Florida Childcare Licensing and Regulation
Florida child care facility licensing requirements can be confusing, but the Florida Department of Children and Families has provided a wealth of information to both providers and parents.
Florida’s Department of Children and Families defines a handful of different child care providers, including licensed child care facilities, licensed family child care homes, licensed large family child care homes, licensed specialized child care facilities for the care of mildly ill children, and registered family day care homes, which are unlicensed. All child care facility personnel, including large family child care operators, must undergo 40 hours of training approved by the department, as well as 10 hours of yearly in-service training. They must also pass a competency exam.
Family day care home operators must undergo 30 hours of training approved by the department, as well as 10 hours of yearly in-service training. They must pass a competency exam as well.
Six Florida counties have made provisions for a local organization to regulate child care licensing, including Brevard, Broward, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Pinellas, and Sarasota.
Providers may apply for a license to operate a child care facility via this form: http://ccrain.fl-dcf.org/documents/6/54.pdf#page=1. To apply for a license to operate a child care facility for mildly ill children, providers may apply using this form: http://ccrain.fl-dcf.org/documents/6/58.pdf#page=1. Providers who wish to apply for a license to operate a family day care home may do so here: http://ccrain.fl-dcf.org/documents/6/55.pdf#page=1. Finally, a license to operate a large family day care home may be procured here: http://ccrain.fl-dcf.org/documents/6/57.pdf#page=1.
Certain religious institutions are exempt from child care laws. A child care facility comprising an integral part of a church, or a parochial school conducting regularly scheduled classes, courses of study, or educational programs accredited by an organization that has high standards for sanitation, health, and safety falls under this category. For more information regarding exemption details, including religious exemption from licensure annual statement and religious exempt child care facilities, click here: http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/childcare/religiousexempt.shtml.
More information on the laws and requirements necessary to operate a child care facility may be found here: http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/childcare/laws.shtml. A provider guide, as well as more information pertaining to all providers, can be accessed here: http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/childcare/information.shtml.
Parents can ensure a child care facility is licensed by selecting the appropriate county here: https://cares.myflfamilies.com/PublicSearch. For center-based care of children under 18 months, there must be one provider per every four children. For care of children from 18 to 26 months old, one provider must be available for every six children. For children aged 26 months to 2 years and 11 months old, one provider must be available for every 11 children, and so on. Below are the child to staff ratios per Florida state requirements:
(Note: Some counties may have more restrictive ratios than those required by the state.)
For licensed child care facilities:
- Children under 12 months: 1 to 4
- Children age 12 to 23 months: 1 to 6
- Children age 24 to 35 months: 1 to 11
- Children age 36 to 47 months: 1 to 15
- Children age 48 months to 59 months: 1 to 20
- Children age 60 months (5 years old) or older: 1 to 25
A family child care provider may care for one of the following groups of children:
- 1 to 4: from birth to 12 months of age
- 1 to 6: if no more than three are under 12 months
- 1 to 10: as long as at least five children are school-age and no more than two are under 12 months of age
- 2 to 8: if more than 4 children under 24 months old
- 2 to 12: if no more than 4 children are under 24 months old
By perusing the Florida Department of Children and Families website, both providers and parents will find a comprehensive explanation of all types of child care licensing facilities and their requirements.