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Licensing and Compliance

All childcare programs operating in the District of Columbia must comply with the established childcare requirements. Childcare requirements ensure that programs are meeting the minimum standards for care in the District of Columbia.  Programs must maintain substantial compliance. Childcare licensing requirements that are checked in a program’s compliance history include:

  • Ownership, organization, and administration
  • Supervision of children
  • Condition of equipment and materials
  • Discipline practices
  • Child/staff ratios
  • Environment indoor and out doors
  • Staff qualification and training development
  • Criminal background checks
  • Menus and food served

In addition, child development facilities are required to comply with sanitation, building and fire codes and lead clearances as required by other District agencies to become licensed. These include a certificate of occupancy, home occupation permit, lead clearance, fire approval, a letter of good standing if incorporated and a certificate of attendance at an OSSE childcare orientation within 12 consecutive months.  

Learn more about the child development facility licensing requirements.

Unless specifically exempted, every Caregiver and Child Development Facility, regardless of the name by which the Facility is designated must be licensed to operate a childcare facility in the District of Columbia.

If you do not meet any of the exempted categories below, then you need to apply for a license. The exemptions are:

  • Occasional babysitting in a babysitter's home for the children of one family;
  • Informal parent-supervised neighborhood play groups;
  • Care provided in places of worship during religious services;
  • Care by a related person, as defined in section 399 of this Chapter; and
  • Facilities operated by the federal government on federal government property; except that a private entity utilizing space in or on federal government property is not exempt unless federal law specifically exempts the Facility from District of Columbia regulatory authority.

How Do I Get Licensed?

  • Determine the kind of child development program you want to offer. This is important because the process is based on the type of program.
  • View an online webinar of one of the following orientations: Child Development Center or Home Development Center. If you require additional assistance please do not hesitate to contact our office at (202) 727-1839.
  • Obtain a Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation Permit from the Department of Consumer Affairs

License Renewal Forms

Licensing Orientation

In-Home Provider Resources

Complaints and Unusual Incident Reporting

How can I report a complaint or unusual incident at a child care center?

To make a complaint about child care services call the Complaint and Unusual Incidents Hotline at (202) 727-2993 or send an email to OSSE.ChildcareComplaints@dc.gov. Complaints may also be faxed to the Compliance and Integrity Division at (202) 727-7295.

Contact Phone: 
(202) 727-1839
Contact Fax: 
(202) 741-5403
Contact TTY: 
Contact Suite #: 
4th Floor
Office Hours: 
Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 5:30 pm
Service Location: 

810 First Street, NE

GIS Address: 
810 First Street, NE