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How to Start a Daycare in Vermont

Discover steps to take to start a successful daycare business in Vermont.

How to Start a Daycare in Vermont

How to Start a Daycare in Vermont

Starting a daycare in Vermont can be an enriching venture involving turning your passion—caring for children—into a profitable business. However, before opening a childcare center, you’ll need to understand the licensing requirements in your area. 

In our comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you must know about starting a daycare in Vermont, including the different types of childcare licenses, the application process, and how to remain compliant with the state’s regulations.

Do I need a childcare license in Vermont?

The Vermont Department for Children and Families, Child Development Division, regulates childcare licensing in Vermont. According to the state childcare regulations, you need a license to operate an early childcare program. The department regulates and licenses different types of programs:


The following childcare arrangement programs are legally exempt from the mandatory licensing requirements:

  • Relatives caring for children in their homes
  • Caring for children from one or two families
  • A hospital or establishment holding a license issued by the Department of Health or a person operating a program primarily for recreational or therapeutic purposes
  • Child care facilities operated by religious organizations for the care and supervision of children during or in connection with religious services or activities
  • After-school programs serving children in one or more grades from kindergarten through secondary school overseen by the Agency of Education

Childcare licensing requirements in Vermont

A lot goes into starting a daycare, ranging from having solid marketing strategies, creating a business plan, choosing a daycare name, hiring quality staff, and obtaining the right licenses. Below are more details about the licensing requirements for childcare programs in Vermont.

Center-based childcare and preschool programs

Staff qualifications

The program director must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be qualified as a teacher associate if licensed to serve up to 12 children
  • In addition to a teacher associate qualification, a program director licensed to serve 13-59 children must have one of the following qualifications: 
    • A Vermont Early Childhood and Afterschool Program Director Step One Certificate 
    • Successful completion of a three college credit course in program management for early care and education or school-age care and education, or in staff supervision related to early care and education of children
    • A three college credit course in the curriculum
  • In addition to a teacher associate qualification, a program director licensed to serve 60 or more children must have at least an additional 24 months of experience working with groups of children from grade three or younger 
  • The director must also complete either one of the following: 
    • A Vermont Early Childhood and Afterschool Program Director Step Two Certificate or Vermont Early Childhood and Afterschool Program Director Credential, Step Three 
    • Successful completion of a three college credit course in the curriculum and additional nine college credits in program management, staff supervision, administration, or human resource management
  • The program director licensed to care for 13 or more children must complete a three-college credit course in managing early care and education program within one year of the employment start date

A teacher must:

  • Be at least 20 years old
  • Meet either one of the following qualifications:
    • At least a Vermont Early Childhood Career Ladder Level Four A or B Certificate
    • A bachelor's degree from an accredited college with a major or concentration in Early Childhood, Child or Human Development, Elementary Education, Special Education with birth to eight years of age focus, or Child and Family Services and at least 12 months experience working with groups of children from grade three or younger
    • A bachelor's degree from an accredited college with at least successful completion of 30 college credits with an early childhood or school-age focus and at least 12 months of experience working with groups of children from grade three or younger 
    • A current Vermont Agency of Education teaching license with an endorsement in Early Childhood, Early Childhood Special Education, or Elementary Education

A teacher associate must:

  • Be at least 20 years old
  • Be a high school graduate or have completed a general educational development (GED)
  • Meet one of the following qualifications: 
    • A Vermont Early Childhood Career Ladder Level Three Certificate
    • An associate degree from an accredited college with a major or concentration in Early Childhood, Child or Human Development, Elementary Education, or Child and Family Services and at least 12 months experience working with groups of children from grade three or younger; or at least a Certificate of Completion from the Registered Child Care Apprenticeship Program
    • A Child Care Certificate from the Community College of Vermont and at least 12 months experience working with groups of children from grade three or younger; or at least successful completion of 21 college credits with an early childhood or school-age focus and at least 12 months experience working with groups of children from grade three or younger

A teacher assistant must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a high school graduate or have completed a general educational development (GED)
  • Meet one of the following qualifications: 
    • A Vermont Early Childhood Career Ladder Level One or Two Certificate
    • A current Child Development Associate credential and at least 12 months experience working with groups of children from grade three or younger
    • A State Board of Education approved Human Services Program Certificate that emphasizes child development or early childhood education and at least 12 months experience working with groups of children from grade three or younger
    • Successful completion of the Fundamentals for Early Childhood Professionals’ course or the Vermont Afterschool Essentials Certificate and at least 12 months experience working with groups of children from grade three or younger 
    • Successful completion of a three college credit course in a child or human development or a three college credit course for school-age care and education and at least 12 months experience working with groups of children from grade three or younger

A classroom aide must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Meet one of the following qualifications: 
    • A high school graduate or has completed a GED and completes the Fundamentals for Early Childhood Professionals' course or the Vermont Afterschool Essentials Certificate within the first 12 months of employment
    • A high school graduate and successful completion of a three college credit course in a child or human development or school-age care and education within the first 12 months of employment

A trainee must:

  • Be at least 15 years old
  • Meet one of the following qualifications:
    • A high school graduate or has completed a GED and completes the Fundamentals for Early Childhood Professionals' course or the Vermont Afterschool Essentials Certificate within the first 12 months of employment 
    • A high school graduate or has completed a GED and successful completion of a three college credit course in a child or human development or school-age care and education within the 12 months of employment 
    • Is enrolled in or has received a State Board of Education approved Human Services Program Certificate that emphasizes child development or early childhood education

A substitute must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a high school graduate or have completed a general educational development (GED)

