High-quality childcare programs are a necessity for many working families. Starting a daycare business might come naturally if you’re passionate about child education and development. Not only will you help families in your community, but it can also be a lucrative business venture.
However, there’s more to starting a childcare center than childcare experience and a passion for children’s growth and development. One of the first steps is obtaining the proper license from your state. This guide shares the licensing requirements for starting a daycare in New Hampshire, the application process, and how to stay compliant.
Do I need a childcare license in New Hampshire?
The Child Care Licensing Unit (CCLU) is responsible for issuing daycare licenses in New Hampshire. The CCLU ensures that children attending childcare programs are in safe and healthy environments and receive care, supervision, and developmentally appropriate activities that meet each child's physical and emotional needs. You need a license in New Hampshire if your program is in one of the categories below:
Family child care home
The provider operates this childcare program in their home, caring for a maximum of six preschool children plus up to three children enrolled in a full-day school program. The number of children in this program younger than three years old is limited.
Family group child care home
In this program, the provider cares for children in their home. One provider and one family child care worker or assistant may care for seven to 12 preschool children plus up to five children enrolled in a full-day school program. The number of children in the program younger than three years old is limited.
Group child care center
This is a center-based childcare program that cares for one or more children ages three to six, up to four of whom may be younger than three years of age, plus five of whom may be enrolled in a full-day school program. The maximum group size is 24 children for ages between three and five, and 30 children for children age five and older.
Infant/toddler program (child care nursery)
An infant/toddler program is a center-based program that provides care for five or more infants and toddlers under three years old.
In this center-based program, the provider uses a structured program and cares for children three years of age and older who aren’t attending a full-day school program. Preschool programs can care for children for up to five hours per day.
A school-age program is a family or family group childcare program that cares for six or more school-age children enrolled in a full-day school program. Or, it can be a center-based childcare program that cares for six or more children aged four years and eight months or older enrolled in a kindergarten or full-day school program. School-age programs can care for children up to five hours before or after school and all day during school vacations.
Night care program
This program is a center-based, family, or family group childcare program that provides child care during the evening or night hours between 7:00 PM and 6:00 AM.
Residential child care program
A residential childcare program provides 24-hour care for one or more children unrelated to the provider. Residential childcare programs must have a qualified program director and may be licensed as a group child care home, child care institution, or independent living home.
License exempt program
The following types of child care are exempt from licensing by the CCLU:
- Private homes in which the only children in care are the provider's own children and children related to or residing with the provider
- Programs offering instruction to children to teach a skill, for example, music, dance, athletics, or crafts
- Kindergartens, nursery schools, or any other daytime programs operated by a public or private elementary or secondary school system or institution of higher learning
- Child care services offered in conjunction with religious services attended by the parent or provided solely for religious instruction
- Municipal recreation programs, including after-school and summer recreation programs
- Private homes in which any number of the provider's own children, whether related biologically or through adoption, and up to three additional children are cared for regularly for any part of the day, but for less than 24 hours unless the caregiver elects to comply with the provisions in the statute and be licensed
- Facilities operated as a complimentary and limited service for the benefit of the general public in connection with a shopping center, ski area, bowling alley, or other similar operation where the parents or custodians of the children are on the premises or in the immediate vicinity and are readily available
Childcare licensing requirements in New Hampshire
Provider and staff requirements
Family child care
Family child care providers must:
- Be at least 21 years of age; or
- Be at least 18 years of age and submit with their application documentation of a high school diploma or equivalent, including but not limited to a General Equivalency Diploma (GED), a High School Equivalency Test (HiSet), or a Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC), and at least one of the following:
- Successful completion of a two-year childcare curriculum approved by the department of education; or
- College courses, totaling six credits, in child development, early childhood, elementary education, or other fields of study focused on children, including at least one 3-credit course in child growth and development, from a regionally accredited college
Child care center
Center-based programs (except those operating solely as school-age programs) must have a center director who meets the following conditions:
- Must be at least 21 years of age
- Must have a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma
- Must have documentation of successful completion of at least 3 credits in child development, and 3 credits in management or supervision, awarded by a regionally accredited college or university, or a minimum of 2 years of experience in a supervisory or management position in lieu of the 3 credits in management and supervision
- Must have a minimum of 1,500 hours of experience working with children in a licensed child care program or public or private elementary school
- Must have one of the following:
- A minimum of an associate’s degree in child development, early childhood or elementary education, or another field of study focused on children, awarded by a regionally accredited college or university
- An additional 3,000 hours of experience working with children in a licensed childcare program or in a public or private elementary school and documentation of a valid Child Development Associate (CDA) credential in center-based programs awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition
- Current certification in early childhood, elementary, or special education by the Department of Education
- Certification in a teacher preparation program accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE) in infant and toddler, early childhood, or elementary I, which satisfies the 3 credits in child development required above if certified in infant and toddler or early childhood, together with 60 credits, awarded by a regionally accredited college or university
- Documentation of 60 credits, awarded by a regionally accredited college or university, of which at least 24 shall be in child development, early childhood, elementary education, or other field of study focused on children, including at least 3 credits in each of the following core knowledge areas: children with special needs, child growth and development, and curriculum for early childhood education
