NC Child Care Licensing Information

In North Carolina, child care programs are regulated by the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education. If an individual is caring for more than two children who aren't related to them 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 smaller program offered in the provider's residence where three to five preschool children are in care. They may also provide care for three school age children.

Child care center
A larger program providing care for three or more children, but not in a residential setting. The number of children in care is based upon the size of individual classrooms and having sufficient staff, equipment and materials.

Programs that are exempt from licensure

  • 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, or organized clubs for children, such as 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
  • Public schools

Regulation of Child Care

All licensed child care programs are required to meet child care rules and regulations. Child care requirements ensure that programs are meeting the minimum standards for care in North Carolina.  Some of the child care licensing requirements that are checked during a program’s compliance visit are:

  • Supervision of children
  • Condition of equipment and materials
  • Discipline practices
  • Child/staff ratios
  • Sanitation practices
  • Staff education and training development

In addition, centers are required to meet sanitation, building and fire codes as required by other state agencies.

The Five Star Rated License System

The NC Division of Child Development and Early Education and the North Carolina Child Care Commission have created the Five Star Rated License System to help families find quality child care. You can look at a license posted at a child care facility and determine the quality of care the program provides.

More Stars = Higher Quality

One star means that a child care facility meets North Carolina’s minimum standards. Two to five stars means that an operator has voluntarily chosen to apply for more stars. In order to be awarded two to five stars, an operator agrees to have the program evaluated using a rating system that measures quality. Stars are awarded based on a child care facility’s scores in two areas: staff education and program standards.

Staff Education

Child care providers with more early childhood education and experience will provide your child with a more enriching child care experience.

Program Standards

What activities are available at the facility? How much play space is available? Are good health practices followed, such as hand washing for both teachers and children? How many child care providers and children are in each group? What is the daily routine? Asking these questions will provide you with information about program standards.

Child Care facilities can receive up to seven points in each of the two areas above (education and program standards). A facility may also earn one quality point towards its rated license by having staff with more education or meeting additional program standards such as reducing the staff to child ratio, or offering more activities for  children among other options. The maximum number of points that can be earned is 15. The more points that are earned, the higher the facility’s star rating will be. More stars indicates higher quality care!


Information Provided by NC DCDEE (