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How to Start a Daycare in Ohio

Learn how to become a licensed childcare provider in Ohio.

How to Start a Daycare in Ohio

How to Start a Daycare in Ohio

The application process and licensing requirements for childcare providers can be complex. Each state has its own rules and standards for licensure, plus different qualifiers for exemption from licensure. Understanding the full process before you begin will help you prepare and have a better chance at approval.

This article covers the different types of childcare licenses in Ohio and the steps to take to apply for a license. We’ll also discuss the provider and capacity requirements to become licensed and how to remain compliant. 

Do I need a childcare license in Ohio?

Caring for a child that isn’t your own isn’t automatically considered childcare that requires a license in Ohio. You may even be caring for multiple children and still not need to go through the process of applying for a license. These unlicensed programs aren’t monitored by any entity and aren’t required to meet safety, health, staffing, or learning standards. Unlicensed programs include: 

  • Care provided in a child’s own home
  • Programs that operate two weeks or less than a year
  • Programs where parents stay on the premises (but not at their place of employment) 
  • Programs offering specialized training in specific subjects
  • Programs that operate one day a week for no more than six hours

 

If you plan to start a daycare center that operates anything outside of these categories, even a childcare center in your own home, then you likely require a license through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).

Childcare licensing requirements in Ohio

The state of Ohio defines childcare as:

  • Administering to the needs of infants, toddlers, preschool-age children, and school-age children outside of school hours
  • By persons other than their parents, guardians, or custodians, for part of the 24 hour day, in a place other than a child's own home, except that an in-home aide provides child care in the child's own home
  • By a provider required by this chapter to be licensed or approved by the Department of Job and Family Services, certified by a county Department of Job and Family Services, or under contract with the Department to provide publicly funded child care as described in section 5104.32 of the Revised Code

 

Licensed childcare programs are categorized into five main categories. Each of them are required to be licensed and remain compliant. The ODJFS defines the types of childcare programs in Ohio as: 

  • Childcare Centers: Provide care for seven or more children at once in a location that isn’t a residence.
  • Type A Family Childcare Providers: Type A Home providers can care for 7-12 children at one time in their personal residence; however, each staff member can care for no more than six children at one time (and no more than three children under age two).
  • Type B Family Childcare Providers: Type B Home providers can care for no more than six children at once (and no more than three children under age two) in their personal residence. Children under six years of age related to the provider (including the provider’s own children) and residents of the home must be included in total group size. 
  • Child Day Camps: A program that cares for only school-age children and operates for less than seven hours each day, during the time school isn’t in session, and the program operates at least 50% outdoors. Child day camps must register with ODJFS each year. To receive reimbursement for publicly funded child care, the child day camp must be accredited by the American Camping Association (ACA) and any nationally recognized organization that accredits child day camps using standards that the ODJFS has determined are substantially similar and comparable to those of the ACA.
  • In-Home Aides: A person who provides childcare to a child in the child's own home, not in their home. An in-home aide can only care for the children who live in that home.  

Each of these different types of childcare providers are subject to different requirements. These are the prerequisites for not only a license but also running that specific childcare program. 

Provider requirements

Childcare centers

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Infant and child CPR and first aid certification
  • Child abuse and neglect recognition and prevention training
  • Either two years of college with four child development courses or any of these alternatives: 
    • 24 months of experience in a licensed childcare program and a currently valid Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential
    • 24 months in a licensed childcare program and four child development courses
    • Pre-Kindergarten Associate Certificate
    • An ODJFS Administrator Credential
    • Montessori Pre-Primary/Early Childhood Credential

Family childcare providers

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Current immunization against Tdap
  • Infant and child CPR and first aid certification
  • Training in management of communicable diseases
  • Child abuse and neglect recognition and prevention training
  • Must reside in the home where care is being provided
  • Provide a safe, healthy environment when childcare services are being provided
  • Not be involved in any activities that interfere with the care of the children; this includes not being involved in other employment during operating hours of the family childcare home
  • Must obtain and maintain liability insurance that insures the family child care provider against liability arising out of, or in connection with, the operation of the family child care home. The liability insurance shall cover any cause for which the family child care home would be liable, of at least $100,000 per occurrence and $300,000 in the aggregate. Proof of insurance shall be maintained at the home

Child day camps

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Infant and child CPR and first aid certification
  • Child abuse and neglect recognition and prevention training

In-home aides

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Infant and child CPR and first aid certification
  • Training in management of communicable diseases
  • Child abuse recognition and prevention training

For childcare programs run outside of a child’s home, there are also requirements for the location where they receive care. For a day camp, the location should generally be a safe and sanitary environment for children. 

