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 a 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 is part of the Division of Family Services within the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families (DSCYF).

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.

There are some exceptions to the rules…

Some child cares that run for less than 24 hours per day do not need a license. These types of programs should apply for an Exemption Letter from the Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL).

Child care providers that do not need a license include;

  • Camps with permits from public health;
  • Programs run by the State of Delaware;
  • Summer religion classes that last less than a month;
  • Programs where parents do not leave;
  • Programs that offer free activities for children, six or older.  The children can come and go as they please.  There is no agreement with parents that care is  provided;
  • Programs for school-age children that meet an emergency or special need.
  • Programs for school age children that teach lessons, for example, dancing, karate, or painting;
  • Programs registered with the Department of Education and run by schools that provide regular and thorough instruction through at least 6th grade.

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.