Everything you need to know about being a licensed child care provider.

The Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) is responsible for the licensing and monitoring of child care programs in the State of Delaware. In 2020 OCCL moved from the Division of Family Services within the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families (DSCYF) for the Department of Education (DOE).
Two girls and boy with toys on floor at home

Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) website has everything you need to know about licensed child care in Delaware.  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.

Types of Licensed 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 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 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.

For more information on the DELACARE regulations and resources specific to each type of care, visit the “Regulations and Exemption” section on the OCCL website.

Becoming Licensed

Anyone who wants to become a licensed provider must go through a process of training and submitting documentation to 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,
  • Proof 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 homes in residential settings only),
  • Comprehensive background checks for staff or household members (family or large family homes in residential settings only).
  • A comprehensive background check includes;
    1. A search of the state criminal and sex offender registry for all states the person has lived in over the past 5 years.
    2. A search of the state child abuse and neglect registry for all states the person has lived in over the past 5 years.
    3. A search of the national crime information center.
    4. A federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint check using the Next Generation Identification.
    5. A search of the National Sex Offender Registry.
  • 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’s approval.  Links to Delaware’s offices are below.
  • An electrical evaluation, and
  • Additional items are required for each type of care.  See “Start a Child Care Business” on OCCL’s website for more information.


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 bases.  The types of visits are as follows:

Announced Visit- At this time only pre-licensing visits are scheduled.  As of December 31, 2015, OCCL made all other visits unannounced.

Unannounced Visit- a visit not previously scheduled to determine if the provider is following the regulations.

  • 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– annual review visit.
  • 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 a 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 can not prove the complaint is true.
  • Unsubstantiated with concern– When evidence can not prove the complaint is true but other violations of the regulations are observed during the investigation.

There are some exceptions to the rules…

Some child cares that do not need a license. These Exempt 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.
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.