ODJFS dictates additional requirements for childcare centers and family childcare homes that include outdoor space for children. Those areas must include:  

  • 60 square feet of usable space per child using the area at one time
  • Well-defined boundaries with a fence or natural barrier
  • Grounds free of foreign objects and rubbish
  • A provided shaded area
  • Equipment that is safe and appropriate for the age range of children using the play area
  • Appropriate fall zones under and around equipment

Staff-to-child ratios

Childcare programs, with the exception of in-home aides, are also required to follow staff-to-child ratios. These requirements are in place for the safety and well-being of the children in the providers’ care. For all staff-to-child ratio requirements, staff members engaged in duties or activities that interfere with the supervision of children don’t count. Also, remember to consider these ratios for staffing and capacity as you develop the business plan for your childcare program

Childcare centers

The general staff-to-child ratio requirement for childcare centers is that at least one other staff member must be present if seven or more children are in the building. The required ratio for different age groups and the maximum group number for each is the following:

Birth to 12 months: 

  • One staff member for five children (1:5) or 2:12 in the same room
  • Maximum group size: 12

12 months to 18 months:

  • One staff member for six children (1:6) 
  • Maximum group size: 12

18 months to 2.5 years:

  • One staff member for seven children (1:7) 
  • Maximum group size: 14

2.5 years to 3 years: 

  • One staff member for eight children (1:8)
  • Maximum group size: 16

3 years to 4 years: 

  • One staff member for 12 children (1:12)
  • Maximum group size: 24

At least 4 years but not enrolled in or eligible for kindergarten: 

  • One staff member for 14 children (1:14) 
  • Maximum group size: 18

Enrolled in or eligible to be enrolled in kindergarten to 11 years: 

  • One staff member for 18 children (1:18)
  • Maximum group size: 36

11 years to 15 years: 

  • One staff member for 20 children (1:20) 
  • Maximum group size: 40

Family childcare providers

The staff-to-child ratio requirement for family childcare homes is that each staff member may care for no more than six children at any one time, and no more than three children may be under two years old. This ratio includes all children under six years old, even those related to the provider, the provider’s own children, and residents of the home, and children between six and fourteen years old who aren’t related to the provider.  

Child day camps

The required staff-to-child ratio for child day camps is one staff member for 18 children (1:18) for children five to eleven years old. For children eleven to eighteen years of age, the ratio is one staff member for 20 children (1:20). 

Child day camps also require that children be organized and assigned to groups, and specific staff members will be responsible for the care and supervision of the children in their group. These groups are also required to follow the proper staff-to-child ratio requirements. 

Childcare license application in Ohio

Much of the application process for Ohio’s childcare programs follows the same procedure. Each requires pre-licensing training, background checks, extensive documentation, and inspection before approval. All of the necessary forms you’ll need can be found on the ODJFS website. Follow these steps to properly complete a childcare license application in Ohio. 

Step 1: Complete pre-licensing training

Every type of childcare provider is required to complete pre-licensing training. If you have already completed this training for a different application within two years, then you don’t need to repeat it as long as there are no compliance issues with your existing childcare program. To get started, make an account in the Ohio Professional Registry (OPR) with the Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association (OCCRRA). The OPR is the online tool where you’ll complete the training that corresponds with your childcare program type, including: 

  • Pre-Licensing Training for Child Care Centers
  • Pre-Licensing Training for Family Child Care Providers (Type A or B Home Providers)
  • Pre-Camp and Staff Orientation Training for Approved Child Day Camps
  • Pre-Certification Orientation for In-Home Aides

Step 2: Request a background check

Next, all childcare providers are required to submit a background check. The background check process begins with being fingerprinted at a Webcheck location. Then, you’ll submit a request for a background check for childcare in the OPR. The ODJFS will conduct the background check, and you’ll be notified in your OPR when it’s complete. 

Step 3: Submit your application and required documents

To begin the application, make an account in the Ohio Child Licensing and Quality System (OCLQS). This is the portal where you’ll submit and update your application and request changes to your childcare program’s name, capacity, location, and other information. The application mainly consists of compiling and submitting the following documents depending on your type of childcare program:

Childcare centers

  • Applicant documentation of educational requirements
  • Documentation of building approval
  • Owner’s Authorized Representative/Partnership for Child Care Form
  • Plan of Operation for Child Care
  • Request for Background Check for Child Care
  • Fire inspection report
  • Valid food service operation license

Type A family childcare providers

  • High school education verification
  • Medical statement
  • Plan of Operation
  • Adjudicated a Delinquent Child 
  • Request for a Background Check for Child Care
  • Owner's Authorized Representative/Partnership Form 
  • Local zoning allowance verification
  • Local building inspection verification
  • Fire inspection verification from state fire marshal or local fire safety inspector

Type B family childcare providers

  • High school education verification
  • Medical statement
  • Plan of Operation 
  • Adjudicated a Delinquent Child 
  • Request for a Background Check for Child Care

