How to Start a Home Daycare in Florida
If you like kids and like working from home, running a daycare in your house can be a great business opportunity. However, you'll have to play by the rules, starting with getting a Florida daycare license or at least registration. Whether you're operating in the Florida Keys or the Florida Panhandle, you'll have to comply with home daycare requirements in Florida.
In most of Florida, you can register your home daycare rather than getting a license for your business. Both processes require you to complete mandatory training and undergo background checks. Licensing, which some counties require, involves an on-site inspection as well.
Home daycare requirements in Florida are set by the state Department of Children and Families. DCF licenses daycare businesses in most of Florida's counties. The remaining counties have set up their own licensing agencies to impose tougher standards than statewide home daycare requirements in Florida.
A home daycare doesn't need a state license. The DCF requires you to register with the state instead, a simpler process that puts fewer burdens on you, though you may choose to get licensed to prove you're a quality business. There are 15 counties with local ordinances that require licensing, and five have their own licensing agency.
Whether you need a Florida daycare license or registration, you have to take care of it before you accept any children into your home.
Under home daycare laws in Florida, you must be at least 18 and, running the daycare out of your own home, and there must be no homeowners association or zoning rules banning such a business. You can't work outside the home when your daycare is open, and you must have at least one competent adult available to pinch-hit in emergencies.
You must complete 30 hours of training, divided into five courses and pass a competency exam in each of them:
- Rules and regulations.
- Health, safety and nutrition.
- Identifying and reporting child abuse and neglect.
- Child growth and development.
- Behavioral observation and screening.
- You must complete a separate course of training on literacy and language development in children five years old or younger.
Home daycare requirements in Florida also include undergoing a background screening. This applies to you, your designated adult substitute and members of your household. The screening involves an FBI fingerprint check, out-of-state criminal record checks and researching the child abuse and sex offender registries, among other steps.
Home daycare laws in Florida set limits on the number of children you can care for, based on their age This includes any children under 13 who are related to you.
- Four children under one year of age.
- Three children under one year, plus three older children.
- Six preschool children, all older than a year.
- 10 children if there are no more than five preschoolers, and only two of the five are under a year old.
If your county requires you to apply for a Florida daycare license, much of the process is the same. In Broward County, for example, if you care for kids from at least two unrelated families, you need a license. Broward sets the same limits on the number of kids allowed, and much of the same training requirements, but you're also required to become certified in pediatric CPR/first aid.
The big difference in getting a home daycare license in Florida counties that require it is that you'll have to undergo an on-site inspection in your home. If there are any features of your home that don't meet daycare safety or health standards, you'll have to fix them before getting your license. The same applies if you voluntarily apply for a license.
Once you've completed your training and, if necessary, the inspection, you can apply, whether for licensing or registration. You can do this online. The state requires a $25 registration application fee; you'll have to check with your county about costs.