By the end of 2010 there were approximately 480 child care providers in the District of Columbia serving more than 20,000 children. The Division of Early Childhood Education monitors and licenses these child care programs to ensure that these settings are healthy and safe, as well as nurturing – offering high quality learning experiences that promote the healthy development of young children. Our responsibilities include:
- Supporting licensed child care centers and family child care homes through monitoring, technical assistance and training to ensure safe and healthy environments and support the quality of services to children.
- Providing information to parents about District of Columbia child care programs.
- Providing consumer education by making child development and early childhood education information available to parents and providers.
- Investigating complaints of child care programs.
- Investigating reports of unlicensed child care operations.
Regulations for Child Development Facilities
All child care programs are required to meet 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
- 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 months.
Learn more about child development facility requirements.
There are two types of programs regulated in the District of Columbia: Child Development Centers and Child Development Homes.
Child Development Center
A Child Development Center is located in premises other than a dwelling occupied by the operator of the facility. The number of children in care is based upon the size of the individual classrooms and having sufficient staff, equipment and materials.
Child Development Home
A Child Development Home is located in a private dwelling occupied by the operator of the facility with no more than six children in care. No more than two children of the six in care may be younger than two years of age. The total of six children does not include the caregiver’s own children who are six years of age or older: except that the total number of children of the caregiver between the ages of six and 15 shall not exceed three children and of those three children, no more than two children shall be age 10 or younger. “Child Development Home” also includes those Facilities classified as “Expanded Child Development Home”.
Programs that Are Exempt from Regulation
- Occasional babysitting in the babysitter’s home for the children of one family;
- Informal parent-supervised play groups;
- Care provided in places of worship during religious services;
- Care by a related person, as defined in the DC Municipal Regulations, Section 399
- A facility operated by the federal government on federal government property; except that a private entity utilizing space in or on federal government property shall not be exempt from the provisions of this chapter unless federal law specifically exempts the facility from District of Columbia regulatory authority; and
- A facility otherwise exempted by law, such as a public or private elementary or secondary school engaged in legally required educational and related functions, or a prekindergarten education program licensed pursuant to the Pre K Act of 2008.
The Division of Early Childhood Education ensures that the child development regulations are being met. The licensing specialists are responsible for licensing inspections, renewal inspections, monitoring and complaint investigations. The licensing specialist conduct annual unannounced site visits to evaluate compliance. Additional visits may be made for a variety of reasons such as:
- Pre-licensing visits for new programs
- Renewal inspection
- Monitoring inspections
- Complaint investigations
- Follow-up visits, when necessary
- Technical assistance
Documentation of information gathered during these visits is available for the public to view. Your child care provider is required to make the most recent inspection reports available to you upon request. You may also request copies of recent inspections through the Freedom of Information Act.
The facility should expect the parents to constantly reassess their child care arrangement. Here are some proactive steps parents can take to evaluate their child care provider on an ongoing basis:
- What did my child do today?
- How did my child interact with the provider?
- Listen carefully to what their child says.
- Spend a few minutes each day to talk with the caregiver about your child.
- Drop in frequently and participate in activities.
- Observe behavior during drop-off and pick-up, and explore unexplained changes.
You may also request copies of recent inspections through the Freedom of Information Act.