Child Care Options

Licensed Child Care

Steps to Finding the Best Child Care for Your Family

The first step to finding the right child care for your family starts with knowing what options you have. In Delaware, a license is needed when payment is received for care of any non-related child outside of their home while the parent is not present. The Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) is responsible for the licensing and monitoring of child care programs in the State of Delaware. It recently moved from the the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families (DSCYF/Kids Department) to the Delaware Department of Education (DOE).  One of the pages on the OCCL  website is specifically For Parents.

Read some information from DOE on The Importance of Selecting Licensed Child Care.   There is an English version and a Spanish version.


SPANISH_ChildcareParentLetter w-highlights ENGLISH 10-2020

There are three (3) types of licensed child care providers: 1) family child care; 2) large family child care; and 3) child care centers.  You can learn more about each type of care below.

Family Child Care

Family child care takes place in a licensed home. Up to 9 children can be cared for at one time. The number of children allowed depends on: 1) the ages of the children present at any given time; and 2) the provider’s level (Level I or Level II) as determined by their training and experience.  The number of children in care can vary from 1 to 6 infants through preschool-aged children and 1 to 3 school aged children.

Large Family Child Care

A large family child care is offered in a licensed home or business location.  The number of children allowed depends on the ages of the children present at any given time. It can vary from 7 to 12 infants through preschool-aged children and 1 to 3 school aged children. Depending on the number of children and their ages there needs to be one to three staff members.

Child Care Centers

Child Care Centers are in a business location and serve 13 or more children. This type of care includes child care centers, preschools, and before/after school care. Centers are licensed for a total number of children. Staff to child ratios and maximum group size must be maintained based on the youngest child present in the group. Ages served, philosophy, curriculum, costs, and services can vary from one center to another.

Centers Staff to Child Ratio & Maximum Group Size by Age of Child

wdt_IDAge of ChildRangeMinimum Staff/Child RatioMaximum Group Size
1Infant(under 12 months)1:48
2Young Toddler(12-23 months)1:612
3Older Toddler(24-35 months)1:816
4Younger Preschool Child(36-47 months)1:1020
5Older Preschool Child(48 months or older & not yet in kindergarten)1:1224
6School-Age Child(attending elementary school)1:15 *30

* Child care centers may ask OCCL for permission to have a minimum staff/child ratio of 1:20.  The teacher assigned to the school-age classroom must be currently certified in the state of Delaware.  The center must have and follow a plan for the group to be at a ratio of 1:15 when the certified teacher is not present (planned or unplanned absences).  A copy of the teacher’s certification and plan for absences must be submitted to OCCL with the Variance Request form.  The maximum group size of 30 children remains regardless of the staff/child ratio.

School-aged Child Care Considerations

Each family’s needs are different when it comes to school-aged children.  Care can be needed before school, after school, on days schools are closed, during the summer or a combination of these.  Quality school-age child care programs are neither an extension of the school day nor intended to only keep children out of harm’s way.  School-age care should provide children with a comfortable environment with freedom to move about and choose age-appropriate activities.  Outdoor play, opportunities to socialize with peers, space for individual quiet time and/or homework should be included.

Becoming Licensed

Anyone who wants to become a licensed provider must go through a process of training and submitting documentation to the Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL), including but not limited to:

  • Attending an information session and orientation to learn the application process and regulations,
  • Completing an application,
  • Proof of compliance with zoning codes and any other applicable codes, regulations, or laws,
  • Proof the location is free of lead-based paint hazards,
  • Evidence the location is free of radon hazards,
  • State business license,
  • Health appraisals including TB tests or TB risk assessments for staff or household members (family or large family child care in a residential setting only),
  • Comprehensive background checks for staff or household members (family or large family child care in a residential setting only),
  • Release of employment forms to allow OCCL to collect service letters from previous employers,
  • A sample two-week menu (if providing meals or snacks),
  • Fire Marshal approval
  • An electrical evaluation, and
  • Additional items are required for each type of care. See OCCL’s website for more information on these requirements.


The Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) visits all licensed family child care homes (FCC), large family child care homes (LFCC), and early care and education and school age centers (Centers) to determine if they are following all Delaware’s licensing regulations.

Facility visits happen prior to becoming licensed, annually and on an as needed basis. The types of visits are as follows;

Announced visit– At this time only pre-licensing visits are scheduled. As of December 31, 2015, OCCL stopped all other announced visits.

Unannounced visit– a visit not previously scheduled to determine if the provider is following all the regulations for their type of care.

  • 60-day visit– a visit during the initial license for centers.
  • 6-month visit– a visit to all types of care that is conducted during the initial license.
  • Full compliance review– an annual visit to renew the child care license.
  • Complaint visit (Standards Investigation) – a visit to investigate a complaint made to OCCL.
  • Enforcement visit– a check-in visit when a provider is on an enforcement action (warning of probation or probation).

After a full compliance review is completed, the areas where the provider is not following the regulations (non-compliances) are written up and a time-sensitive action plan to correct them is made. One of the following licenses is mailed to the provider based on the visit;

  • Initial provisional license– given the first 6 months a provider is licensed.
  • Annual license – given when a provider is in full compliance and is valid for 12 months.
  • Provisional license – given when the provider is unable to achieve full compliance before the current license expires. It is valid for a limited time frame, typically one month, to allow time for the provider to become fully compliant.
  • A license extension – given when compliance has not been determined through no fault of the provider.

Standards Investigations (or complaint visits) are an additional visit that happens when a complaint is made to OCCL. All complaints of possible violations of the regulations must be investigated.  The result of the investigation is posted on OCCL’s website for each provider.  The outcome of the investigation will be communicated in one of the following three ways;

  • Substantiated – when evidence proves the complaint was true.
  • Unsubstantiated – when evidence does not prove the complaint.
  • Unsubstantiated with concern – when evidence does not prove the complaint but other violations of the regulations are observed during the investigation.

Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies (CCR&R) 

Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) are local agencies that assist parents in their search of child care and resources relating to children. Children & Families First (CFF) is the CCR&R in Delaware. They have a database of licensed and legally operation child care providers. If you are searching for child care providers go to the section on CHILD CARE – Looking in Delaware for more details.

My Child DE is a user-friendly website that brings together resources to help families, providers and other caretakers make informed choices for the children of Delaware. The goal of My Child DE is to help these groups feel welcome, informed and empowered to engage, learn and take the next steps needed to support children.