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.

    Updated June 2017: Important information about measles outbreak

    Since the initial information regarding the measles outbreak was posted, the DHS Licensing Division has received questions from licensed child care providers. Among the questions is whether a licensed child care center or licensed family child care provider can exclude a child from care if the child is not current on all required immunizations, even if the parent/guardian has claimed an allowable exemption. The following important message addresses this.

    Updated Message June 2017: Immunizations in DHS Licensed Programs (PDF)

    May 2017

    Currently there is a measles outbreak in Minnesota. Children who have not had all of their shots are at risk of serious illness, and they also pose a risk to the health of other children in your care. As a child care provider, you must ensure that the children in your care have received certain vaccines or have filed appropriate exemptions as allowed by Minnesota law (Minn. Statutes, section 121A.15).

  • • The Licensed Child Care Centers webpage contains information and resources about licensing immunization requirements for licensed child care centers.
  • • The Licensed Family Child Care webpage contains information and resources about licensing immunization requirements for family licensed child care.
  • Publications:

    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)
  • •  Child Care Emergency Preparedness FAQs (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)
  • New Information:

    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)
  • CCDBG proposed legislation in Minnesota
    In February, the Department of Human Service’s budget bill was introduced in the House and Senate (see HF 887 and/or SF 781). Article 9 of each bill contains the CCDBG legislative language.


    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).


    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.

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