Answers to commonly asked questions

Kids raising hands to answer in an elementary school lesson

Who licenses child care providers in Delaware?

The Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) is responsible for the licensing and monitoring of child care programs in 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).

The goal of OCCL is to ensure that children attending childcare programs in Delaware are in a safe and healthy environment. The children are to be provided with care, supervision and developmentally appropriate activities that meet each child’s physical and emotional needs. There is more information both in the Families section and the Provider Section. Click here to visit the OCCL main website.

Who monitors child care providers in Delaware?

The Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) is responsible for the licensing and monitoring of child care programs in Delaware. It is part of the Division of Family Services within the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families (DSCYF).

All licensed programs are required to meet specific health and safety training requirements and must be inspected annually.  OCCL provides inspection reports for each on-site visit to a childcare program. This report outlines any violations noted, including health and safety violations, and corrective action that must be taken by the provider.  Click here to read the licensing history and inspection reports for a specific childcare program search on the OCCL website.

What are the different types of licensed child care in Delaware?

In Delaware there are 3 different types of licensed child care.  You can also read more on the following page: Families-Child Care Options-Licensed Child Care

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.

What child care providers are exempt from licensing in Delaware?

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).  More about Except Care be found here on OCCL’s website.

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. Please note: As of July 1, 2024, any child care, “including early education programs for children below the grade of kindergarten that are operated by public or private schools” must be licensed by the Office of Child Care Licensing. Only the early education program must be licensed and follow DELACARE Regulations for Early Care and Education and School-Age Centers.

How do you file a complaint about a child care provider?

The Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) investigates complaints about possible violations of licensing rules by child care facilities. It has no authority to investigate financial matters nor does it investigate personal disputes.

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

Click here to 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.   Or you can access the online reporting portal by visiting iseethesigns.org

What is Delaware Stars?

The revision of the early childhood quality improvement system (QIS), led by the state revision team, resumed fall of 2022. Consistent with legislated requirements, the state is adopting a single set of quality indicators for licensed early childhood programs in Delaware.

A voluntary program used to measure, improve and communicate the level of quality in early care and education and school-age settings.

Delaware’s revised Quality Improvement System (QIS) includes three Quality Indicators that represent broad content areas. Each Quality Indicator includes a set of Key Practices that help to define the Quality Indicator.

How do I apply for benefits for my family in Delaware, including child care?

Visit Delaware Assist to see if you qualify and to apply for a variety of these services online.

Applications can also be submitted to any local Division of Social Services office in person, by fax, or by mail. To determine the location that serves you click here.

The following programs are offered by the Delaware Division of Health and Social Services (DHSS).  Read more detail in the section: Families – Financial Assistance

  • Child Care Assistance-Purchase of Care (POC)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC)
  • The Delaware Department of Education Nutrition Programs
  • Medical Assistance Services

How do I find a child care provider?

There are several different ways to find a provider in Delaware.

On this website search from the section: Child Care – Looking in Delaware.

You can search the website for Children & Families First (CFF), your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCR&R.)

You can also contact CFF by phone at 800-734-2388 to have a list of providers mailed or emailed.

All of Delaware families are also eligible for an Enhanced Search service from CFF. To learn more details of this service call the same number: 800-734-2388.

Additionally, you can click here to search on the Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) website.

What if I have questions about my child's development?

Every child develops differently.  If you are not sure about your child development talk to a professional.  Your doctor or child care provider is a great place to start. You can also read more on the following page: Families-Child Development or Providers-Child Development

Developmental screenings are one way to get more information. All children should be screened at 9, 18, 24, 30 months and every year after that to determine if there are any concerns.

If the child is age birth to 3 years old… Child Development Watch is here to answer the questions.

If the child is 3 to 5 years old… contact the Child Find department of the school district where the child lives.

What if I am looking for child care outside of Delaware?

If you are looking for child care or resources outside of Delaware there are different websites that can help you.

Child Care Aware of America is a nationwide organization that works to advance the vision of high quality, affordable child care for all families that need it.  Their website contains a great deal of information about aspects of child care and nationwide trends to help you learn what is best for your family.  Learn about resource and referral organizations in other parts of the country.

ChildCare.gov helps parents access safe and quality child care services in their community that best suits their family’s needs. ChildCare.gov provides links to State or Territory child care websites parents can use to search for child care and consumer education information specific to that State or Territory.

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.