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).

Licensed child care types include family child care, large family child care and child care centers. Find out more about each below.

Family Child Care

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

Large Family Child Care

Large family child care is 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. They include 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 get an Exemption Letter from the Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL). The application can be found on OCCL’s website https://kids.delaware.gov/occl/regs-exempts.shtml

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.

Injuries, deaths and substantiated abuse in child care settings. 

Regardless of the type of child care you choose for your child, accidents can happen.  Licensed child care providers are required to notify OCCL within one business day if a child in care is injured and needs medical/dental treatment other than first aid provided at the child care.  Both a death and suspicion of child abuse or neglect require immediate contact with OCCL and/or the 24-hour Child Abuse Report Line.

To file a complaint about a child care facility, call (302) 892-5800in New Castle County. In Kent or Sussex Counties dial (302) 739-5487 or (800) 822-2236 or file a confidential complaint online.

For complaints about possible child abuse or neglect at a child care facility, you need to contact the Child Abuse Report Line 24/7 at (800) 292-9582.


1Child Care Centers155166237
2Family Child Care769
3Large Family Child Care211
4Exempt ProvidersNot ReportedNot ReportedNot Reported


1Child Care Centers
2Family Child Care11
3Large Family Child Care
4Exempt ProvidersNot ReportedNot ReportedNot Reported

Substantiated Child Abuse*

1Child Care Centers
2Family Child Care
3Large Family Child Care
4Exempt ProvidersNot ReportedNot ReportedNot Reported
7*only totals are reported for substantiated child abuse cases.
Consumer Education is designed to help parents access information in order to make informed consumer choices
and to strengthen requirements to protect the health and safety of children in care.