Maximum capacity, group size, and staffing

 

Age

Maximum group size

Staff:child ratio

Birth-18 months

8

1:4

18 months-30 months

10

1:4

24 months-36 months

10

1:5

32 months-42 months

15

1:6

36 months-kindergarten

20

1:10

1st grade and up

26

1:13

 

Family child care homes

Staff qualifications

A family child care home provider must be:

  • At least 18 years old
  • A high school graduate or have completed a general educational development (GED)
  • Meet at least one of these qualifications:
    • A Vermont Early Childhood Career Ladder Level One Certificate or higher; 
    • Successful completion of the Fundamentals for Early Childhood Professionals’ course
    • A current Child Development Associate credential (CDA) from the National Council for Professional Recognition
    • A Child Care Certificate from Community College of Vermont 
    • Successful completion of 12 college credits in content consistent with the core knowledge areas identified by Northern Lights Career Development Center (NLCDC)

A family child care home assistant must:

  • Be 18 years old
  • Meet or exceed either of the following qualifications:
    • A high school graduate or has completed a GED and the Fundamentals for Early Childhood Professionals' course within the first 12 months of employment 
    • A high school graduate or has completed a GED and has completed at least three college credits in content consistent with the core knowledge areas identified by NLCDC within the first 12 months of employment 
    • Is enrolled in or is a high school graduate and graduate from a State Board of Education approved Human Services Certificate Program that emphasizes child development or early childhood education

A classroom aide must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Meet one of the following qualifications:
    • A high school graduate or has completed a GED and completes the Fundamentals for Early Childhood Professionals’ course or the Vermont Afterschool Essentials Certificate within the first 12 months of employment
    • A high school graduate or has completed a GED and successful completion of three college credits in content consistent with the core knowledge areas identified by NLCDC within the first 12 months of employment

A trainee must meet one of the following qualifications:

  • Is 17 years old and enrolled in a State Board of Education approved Human Services Certificate Program emphasizing child development or early childhood education
  • Is 17 years old and a graduate from a State Board of Education approved Human Services Certificate Program emphasizing child development or early childhood education
  • Is 18 years old and enrolled in a State Board of Education-approved Human Services Certificate Program that emphasizes child development or early childhood education

A substitute must be:

  • At least 18 years old
  • A high school graduate or has completed a GED

Maximum capacity, group size, and staffing

The total number of children in care cannot exceed 10 for children in year-round care programs or 12 children for summer vacation programs. Here’s an overview of the staff-to-child ratios:

  • At least one staff person to care for three children
  • At least two staff members must be present when the number of children in care exceeds six
  • One staff person can only care for two children under 24 months
  • At least three staff persons must be present when eight or more children are in care

Childcare license application in Vermont

Vermont's childcare license application process is divided into three phases. Here are the steps to take for every phase.

Phase I

Phase I establishes your daycare business entity. Detailed information can be found in the phase I resource guide. Below is a quick rundown of the steps involved:

Step 1: Business entity


Step 2: Financial documentation


Step 3: Request an application

  • Request an application from the Vermont Bright Futures Child Care Information System (BFIS) website. Click the “Become a Provider” tab to apply online
  • Provide the required information, and then submit

Step 4: Background clearance


Step 5: Contact your town’s childcare business technician

  • Here’s where to find their contact information
  • The business technician will review your application and advise accordingly. The department will schedule a visit to your proposed childcare location within 3-4 business days after processing your application

Phase II

Phase II starts with a visit from the department. The department-assigned licensor will review your proposed childcare location and your business plan. The second phase culminates with you submitting a completed license application. Detailed information can be found in the phase II resource guide

Step 1: Gather required information/documentation

  • Tax standing
  • Child support obligations
  • Insurance
  • Interior space
  • Outdoor space
  • Zoning
  • Fire prevention
  • Heating system inspection (FCCH only)
  • Water and wastewater permits
  • Drinking water system (lead water testing)
  • Drinking water system (bacterial and chemical testing)
  • Lead
  • Staff qualifications
  • Written policies and procedures for parents and staff
  • Emergency response plan

Step 2: Complete the license application

Enter the information you’ve gathered in step 1 above into the Bright Futures Information System (BFIS).

Step 3: Contact the child care business technician

Email the child care business technician assigned to the town where you intend to start your child care program and attach all required documents such as your certificate of liability insurance, zoning approval, and occupancy permit.

The child care business technician will review your documentation and notify you if anything is missing within your BFIS online account.

Phase III

This is the last phase of the license application process. A department-assigned licensor will visit your premise to verify compliance with the regulations and then give a site visit report. Lastly, the visiting licensor will submit the report to the licensing supervisor for a final review and give a decision. You should receive a notification via email if your application is successful or is denied. The department issues two types of licenses depending on compliance with the regulations:

  • A full license: Valid for three years and must be renewed annually
  • Provisional license: Given under conditions and is valid for less than a year

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Vermont

The department will send an annual license requirement notice 60 days before the current license expires through the Vermont Bright Futures Child Care Information System (BFIS). It's recommended to complete the application for license renewal at least 45 days before your current license expires. 

Whether you’re opening a center-based program or starting a preschool at home, you’ll need organized systems in place to help you manage your daily operations. A tool like brighthwheel’s center management feature streamlines your enrollment process and reporting to help you save time on administrative tasks.

Start your daycare in Vermont 

Before starting your daycare in Vermont, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the daycare regulations and the steps involved in the application process. Once you navigate the licensing requirements, you can move on to the next phase of your business.

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