- The center director or qualified substitute director must be on the premises for at least 60% of each day’s operating hours during the daytime
- For night care programs, the center director, qualified substitute director, or lead teacher must be on the premises for at least 60% of the program’s evening and nighttime operating hours
School-age programs must have a site director who meets the following conditions:
- Must be at least 20 years of age
- Must have a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma
- Must have at least one of the following:
- Written documentation from or on file with the department that they were qualified and employed as a site director in a school-age program on or before the effective date of these rules in 2017
- A minimum of an associate’s degree in child development, education, recreation, or other field of study focused on children, awarded by a regionally accredited college or university
- Certification of successful completion of training as a recreation director plus 1,000 hours of experience working with children in a licensed child care program, recreation program, or a public or private elementary school
- A total of 12 credits in child development, education, recreation, or other field of study focused on children, from a regionally accredited college plus 1,000 hours of experience working with children
- Current certification as an educator by the Department of Education
- Experience working with children totaling 2,000 hours and the following:
- Current certification as a para II educator by the Department of Education; or
- Documentation of enrollment in a course for at least 3 credits in child development, education, recreation, or other field of study focused on children, through a regionally accredited college or university and a written plan on file for completion of at least 3 additional credits as specified; and
- Within 12 months of the date the individual begins working as a site director, documentation of successful completion of a total of at least 6 credits in child development, education, recreation, or other field of study focused on children, through a regionally accredited college or university shall be on file for review by the department
- The site director or qualified substitute director must be on the premises during all operating hours if the program operates for five or fewer hours per day
- The site director or qualified substitute director shall be on the premises for at least 60% of each day’s daytime operating hours if the program operates more than five hours daily
Capacity and ratio requirements
Child care center
The staff-to-child ratio requirements for group child care centers and preschool programs are below.For children ages 36 to 47 months (maximum group size of 24):
- One associate teacher with 8 children
- One associate teacher and one assistant teacher with 9 to 16 children
- One lead teacher and two assistant teachers with 17 to 24 children
For children ages 48 to 59 months (maximum group size of 24):
- One associate teacher with up to 12 children
- One associate teacher and one assistant teacher with 13 to 24 children
For children ages 60 months and over (maximum group size of 30):
- One associate teacher with up to 15 children
- One associate teacher and one assistant teacher with 16 to 30 children
Regardless of the above staff-to-child ratio requirements, group child care center and preschool programs must have a second staff person in the building when 11 or more children are present.
The staff-to-child ratio requirements for infant/ toddler programs are below.For children ages 6 weeks to 12 months (maximum group size of 12):
- One associate teacher with up to 4 children
- One associate teacher and one assistant teacher with 5 to 8 children
- One lead teacher and two assistant teachers with 9 to 12 children
For children ages 13 to 24 months (maximum group size of 15):
- One associate teacher with up to 5 children
- One associate teacher and one assistant teacher with 6 to 10 children
- One lead teacher and two assistant teachers with 11 to 15 children
For children ages 25 to 35 months (maximum group size of 18):
- One associate teacher with up to 6 children
- One associate teacher and one assistant teacher with 7 to 12 children
- One lead teacher and two assistant teachers with 13 to 18 children
Notwithstanding the above staff-to-child ratio requirements, infant/toddler programs must have a second staff person in the building when 5 or more children are present.
The staff-to-child ratio requirements for school-age programs are below.For children ages 56 months or older (maximum group size of 45):
- One group leader with up to 15 children
- One group leader and one assistant group leader with 16 to 30 children
- One site director and two assistant group leaders with 31 to 45 children
School-age programs must have a second staff person in the building when 13 or more children are present.
Health and safety requirements
Childcare programs must establish and maintain a safe and healthy learning environment free of hazardous conditions including:
- State fire code violations or hazards such as failure to maintain smoke detectors, and blocking doorways, hallways, and stairs that are a means of access
- Electrical hazards, like cracked or crimped extension cords, unshielded electrical outlets, overloaded electrical outlets and extension cords
- Stairways with three or more steps without handrails
- Stairways which are accessible to children younger than three years of age and are not equipped with functional, properly latched safety gates
- Gaps between 3 ½ inches and 9 inches apart on balusters, handrails, guardrails, or slats on play structures, lofts, stairways, decks, porches, or balconies accessible to children
- Open windows accessible to children that are not equipped with protective barriers designed to prevent children from falling out the window
- Open doors without a sturdy screen door equipped with a latch to prevent children from running out of the building
- Open doors and windows without screening which allow the entrance of insects into the child care environment
- Loose and flaking paint which is accessible to children
- Cords or strings long enough to encircle a child’s neck , risking strangulation, like, telephone cords and window blind cords
- Holes in flooring, loose tiles, loose throw rugs, and loose cords, which present a slipping or tripping hazard
- Damp conditions which result in visible mold or mildew or a musty odor
- Poisonous or hazardous plants
- Accessible matches, lighters, and other ignition devices
- Lit candles or other items with flames which pose a safety risk to children
- Heavy furnishings or other heavy items that have not been secured to the wall or floor or both, and could be easily tipped over
- Unclean conditions or disrepair which demonstrate a lack of regular maintenance or cleaning
- Trampolines, with the exception of small indoor trampolines intended for individual use with direct adult supervision only
- Fumes from toxic or harmful chemicals or materials
- Empty plastic bags, or other bags which pose a suffocation hazard
Programs must maintain on file the local fire inspector’s written approval. Programs intending to install any water feature in the play area must submit a written plan to the Department of Health and Human Services.
