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Licensing Process for Child Care Providers

There are three kinds of child care programs:

  • Child development centers;
  • Child development homes, also called family child care homes, which care for up to six children in the provider’s home; and
  • Expanded child development homes, which care for between six to 12 children.

Almost all child care programs in the District of Columbia must be licensed. (There are some exemptions. Here is a list of programs that do not need a license.)

Licensing Process

To become licensed for the first time, a child care provider must go through the following process:

  1. The provider attends a licensing orientation, which gives him or her information and instructions for submitting an application.
  2. The provider submits an application, application fee, and other required materials. To learn more about the licensing application and requirements, view the child development center orientation [PDF] or the child development home orientation [PDF].
  3. The provider and staff, when applicable, must have fingerprints taken for a background check. Learn more about criminal background checks.
  4. The application is given to a licensing specialist. The licensing specialist schedules an inspection visit.
  5. The licensing specialist inspects the child development center or home. Learn what happens during an inspection visit.
  6. If the provider does not pass the inspection, the licensing specialist gives him or her a list of things to change or improve. This is called a ‘statement of deficiencies.’
  7. The provider has 60 days to make changes. The licensing specialist will provide guidance and advice if needed.
  8. The licensing specialist schedules a follow-up visit. At this visit, he or she checks that all improvements have been made. If so, the provider passes the inspection.
  9. The licensing specialist and a licensing supervisor conduct a final visit. This visit is called a validation visit.
  10. The provider receives a license. The license is good for one year and must be renewed annually.

View the licensing process flow. [PDF]

Licensing Renewal Process

Child care licenses must be renewed every year. The process for renewing a license is very similar to the process for getting a new license:

  1. Six months before the license will expire, the provider receives a renewal package. This package includes the renewal application and other information.
  2. The provider submits a renewal application at least 90 days before the license expires.
  3. The renewal application is given to a licensing specialist. The licensing specialist schedules a renewal inspection visit.
  4. The licensing specialist inspects the child development center or home. If the provider does not pass the inspection, he or she has 30 days to make changes, or less for more serious violations.
  5. The licensing specialist schedules a follow-up visit to check that all improvements have been made. If so, the provider passes the inspection.
  6. The provider receives the renewed license, which is good for one year from the date of issue.