licensing requirements in Maine, the license application process, and how to stay compliant with a daycare license.
Do I need a childcare license in Maine?
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) regulates childcare facilities and providers in Maine. You need a childcare license if your business falls under the categories below:
- Family child care provider: A person who provides child care in their home on a regular basis, for three to 12 children under 13 years of age who are not the provider’s children or who are not residing in the provider’s home.
- Child care facility: A facility such as a childcare center or nursery school operating for any part of a day providing care for 13 or more children under 13 years of age.
Maine approves the childcare provider license, under which there are different rules depending on the type of facility. The department will issue a family child care license if the facility is on the same premises as the applicant’s residence.
Childcare licensing requirements in Maine
In addition to having a childcare business plan before starting your daycare business, you’ll need to abide by state licensing requirements. Below are the licensing requirements mandated by the state of Maine.
You must be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma or equivalent or be enrolled in a general education development (GED) preparation program. You must demonstrate the ability and willingness to operate and manage the facility with mature judgment, compassionate regard for children's best interests, and consistent compliance with regulations and all relevant laws. You must also demonstrate relevant experience in child care and child development, plus the capacity to manage the financial operations and staff of the facility for which you’re seeking the license.
Childcare center licensing requirements
The following are the licensing requirements for a child care center in Maine:
- Construction permit and state fire marshal inspection (for 13 or more children)—applicable to new or existing buildings
- City/town approval (if applicable)
- Permission in writing from owner or landlord to use premises as a child care facility
- Child care facility licensing application and fee
- Written confirmation of compliance with local codes and ordinances
- Completed reference forms from three individuals not related to you by blood or marriage
- Water test results from a DHHS-approved lab if using a private water source (you may need special approval if seeking a license for more than 20 children)
- Floor plan (measurements of indoor and outdoor areas intended for children’s use)
- Certification in infant, child, and adult CPR and first aid
- Written health guidelines manual for small facilities (3 -12 children)
- Bylaws and articles of incorporation (if applicable)
- List of the Board of Directors (if applicable)
- Resume and transcripts for director
- Health consultant agreement
- Health care plan signed by the health consultant
- Proof of completion of transportation training (department approved) for staff who transport children (if applicable)
Family childcare licensing requirements
If you’re operating the daycare from your residence, here’s what you’ll need to get a license:
- Landlord approval in writing if you lease or rent
- City/town permit (if required in your area) or proof that it’s not required
- Completed application form, fee, and floor plan
- Authorization for release of personal history information
- Passed fire marshal inspection
- Infant, child, and adult CPR and first aid certification
- Proof of completion of transportation training for staff who transport children (must be department approved)
- Proof of completion of pre-service training
- Copy of a water test done by an approved lab (if using a private water source)
Comprehensive background check requirements
Childcare providers must comply with the comprehensive Child Care Provider Background Check Licensing Rule established to protect the health, safety, and welfare of children. The childcare provider must request background checks for each individual at least once every five years.
Individuals subject to background checks:
- Providers (applicants)
- Current and prospective staff
- Household members in a family childcare setting
- Individuals involved in caring for and supervising children
- Individuals with unsupervised access to children while in the care of the provider
A comprehensive background check entails the mandatory use of fingerprints and checking databases and registries, including the National Crime Information Center, the National Sex Offender Registry, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It also entails checking the State Child Abuse and Neglect registry, State Bureau of Identification (SBI), and State Sex Offender registry in the state where the individual currently resides and where they’ve resided for the past five years.
Capacity and ratio requirements
The staff-to-child ratio requirements for family child care and small childcare centers are:
Ages of children
6 weeks to 2 years old
2 years to 5 years old
Over 5 years old
For mixed ages, the ratio requirements are:
- One (1) staff member: Three (3) children under two (2) years old, plus three (3) children two (2) to five (5) years old, plus two (2) children over five (5) years old, OR eight (8) children two (2) to five (5) years old, plus two (2) children over five (5) years old.
- Two (2) staff members: Six (6) children under two (2) years old, plus six (6) children over two (2) years old.
- Three (3) staff members: Twelve (12) children (no more than nine (9) children may be under two (2) years old).
Capacity requirements must not be exceeded except in the case of unpredictable circumstances like family emergencies or emergency school closings.
Staff to child ratio requirements for childcare facilities serving 13 or more children are:
Age of children
Maximum group size
6 weeks to 1 year old
1 year to 2 ½ years old
2 ½ years to 3 ½ years old
3 years to under 5 years old
5 years to 12 years old
The ratio requirements below apply in childcare facilities serving 13 or more children:
- One staff member may provide care in one classroom within the building for six or fewer children, regardless of age, for a period not exceeding one hour at the beginning and end of the posted hours of operation.
