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Child Care License Requirements Overview


Programs That Are Regulated By The Division of Child Development and Early Education

If your provider is caring for more than two children who aren't related and they provide care for more than four hours a day, they probably should be licensed. In general, there are two types of programs regulated by the state, family child care homes and child care centers.

  • Family child care home
    • A child care arrangement located in a residence where, at any one time, more than two children, but less than nine children, receive child care. 
  • Child care center
    • A child care arrangement where, at any one time, there are three or more preschool-age children or nine or more school-age children receiving child care.  This also includes a center located in a residence, where the program is in a residence and the licensed capacity is six through twelve children, or up to fifteen school-age children. 

Programs That Are Exempt From Regulation

Listed below are those instances where a program does not have to be regulated by the Division:

  • Recreational programs operated for less than four consecutive months in a year (e.g. summer camps)
  • 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 a national or regional accrediting agencies with early childhood standards and that operate (i) a child care facility for less than six and one-half hours per day either on or off the school site, or (ii) a child care facility for more than six and one-half hours per day, but do not receive NC Pre-K or child care subsidy funding
  • Vacation Bible schools
  • Centers and homes located on federal property over which the federal government has control (military based 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
  • Track-out programs provided to school-age children when they are out of school on a year-round school calendar

Religious sponsored program exemption

Religious sponsored programs are given the option in child care law to operate under a Notice of Compliance with child care rules and laws rather than a child care license. They meet the rules for a one star license except that they are exempt from the following child care rules:

Age Appropriate Activities

Rules .2512, .0508, through .0510 and .2508

Staff Qualifications and Training Requirements

Rules .0703(d) through (f), .0704, .0714(a) through (d) and .1101, .1102(a), (b), (e), and (g), and .1103 through .1106.

Staff Qualifications if working with school aged children only

Rule .2510

The Division monitors programs that operate under a “Notice of Compliance” in the same manner all other programs are monitored to ensure the facilities are healthy and safe for children. If religious sponsored programs receive child care subsidies, the exemptions apply, except they must meet the health and safety training requirements of staff.

Regulations For Child Care

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 North Carolina.  Programs must maintain a compliance history of 75% for the past 18 months or the length of time the facility has operated. Some of the child care licensing requirements that are checked in a program’s compliance history are:

  • Supervision of children
  • Condition of indoor and outdoor equipment, furnishings, and materials
  • Discipline practices
  • Child/staff ratios and group sizes
  • Sanitation practices
  • Health and safety practices
  • Staff education, professional development and ongoing training

In addition, centers are required to meet sanitation, building and fire codes as required by other state agencies. The Star Rated License System recognizes facilities for their voluntary efforts to exceed these minimum standards.

When you enroll your child in a program, you should receive a summary of the child care law and rules from the provider. You can also print (legal size paper required) the summary from this web site. Click on the link provided if you are interested in viewing more details about child care requirements

Monitoring Child Care Regulations

The Division employs child care consultants to ensure child care regulations are being met. The consultants are located throughout the state and are responsible for a caseload of licensed programs in one or more counties. The consultants 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
  • Complaint investigations
  • Technical assistance
  • Rated license assessments
  • Follow-up visits, as necessary

Documentation of information gathered during these visits is available for the public to view. If you would like to review the documentation, you can ask for it from your provider or contact the Division of Child Development and Early Education at 800.859.0829. You can also view most of this information online using the Division's Facility Search Site.

Parent Involvement

Because parents are in a child care program each day, they have the best knowledge of what the provider is, or is not doing. Children need for parents to constantly assess the child care arrangement. Here are some proactive ways parents can evaluate child care providers on an ongoing basis:

  • Ask your child what he or she does during the day
  • Find out how he or she interacts with the caregiver. Listen carefully to what your child says
  • Spend a few minutes each day talking 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 

NOTICE: Global Site Search function is currently under maintenance and will not provide results. We apologize for the inconvenience. This does not impact the Child Care or Kindergarten searches.




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