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Program Licensing and Accreditation


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Ohio’s child care licensing regulations currently consist of basic requirements to prevent harm to children’s health, safety and development. The regulations cover areas that include space requirements, staff/child ratios, staff requirements, program, equipment, policies and procedures, safety/discipline, health procedures, children’s records, infant care, hand washing/diaper changing, and nutrition.

Different Programs with Different Requirements - A Review of Program Types and Requirements:

Child Care Centers
With the exception of centers operated by public or private chartered schools, which are licensed by the Ohio Department of Education, child care centers that care for more than seven children of any age must be licensed by Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. This includes Head Start centers. Child care centers are inspected prior to receiving a license and after issuance once yearly for part time centers and twice yearly for full time centers. Child care centers must post their license and inspection reports in a conspicuous place for parents to view.

Type A Family Child Care Homes
Family Child Care Homes that care for seven to twelve children (four to twelve children if four of the children are under two years of age) in the provider’s personal residence, must be licensed by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The provider’s own children under the age of six are included in the count. If more than six children are in care, there must be two adult caregivers.

School-Age Programs
Programs that care for seven or more children of kindergarten age and above must be licensed by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Those operated by public or private chartered schools are licensed by the Ohio Department of Education.

Preschool and Kindergarten Programs
Programs operated by public or private chartered schools are licensed by the Ohio Department of Education.

Programs are licensed in Ohio through two organizations:
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services or Ohio Department of Education.

Programs that Do Not Require Licensing include:

  • Child care provided in a child’s own home
  • Programs that operate two weeks or less a year
  • Programs where parents remain on the premises (unless at the parent’s employment site).
  • Programs that provide specialized training such as art, drama, dance, swimming, etc.
  • Programs that operate one day a week for six hours or less

Programs that Require Certification:

Type B Family Child Care Homes
Family Child Care Homes that receive public funds for child care must be certified by their local county Department of Job and Family Services. The certification process includes various background checks, home inspections, a fire inspection, and a medical statement from a physician or nurse verifying that the applicant is able to provide child care. In addition, the applicant must complete initial training and participate in ongoing training. For more information about certification by Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services visit their website.

A family child care home caring for more than six children (Type A family child care home) must be licensed by the state, but anyone can operate a Type B family child care home without a license in the state of Ohio. If a Type B home receives public funds for child care, then the home must be certified by the local Department of Job and Family Services. A Type B family child care home cares for one to six children, with no more than three children under two years of age. The provider’s own children under age six are included in the count.

Programs that are Registered (may be required or voluntary):

Family Child Care Homes
Type B Family Child Care Homes that are not required to be certified may choose to be registered with Action for Children. Registration with Action for Children requires that minimum health and safety requirements be met. For example, a registered Family Child Care Home must pass fire and health department inspections must have a medical physical and TB test, must have background checks, and more.

Child Summer Day Camps
Day camp programs with 50% of activities occurring outdoors, that care for school age children for less than seven hours a day and only during the vacation of the public schools, must be registered with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. If the program receives public funds, it must meet American Camping Association accreditation standards (see Programs that are Accredited below), or be approved by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Programs that are Accredited:
Accreditation means that a child care program has exceeded the basic standards required by state regulation. The process is rigorous and time-consuming and involves costs related not only to the application itself, but also costs to upgrade and maintain high quality. With the exception of some camp programs, accreditation is voluntary.

Child Care Centers, Preschools and Kindergartens
Programs may be accredited through such national organizations as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Montessori (AMS), or National Accreditation Commission for Early Care and Education (NAC), to name a few. The accreditation process involves a rigorous self-study and often involves an onsite visit from the national organization and a review by a panel of national experts. For example, NAEYC accreditation is for a period of five years and the accredited center must agree to act upon suggestions made by the panel regarding program improvements and thereafter must submit annual reports documenting continued compliance.

Family Child Care Homes
Family Child Care Homes can be accredited by the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC). The process for accreditation through NAFCC also involves a self-study and an on-site visit by a trained NAFCC observer to document the program, review records and interview the provider. The NAFCC Accreditation Commission makes the final decision on accreditation.

Summer Camps
Camp programs can voluntarily become accredited. However, camps that receive public funds must either be accredited by the American Camping Association (ACA) or be approved by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The main purpose of ACA accreditation is to educate camp owners and directors in the administration of key aspects of camp operation, particularly those related to program quality and the health and safety of campers and staff. ACA uses industry-accepted and government-recognized standards to establish guidelines for necessary policies, procedures and practices. Camps engage in a self-study process based on these guidelines, which is then validated by an on-site visit when the camp is in full operation. Once accredited, the camp is responsible for ongoing implementation of guidelines and must sign an annual letter of compliance with ACA for accreditation to continue. Click here for information about ACA accreditation.

Quality Programs:
The increased awareness that high quality early learning environments are critical to a child's holistic development and kindergarten readiness has resulted in new quality programs and initiatives. In these programs, providers must provide early learning environments that exceed licensing requirements. Participation in these programs is currently voluntary, and are supplemental to licensing, registration and accreditation. One example of a program is Step Up to Quality, Ohio's tiered quality rating and improvement system.

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