For the children’s safety, all childcare personnel and household members in licensed childcare and residential programs must undergo thorough background checks. The background checks must be completed prior to an individual caring for and having regular contact with children and upon staff or household members turning 18.
Background checks include: fingerprinting with Livescan using the Department of Safety CHRI Applicant Portal or your local police department and out-of-state abuse and neglect checks for individuals who have lived in other states in the past five years. In addition, New Hampshire will soon be checking the criminal records of any individuals who have resided in specific states in the past five years.
Childcare license application in New Hampshire
Whether you are opening a center-based program or starting a preschool at home, you must complete the license application process which includes submitting an application and supporting documentation that your program meets specific regulations. Below are the steps to take when applying for a childcare license in New Hampshire:
Step 1: Complete the application packet
The application packet contains the following items:
- Application form
- Childcare personnel health form, which must be completed by a licensed health practitioner
- Health officer inspector report
- Life safety compliance report for each building, which must be completed by a fire inspector
- Zoning verification form which must be signed and dated by a zoning official from the city or town
- Household and personnel form
- Criminal history record information authorization form
The applicant must submit all these requirements in one package. If any form is missing from the packet on submission, the licensing unit will return the packet to you.
The program will need to submit the following additional documentation:
- Documents from the Secretary of State regarding trade names and company type, for example, limited liability company
- Education documents for family or family group child care providers between 18 and 21 years old
- Education and experience documents for the director and staff, for example, certificates, transcripts, diplomas, and resumes
- Documents showing completion of professional development requirements (for family child care providers, center directors, site directors, and site coordinators)
- Current certification in pediatric first aid and CPR
- Emergency response plan based on the Incident Command System (ICS)
Step 2: Schedule a site visit
Upon receipt of your complete application packet, a licensing coordinator will contact you to schedule a visit at your daycare. The coordinator will review the licensing rules with you and evaluate your compliance. During the visit, you must have a copy of your current water test results if you are on a private well and current certification in pediatric first aid and CPR.
Step 3: Await approval
If the site visit is a success and all the licensing requirements are in place, the department will approve you for licensure. After obtaining your license and choosing a name for your business, you may officially start marketing your daycare to prospective families.
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How to stay compliant with a daycare license in New Hampshire
Complying with licensing rules is crucial to continue operating your daycare business in New Hampshire. To renew your childcare license, you must submit all required renewal application materials no later than three months prior to the license expiration.
Below are other ways to remain compliant.
Maintain staff-to-child ratios
Maintaining staff-to-child ratios helps your staff effectively supervise all the children while providing individual attention, as required, to meet their specific needs and support their development. Each childcare program type in New Hampshire has specific staff-to-child ratios that must be followed.
Complete professional development requirements
All directors, administrators, and other childcare staff responsible for the supervision of children, or who are necessary for the staff-to-child ratios, must complete and document a minimum of six (6) hours of professional development, which must be completed within 90 days of the first date of employment or within two weeks (for programs operating three months of the year or less).
The six hours of professional development include:
- Childcare licensing orientation
- Prevention and control of infectious diseases, including immunizations
- Prevention of SIDS and use of safe sleep practices
- Medication administration
- Prevention of and response to emergencies due to food and other allergic reactions
- Prevention of shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma
- Emergency preparedness and response planning
- Handling and storage of hazardous materials and the appropriate disposal of biocontaminants
- Appropriate precautions in transporting children for childcare personnel who will provide transportation or accompany children during transportation
- First aid and CPR
- Prevention, recognition, and reporting of child abuse and neglect
- Child development, including cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development
- Training on all required components in the emergency operations plan
All childcare staff must undergo background checks every five years.
If your program is non-compliant with the licensing rules, the department will consider the following enforcement actions:
- Assessment of administrative fines
- Placement of conditions on a permit or license
- Suspension of a permit or license
- Denial of an application for a new or renewed license
- Revocation of a permit or license
The CCLU accomplishes its goal of ensuring safe childcare environments through on-site evaluations, monitoring, investigation, and initiation of appropriate disciplinary action when necessary for compliance and the protection of children.
Start a daycare in New Hampshire
Acquiring a childcare license is the first essential step to starting and operating a childcare business in New Hampshire. With meticulous planning and due diligence, you can quickly navigate the necessary requirements to start a business that impacts children’s lives for many years.
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