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Licensing and Compliance

All child care programs operating in the District of Columbia must comply with the established child care requirements. Child care requirements ensure that programs are meeting the minimum standards for care in the District of Columbia.  Programs must maintain substantial compliance. Child care 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 child care 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 child care 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 or a child’s home for the children of one family;
  • Care provided in a child’s home by a caregiver paid for by a child’s family;
  • Care provided for more than one child in a Nanny-Share, as defined in this chapter;
  • Informal or occasional parent-supervised play groups;
  • Adult gyms or clubs that provide temporary babysitting as a benefit in order for members to utilize services;
  • Adult education programs that provide child care services while parent(s) are on the same campus as the child attending a class or education program for a temporary period of time;
  • Child-centered businesses that solely provide sessions, classes or activities including, but not limited to, tutoring, music, dance, sport, or art, while parent(s) or guardian(s) remain on the business’ premises;
  • Care provided in places of worship during religious services;
  • Care provided by a related person;
  • 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 the District of Columbia’s regulatory authority;
  • A District of Columbia public school or public charter school providing education services to children in grades pre-K3 through grade 12 during a full school day;
  • A private school providing education services to children in grades pre-K through twelfth grade 12 during the a full school day;
  • A community based organization providing only pre-K education services to pre-K age children pursuant to the Pre-K Act and funded by OSSE;
  • Facilities that provide only before school care, only after school care, or only summer camp to school age children.

How Do I Get a License?

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Licensing Orientation

License Renewal

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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 Hotline at (202) 727-2993 or send an email to [email protected]. Complaints may also be faxed to the Licensing and Compliance Unit at (202) 727-7295.

Request for Waiver

Contact Phone: 
(202) 727-1839
Contact Fax: 
(202) 741-5403
Contact TTY: 
711
Contact Suite #: 
Sixth Floor
Office Hours: 
Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Service Location: 

1050 First Street, NE

GIS Address: 
1050 First Street, NE
City: 
Washington
State: 
DC
Zip: 
20002