Child care programs

The state of Minnesota licenses child care to protect the health, safety, and individual rights of the children in care. Child care licensure is mandated in law and ensures that licensed programs provide healthy and safe settings that meet quality standards.

In Minnesota, licensed child care is provided through either child care centers or family child care.

  • Family child care is generally provided in the caregiver’s home with no more than 14 children cared for at any one time. An individual who intends to care for children from more than one unrelated family must obtain a license.
  • • A child care center, generally, is characterized by a location other than the provider’s or caregiver’s home, larger numbers of children being cared for, and staff qualifications and training requirements.
  • In some cases, a child care center may be excluded from licensure. License-exempt child care is specific to certain groups of child care programs based on the setting, population of children served, services provided, number of children served, and/or the length of service. More information about exemptions for licensure can be found in Minnesota Statutes, 245A.03, subdivision 2. In Minnesota, license-exempt child care centers may be required to meet certain standards if they participate in Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program.

    Each licensed family child care provider and licensed child care center must apply for a license from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). A license to provide child care will be approved once the facility/program meets required standards. In addition, all staff must pass a background study.

    Once a child care program is licensed and providing care, licensors will visit the program at least once every two years to ensure providers are meeting the licensing requirements. Licensors also visit to investigate complaints.


    Monitoring and enforcing licensing requirements
    Learn more about how licensed child care programs are monitored and how licensing requirements are enforced: Child care licensing: Monitoring child care compliance with standards DHS-6385 (PDF)

    Licensing Information Lookup
    This search tool provides information, including monitoring results, on licensed family child care homes and licensed child care centers.

    Safety issues
    Minnesota requires child care providers to attend trainings and meet requirements on health, safety and fire standards.

    Background studies
    Licensed child care providers must pass a background study prior to providing child care. Learn more about background study requirements and what could disqualify someone from providing child care.

    Child Care Assistance Program
    The Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program helps make quality child care affordable for income-eligible families.

    Parent Aware
    Parent Aware
    gives parents tools and information to find the best quality child care and early education.

    Child Care Aware of Minnesota
    Child Care Aware of Minnesota
    offers resources for families searching for child care programs and for professionals in the child care field.

    Additional information about changes to immunization requirements can be found in a brochure (PDF) produced by the Minnesota Department of Health and this Child Care Immunization Form (PDF).


    Provider updates

    Guidelines for the Posting of Child Care Licensing Information

    The Guidelines for the Posting of Child Care Licensing Information describe the way public licensing information for child care programs is currently displayed on the website Licensing Information Lookup ( It explains the changes and improvements we are making and when they will take effect. It also summarizes the stakeholder input we received before making the changes. (April 2018)

    · Presentation for Family Child Care Providers of the Changes to Licensing Information Lookup (May 2018)

    · Presentation for Child Care Centers on the Changes to Licensing Information Lookup (May 2018)

    Fix-It Ticket
    Beginning January 1, 2018, licensors are required to issue a Fix-It Ticket for eligible violations that do not imminently endanger the health, safety, or rights of children in care. The Fix-It Ticket Implementation Report DHS-7657 (PDF) includes additional information about when a Fix-It Ticket must be issued and the list of eligible violations for child care centers (page 9) and for family child care (page 10). The forms used for issuing Fix-It Tickets are here: Child Care Center Fix-It Ticket Form and Family Child Care Fix-It Ticket Form.  (January 2018)

    ALERT: Scam letter targets family child care providers
    DHS has been informed of a scam letter being mailed to family child care providers licensed in Washington County. The letter alleges sexual abuse of an unidentified child at the child care and demands a payment or the sender will contact police. More information about the scam and what you should do if you receive such a letter is in an alert. (August 2017)

    Sign up to receive licensing information by email
    Child care providers can now subscribe to the child care provider email lists to receive important information, including legislative changes, from DHS. (August 2017)

    2017 legislation includes changes to comply with Child Care Development Block Grant
    The 2017 Legislature made a number of statutory changes for programs licensed by DHS. These are only summaries of the changes enacted and may not reflect all changes to laws that impact licensed programs. For full requirements, please refer to the applicable law in Minnesota statute. Legislation includes changes to background study requirements for all child care providers to comply with the reauthorized federal Child Care Development Block Grant. Additional information is in frequently asked questions about child care background studies.

    Important information about measles outbreak
    Starting in April 2017, a number of measles cases have been confirmed by the Minnesota Department of Health. More information for child care providers about the measles outbreak and immunization requirements, including a June 2017 update, is online. (June 2017)


    Understanding Licensed Child Care in Minnesota (PDF) is a licensed child care brief that provides licensing data along with an analysis of issues facing licensed child care in Minnesota.

    These fact sheets address commonly asked questions and provide insight on trends in licensed care.

  • •  Ratio and Group Size Requirements in Licensed Child Care (PDF)
  • •  Safe Sleep Requirements in Licensed Child Care (PDF)
  • •  Background Study Requirements for Licensed Child Care (PDF)
  • •  County Delegated Licensure of Family Child Care Programs (PDF)
  • •  Licensed Child Care Trends, 2015 (PDF)
  • •  Licensed Child Care Sanctions, 2015 (PDF)
  • Licensed Child Care Training Requirements, 2016 (PDF)
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG)

    These videos provide information about the CCDBG changes affecting child care programs in Minnesota:

  • · CCDBG for Minnesota Licensed Child Care Centers (video)
  • · CCDBG for Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Providers (video)
  • · CCDBG for Minnesota License Exempt Child Care Providers (video)
  • Licensing forms
    These are the forms and templates you may need to complete as part of your ongoing work.

    Food Program
    The Child and Adult Care Food Program reimburses child care homes for a maximum of two meals and one snack, or one meal and two snacks, per day per eligible child younger than 11 years.

    General information:

    DHS Translation Services
    Translation services
    are available to you along with interpretation services and multilingual referral lines.

    DHS Accessibility Services
    Access information about web resources for individuals with disabilities, including accessible technology options.

    Reporting Maltreatment and Licensing Violation Concerns
    To report unsafe conditions at a licensed family child care program, contact your county/tribal child care licensing agency (PDF).

    To report unsafe conditions at a licensed child care center, contact the Department’s Licensing Division at 651-431-6600.

    Sign up to receive child care licensing information by email

    Child care providers can now subscribe to receive important information, including legislative changes, by email. The information will be periodically sent from DHS Licensing.

    Do not reply to emails sent to you, as they will not be read or forwarded for handling. Your email address is used only to deliver the information you requested.

    Family child care providers email list

    Email Updates
    To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your contact information below.

    Child care centers email list

    Email Updates
    To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your contact information below.
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