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Child Care Licensing: State Variations & Going Beyond the Basics

street sign that says safety first

Embarking on the journey of finding the right daycare or preschool for your child is both exciting and challenging. There are factors to consider, such as cost, location, hours of operation, the type of curriculum used, and, most importantly, will your child be safe. This consideration might not be top of mind for all parents because we are so used to state regulations ensuring our health and safety at places like restaurants, nail salons, and dry cleaners. So, why wouldn't there be stringent regulations for our youngest children? Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. While many states have standards in place for obtaining and operating a daycare or preschool, these standards often represent the bare minimum for health and safety.

Let's look at some examples:

Teacher-to-Child Ratios

Let's delve into the numbers behind teacher-to-child ratios to understand some of the differences from state to state. In New Jersey, the state mandates 1 teacher for every 12 four-year-olds in a classroom, whereas Florida requires 1 teacher for every 20 four-year-olds. Best practice, however, dictates 1 teacher for every 10 four-year-olds. This is crucial because lower teacher-child ratios mean more eyes on your child and more one-on-one time for growth and development.

Group Size

Another critical factor is group size, which represents the maximum number of children allowed in one class. A lower group size enables teachers to respond more easily and quickly to children, ensuring sufficient space and resources for everyone. For instance, in Virginia, the maximum group size for children ages 3 to 4 is 30, while in Massachusetts, it is 20 for the same age group.


Even more alarming is the fact that some states don't require licenses to operate a daycare program, depending on the type of program. In Virginia, a person can provide care for up to four children out of their home without registering with the state. In Georgia, daycares or preschools may be considered "license exempt," meaning they aren't regulated by state licensing but may be regulated by other government agencies. This lack of oversight could mean that programs aren't subject to regular monitoring visits and are not obligated to follow even the basic health and safety standards, which are minimal to begin with.

I could continue to go on and on about these basic standards and the variations from state to state because I find it extremely troubling. These are the basics of what makes a daycare or preschool safe for children and should not vary so widely state to state. This is why I believe in and emphasize the importance of ProEarly Co.

Child Care licensing and child health & safety have been my focus for nearly 10 years, allowing me to understand these differences and discern what to look for and demand when looking at daycares and preschools. But I also recognize how I confidently assume protection when entering restaurants, nail salons, and dry cleaners, and I understand that many parents likely share the same assumption when selecting a daycare or preschool for their child. ProEarly Co’s goal is to educate and empower parents about this information so that they can make informed decisions for their families.

We've compiled all the basics we know into our Comprehensive Guides and strongly encourage all parents, at the very least, to read through them before selecting a care option for their child. I would also love to address location or situation-specific questions, so please schedule a call or send us a DM. We are here to help!



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