- At least two staff members must be present in the facility whenever seven or more children, regardless of age, are present.
- The group size and the number of required staff members must be determined based on the age of the youngest child when there’s a combination of ages within a group.
- Older children may fill younger children’s spaces, but younger children may not fill older children’s spaces.
Childcare license application in Maine
After determining that you have the minimum qualifications for applying for a childcare license in Maine, these are the steps to take:
Step 1: Acquire the necessary training and certifications
The state of Maine requires you to have the below training before the department can issue a license for a childcare facility:
- Pre-licensing training (Getting Started in Child Care): This on-demand six-hour training is free and available on the Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network website.
- Infant, child and adult CPR and first aid training: Contact the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, or your local hospital for this crucial training. The childcare licensing specialist will only accept certifications of courses with a hands-on skills assessment.
- State-mandated reporter training: This training helps to promote child safety by teaching participants how to identify child abuse and neglect and the report-making process. Three training resources in Maine include iLookOut Maine, Maine Mandated Reporter, and Maine Children’s Trust.
- Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) health and safety orientation: All applicants and staff must complete this training which is renewed annually to maintain compliance.
Step 2: Complete and submit your application
The next step is to complete the Child Care Provider Licensing application form, which requires the following:
- Provider/facility information: Provider name, facility name, social security number, physical address, mailing address, phone number, and email address
- Services: Family child care (3-12 children) or child care facility (indicate requested capacity), age ranges of children you intend to serve, source of water supply (municipal or private), and building information (the year it was built)
- Application fees: Family child care—$160 for new application and $160 for renewal. For childcare facility—$120 for new application and $240 for renewal
- Background check: Prior licenses, prior sanctions and fines, criminal history, records of drug/alcohol abuse, and mental health history
- Submission attachments: Authorization for release of information, documentation of zoning or code approval from the municipality, floor plan, director's transcript and proof of training (for childcare facility only), proof of insurance (for childcare facility only)
- Legal structure: Type of operation (sole proprietorship, partnership, non-for-profit, or limited liability company)
- Declaration with your signature
Keep in mind that if your application form is incomplete, it will be returned, and if sixty (60) days elapse with no action from you, it will be void.
Step 3: Pass a pre-licensing inspection
If you’re seeking a license for 13 or more children, you must apply for a construction permit through the State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) for approval to use a new or existing building. The SFMO will inspect your building and send you a list of deficiencies, after which you must send them back a plan for corrections within 10 days. The plan must specify a reasonable timeframe within which you will address the deficiencies. The SFMO will either approve your plan or ask you to revise it. The department will only issue a license when your premises pass the fire marshal’s inspection.
A licensing specialist will contact you to ask about your proposed opening date and set an appointment to inspect your premises for safety. The licensing specialist will also provide helpful provider resources and a list of pending items you’ll need to qualify for a license. They’ll also verify staff vaccinations for MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and tetanus/diphtheria (must be done within the last 10 years). The specialist will also perform a lead hazards survey if the building was built before 1978.
Step 4: Await approval
If the provider meets all the licensing requirements, your childcare licensing specialist will recommend you receive a license subject to supervisory approval. The entire process may take 90 days or more. After obtaining your license and choosing a name for your daycare, you can officially start marketing your business to prospective families in your community.
How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Maine
After securing your license, complying with licensing rules is crucial to continue operating your daycare business in Maine. Below are ways to remain compliant:
- You must submit a license renewal application (and the required fee) at least 60 days before your license expires
- You must only care for children within the age range of the license issued and within the proper staff-to-child ratios for those age ranges
- The State Fire Marshal’s Office must send a written statement to the department bi-annually, indicating that you’ve complied with the fire safety requirements of the Commissioner of Public Safety
- In the event of routine inspections by the department, you must provide access to all daycare records and all areas of the premises occupied and used by the children
You’re responsible for contacting the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) beforehand in case of sudden changes or changes you’d like to make that don’t correspond with your license. For example, any changes in child capacity, premises, and closure.
Managing a childcare business is exciting, but it can also get complicated with managing admissions, reporting, record keeping, and all other operations. A tool like brightwheel’s center management software simplifies administrative tasks, saving you valuable time.
Start a daycare in Maine
Operating a daycare business in Maine starts with the first essential step of acquiring a childcare license. With keen preparation and planning, you can quickly acquaint yourself with and obtain all the necessary requirements to get your daycare business off the ground.