Child day camps

  • Verification of accreditation by the American Camp Association (ACA) or any nationally recognized organization that accredits child day camps by using standards that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has determined are substantially similar and comparable to those of the ACA
  • Request for a Background Check for Child Care
  • Owner's Authorized Representative/Partnership for Child Care (if the day camp is owned by a corporation or partnership)
  • Articles of incorporation, if applicable
  • Plan of Operation for Child Day Camp and any necessary attachments
  • Fire inspection approval by the state fire marshal or local fire safety inspector for any buildings identified as primary use spaces
  • Documentation of building approval issued by either the Ohio Department of Commerce or local certified building authority for any building identified as a primary use space (Note: Approval will not be issued until the final Certificate of Occupancy is issued by either the Ohio Department of Commerce or local certified building authority)
  • Valid food service operation license permitting the preparation and serving of food, or exemption status, from the local health department having jurisdiction or from the Ohio Department of Health or the Ohio Department of Agriculture

In–home aides

  • High school education verification
  • Medical statement
  • In Home Aide Assurances completed by parent and applicant
  • Request for a Background Check for Child Care

To submit your application, there will also be an application fee. 

  • Childcare center: $500
  • Family childcare home: $250
  • Child day camp: $25 per camp, not to exceed $250 for all camps

Step 4: Inspections

After the application is submitted, you can begin marketing your childcare business while you wait for the next step to begin. After your application is received, the ODJFS will schedule an inspection. Part of the inspection requires that certain documents must be posted in the proposed place of care or shared with prospective families. These include a Disaster Plan and Written Information for Parents and Employees. The rest of the required documentation for childcare centers and family childcare providers must include:

  • Proof of completed pre-licensing health and safety trainings
  • Staff medical statements
  • Program Notification of Background Check Review for Child Care
  • Drawings of the indoor floor plan and outdoor play area
  • Lab results of water if water isn’t publicly supplied
  • Field trip, routine trip, swimming/water activity permission slips
  • Sample attendance form
  • Evening program schedule, if applicable

The purpose of the inspection is to ensure that the environment is safe and suitable for children, as well as conducive to their development and learning. In-home aides are subject to two inspections, the first being a pre-certification visit and the second being an unannounced full inspection. The ODJFS provides an online copy of example inspection reports for childcare centers, family childcare providers, in-home aides, and inspection information for day camp organizers to help you prepare.  

After the inspection is complete, the licensing specialist who conducted it will review any non-compliances with you. If there are any, you must correct them within 30 days. Once any non-compliances are resolved, the application will be sent to the ODJFS for review and approval.

Step 5: Results

If your application is approved, you’ll be notified via email and your OPR portal. Childcare centers and family childcare providers will receive a provisional license valid for 12 months. During that time, the program must demonstrate that it can comply with all of Ohio’s rules and laws for childcare. A licensing specialist will conduct at least two more inspections during the provisional period. If the program is fully compliant, a continuous license will be granted. A continuous license remains valid as long as the program maintains its compliance. If you provide care as an in-home aide, you must re-apply in the OCLQS every two years after your initial approval. Day camp organizers must annually re-apply by March 15 of the following year in accordance with the summer camp season. 

If approved, you’ll also receive an email with instructions on how to apply to the Publicly Funded Child Care Program (PFCC). This is a voluntary program that allows licensed childcare providers to accept payments for providing care to children that are eligible for their childcare services to be partially or fully paid by the state. PFCC is available to all licensed childcare providers except for in-home aides. 

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Ohio

After you receive a childcare license, choose a name for your childcare program, and begin operating, you’re continuously expected to remain in compliance with the standards required at initial approval. Childcare centers and in-home aides are subject to at least one inspection each state fiscal year after being issued a license. Family childcare providers are subject to at least one inspection in each half of the fiscal year after being issued a continuous license. Day camps will also be subject to at least one inspection per camp season. 

These inspections will help you remain an efficient, quality childcare provider. They’ll also confirm and update your understanding of the childcare provider rules that will keep you compliant. The biggest parts of childcare provider licensing compliance are maintaining proper staff-to-child ratios, training new hires, completing professional development requirements, and renewing your license on time. For instance, in-home aides must do six hours of professional development each year to stay compliant. Childcare centers and family childcare programs must ensure every staff member has the following:

  • High school education or GED
  • Profile in the OPR
  • Infant and child CPR and first aid training within the first 90 days of hire
  • Child abuse and neglect recognition and prevention training in the first 60 days of hire
  • Annual minimum of six clock hours of training in topics related to childcare or child development
  • Medical statement
  • Background check

Childcare providers should periodically review childcare program resources for updates and to maintain a clear understanding of compliance requirements. However, staying compliant isn’t the only way to be a great childcare provider. Running a smooth, efficient, and well-maintained program is also important. Relying on a system like brightwheel’s childcare center management software has all the tools you need to provide high-quality service to families. 

Start a daycare in Ohio

Obtaining a childcare license is one of the first steps in starting a childcare center. There are multiple types of childcare programs in Ohio, and most require a license to operate. It’s important to understand the specific provider, capacity, and facility requirements you must meet before opening for business. With research and careful planning, you can navigate the childcare licensing application process with ease and move on to the next phase of your business. 

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