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How to Start a Daycare in New York

Understand how to become a licensed daycare operator in New York.

How to Start a Daycare in New York

How to Start a Daycare in New York

Caring for children is both a personally rewarding and financially lucrative business. However, being trusted to properly care for children is a major responsibility and there are important steps you need to take to get the required licenses.

Our guide covers the childcare licensing requirements in New York, the application process, and tips to stay compliant. 

Do I need a childcare license in New York?

Some form of licensing is needed for most childcare businesses to ensure that there are general health and safety measures in place to protect children from injury, illness, or general harm. To determine whether you need a child care license in New York, the main factor is how many children are or will be in your care. If your business cares for only one or two children, then it is considered babysitting and is not specifically regulated by the state. If you provide care to three or more children, then it qualifies as starting a daycare business and requires a license, even if you are running an in-home child care program.

Childcare licensing requirements in New York

The type of licensing that your daycare business requires will depend on its category. Each category determines what program requirements your business needs to meet and continuously maintain to stay in compliance with the state. New York’s Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) defines five different daycare categories:

  • Daycare Center: Regularly providing care for more than six children for more than three hours per day in a location that is not a residence
  • Family Daycare: Regularly providing care for three to six children for more than three hours per day in a family home
  • Group Family Daycare: Regularly caring for 7 to 12 children for more than three hours per day in a family home
  • School-Age Child Care: Providing care to an enrolled group of seven or more children under 13 years of age in a non-residential location during any period where such children are not ordinarily in school, such as before or after school, during school lunch period, holiday breaks, or summer vacation
  • Small Daycare Center: Providing care for three to six children for more than three hours per day in a location that is not a residence

Each of these categories comes with its own specific licensing requirements, regulations, and application process. Operating any of them without a license would subject the business owner to a variety of penalties that could range from fines to jail time.

Childcare license application in New York

The process of becoming a licensed daycare operator in New York begins with completing the online Child Day Care Orientation provided by the state. It is a course meant to provide you with all the information you need to decide whether starting a childcare business is right for you. The orientation outlines the requirements for opening a daycare, where you can provide care, and the rules and regulations for operation.

After completing the online orientation, you will gain access to the daycare application that corresponds with the type of daycare you want to open. The application process will take some time, so be patient. Having a daycare business plan, daycare name, and potential employees already set will prepare you for the application process. You can contact the appropriate OCFS regional office to receive your application materials, get more information about the process of opening a daycare, and find all the associated legal requirements. The Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies provide technical assistance and training that can help you throughout the application process. They can also assist with operating the daycare after it is open for business.

Once your application has been submitted and reviewed, a representative from OCFS will complete an inspection. The exact inspection they conduct will depend on the type of daycare you plan to open and where it will be located. If your daycare business is approved, then a license or registration will be mailed to you. Then, you are free to open for business and begin marketing your childcare business

In addition to spreading the word about your program, you’ll need to have a system in place to help you manage the daily operations of your center. A tool like brightwheel’s center management feature helps you simplify administrative tasks like enrollment and record keeping, streamlining your admissions process and saving you time.

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in New York

After you have finally become a licensed childcare provider, it is important to ensure that all aspects of your business remain compliant. This includes things that are not required to renew your license. Having an up-to-date license or registration does not automatically mean your daycare is still in compliance with all regulations. Here’s a list of other aspects of your business you must keep up with:

  • Your license or registration: The type of daycare you operate will dictate how often you need to renew. Most require renewals every two to four years. Consult the daycare regulations for each type to determine how and when to renew.
  • Background checks: The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act and New York State Social Services Law requires that all operators, employees, and volunteers of childcare programs must complete a series of background checks and fingerprinting.
  • Training records: As the operator of a daycare, you must keep accurate records of the childcare training programs you attend. You must be able to show that you and your employees have the required training for the type of daycare you operate. 
  • Mandated reporting: Every person employed in a child daycare program is a mandated reporter. That means they are always legally required to report any reasonable suspicion of child abuse or maltreatment to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). 
  • Ratios: Each type of daycare has requirements for the number of children and the ratio of children to caregivers. For instance, in a family daycare, there can be no more than two children under the age of 2 under care at the same time. And for a group family daycare, there must be one caregiver for every two children under age 2. Understanding what is allowed for your type of daycare will help you remain compliant.

Start a daycare program in New York

Starting a childcare business can be a challenging, yet very rewarding endeavor. If you are considering opening a childcare program in New York, it’s important to understand all the requirements. Licensing requirements and the application process will differ depending on the exact details of your business. However, with careful planning and organization, you can meet all the state requirements and focus on the next stage of your business.

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