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Regulated Child Care in NC

Who is regulated by the Division of Child Development and Early Education?

If you are caring for more than two children who aren't related to you for more than four hours a day, you might need to be licensed. If you do not meet any of the exemption scenarios provided below, then you need to apply for a license. The exemptions are:

  • Recreational programs operated for less than four consecutive months in a year
  • Specialized activities or instruction such as athletics, dance, art, music lessons, horseback riding, gymnastics, or organized clubs for children, such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H groups, or boys and girls clubs
  • Drop-in or short-term care provided while parents participate in activities that are not employment related and where the parents are on the premises or otherwise easily accessible, such as drop-in or short-term care provided in health spas, bowling alleys, shopping malls, resort hotels, or churches
  • Public Schools
  • Nonpublic schools that are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and that operate a child care facility for less than six and one-half hours per day
  • Vacation Bible Schools
  • Centers and Homes located on federal property over which the federal government has control (military bases and the Cherokee Indian reservation)
  • Cooperative arrangements among parents to provide care for their own children as a convenience rather than for employment
  • Any child care program or arrangement consisting of two or more separate components, each of which operates for four hours or less per day with different children attending each component


How Do I Become Licensed? 

Determine the kind of child care program you want to offer. This is important because the application/forms vary based on size and type of program.

  • If you want to provide care in your home for a maximum of five preschool children, or up to eight children if at least three are school-aged, then you need to follow the Family Child Care Home Process for Licensure
  • If you want to provide care for more than five preschool children, then you need to follow the Child Care Centers application process. The number of children you can care for is based upon indoor and outdoor square footage, completed building fire and sanitation inspections and any local zoning ordinances

Child Care Center Application Process: 

  1. Review the Basic Information for Potential Providers booklet. This booklet describes the state requirements for operating a Child Care Center in North Carolina. Check with your county or city governments to find out if there are additional local standards. If you have questions or concerns related to the application process, contact the Division of Child Development and Early Education by calling our toll-free number 800.859.0829 (in-state calls only) or 919.814.6300.
  2. Register to attend a Prelicensing Workshop:  (Summer / Fall 2024)
    • Issues to consider in selecting both a site and a building for a Child Care Center
    • The role of building, fire and sanitation inspectors, as well as the child care consultants
    • Caregiving requirements for young children

      The cost of the two day Prelicensing Workshop is $135 per person.
  3. Attendance at a Prelicensing Workshop is required for anyone interested in opening a Child Care Center. The workshop leader will discuss:
    • ​Prior to attending the Prelicensing Workshop, review the Quality Costs Resource Guide. This guide outlines the early care and education system in North Carolina and identifies key resources to assist you with preparing to provide quality child care. On day two of the Prelicensing Workshop, the workshop leader will go over pieces of this information. You are encouraged to bring a copy of this guide to the workshop.
  4. At the Prelicensing Workshop (and available in the menu section of the registration page), you will receive the name and phone number of the Lead Child Care Consultant in your area. Your Lead Child Care Consultant will schedule several prelicensing visits with you to talk about the specific licensing requirements for your center and to assist you in completing the application forms. Refer to the Prelicensing Guide to assist you with next steps. 
  5. Once it is determined that all applicable requirements have been met, the license will be issued.


Family Child Care Home: 




2201 Mail Service Center | Raleigh, NC 27699-2200
919-814-6300 | 1-800-859-0829 (In State Only)
[email protected]


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