Welcome to the fun stuff!

In the last part of the starting a daycare series I covered the topic of classroom signage and basic daycare center setup. Now we’ve made it to the fun part. Registration, handbooks, forms and employees you’ll need to have ready and hired before you will pass city and state inspection. Passing daycare center inspection requires knowing the rules and paying attention to every detail. City inspection is usually first, followed by the state inspection.

Apply for city and state licensing simultaneously!

You don’t have to be a daycare center magician, but you want all your interior furniture, paperwork and so on to be set up before you apply for licensing. Now that you know you’re already up to standard you file the official paperwork. As I talked about in Part 3: Learn Your Way Around Red Tape and Zoning, most things that city licensing representatives check for are physical such as plumbing and other building conditions. And state representatives usually check paperwork and daycare-particular items.

A daycare center inspection will include a variety of inspectors including an electrical inspector, plumbing inspector and building inspector.Get ready for a lineup of inspections …

When you turn in your paperwork to the city business licensing department various departments will come out. The daycare center inspection will include a long line of inspectors. Electrical, plumbing, fire protection, health surveillance (in my city health surveillance is the inspector who reviews daycare particular items such as the number of cribs, cots, etc., this is basically a miniature version of your state licensing inspector who will also check these things), kitchen inspectors, HVAC, etc. The list goes on. Officials will come check out various aspects and they’ll issue your city license.

After your city inspection you then have to pass at the state level which relates more to things like daily running of the daycare,  safety regulations and so on. Technically there may be a free government-provided pre-inspection service in the starting days of your center. They’re willing to come check your daycare center for basic congruity before you get too far along in the process. Don’t count on it, however, I’ve never had them show up to help me out!

Be ready for the daycare center inspection …

You already should have already submitted your daycare center application but you also want to have a copy on hand in case they want to look it over again. Check with your local authorities on details of what exact forms you’ll need to submit or have on hand. This keeps things from getting too messy. You’re likely also going to need the following forms and information:

  • LLC or corporation, etc. file report (including bylaws and certificate of good standing; these show that you’re paid up and a legitimate company)
  • Officer listings
  • Employee Identification Number (Your EIN is usually within your corporation files and is issued when you created your company).
  • Delegation of responsibility (What happens if the director is away from the daycare center: who’s in charge? The assistant director, someone else?)
  • Staffing plan (Who’s in charge of what, which teachers work where, what are their qualifications).
  • Job descriptions (What is each staff member’s exact role in your daycare center?)
  • Completed background checks
  • Credentials of staff (might need to be input into an online state portal containing their accreditation)
  • Park plan and park plan approval (Show the licensing rep how kids will get to an off-site playground if you have had to make use of one)
  • Building permit, certificate of incorporation, offsite permits
  • Nurse consultant contract
  • Exterminator or pest control contact
  • Employee handbook
  • Registration packet

More …As the owner you will be required to have many documents on hand during a daycare center inspection, including your budget and financial projections.

  • Liability insurance (Proof of it).
  • Radon testing (it’s still a requirement in my state).
  • Budget (What’s your plan to become profitable? Inspectors want to see financial viability! Check out Part 2: Finding Funding and Calculating Expenses for some tips on this.)
  • Inventory list of contents in the school (make sure it matches the state requirements of what’s needed in each classroom on the state licensing requirement form).
  • Parent handbook (have a copy on hand).
  • City application (shows that you’ve already applied to the city).
  • Self certification of inspection for unsafe children’s products (a requirement in my state)
  • Food sanitation licenses / catering contract
  • Risk management Plan (How will you reduce dangers, safely clean things, emergency exits, things like that).

Schedules, sample menus, emergency plans …

  • Daily schedules (a list of each room’s daily schedule).
  • Janitorial schedules: opening and closing duties for each room and its varying requirements from the preschool to the toddler room and whichever other ages you have at your daycare center).
  • Sample menu (You’ll want to show at least two weeks into the future what your menu will be).
  • Incident report form
  • Observation report from
  • Fire / tornado drill form
  • Local emergency info
  • Floor plan
  • Fire escape plan
  • Show a plan that shows your storage space for linens and cots stacks (remember if storage is within a classroom it will eat up required square-footage).

When they walk in to approve your daycare center for operation, licensing representatives want to see a center that is completely ready to go. It should basically be like you just happened to close for the day for vacation. They want proof that all your employees are already hired for each room, that there are enough toys for each room to meet regulation, that class furniture is all set up, that you’re able to open tomorrow for full capacity even if no kids are enrolled yet. You have to be ready to roll, so don’t apply until you’re ready!

A daycare center inspection includes a variety of required documents and forms which you must have on hand for city and state inspectors.Passing daycare center inspection

Know what you need to do to pass and keep track of it. Here, for example, is a copy of my city’s licensing requirements and here’s a copy of my state’s licensing requirements.  In my state you have to pass city first, then you get through the state side of things. Make sure to really pay attention to detail on these requirements. Then, once you pass your multitude of inspections you go home and have and pop some champagne open to celebrate!

Something to watch out for is when inspectors are too busy or distracted to show up when they say they will. I always call days in advance and then right up to and including the day of their inspection to make sure I’m not waiting around on anybody. Make sure to get their contact info on your city and state licensing website and touch base regularly.

Binders of daycare stuff to have ready for inspection …

Licensing standards: have your state and city licensing standards on-site in a binder. They come in handy for referencing for you and your daycare licensing representative when they come to inspect.

Pest control binder: this will have all the details of your pest control. You generally need a monthly pest control service. Licensing agencies want to make sure there are no pests including rodents or insects in the property. They also need to ensure that chemical sprays used by exterminators are non-toxic. This binder will list the schedule of services, treatment areas, plans for an infestation and so on. Your contractor also needs to be state-licensed. The pest control book is basically a record-keeping book of their visits.

Have your parent handbook and registration pack on hand …

Parent handbook and registration: have these all set up and ready to go as well as your employee handbook. Those parent handbook registration forms are pretty large. For example, here’s a link to my parent downloads section for my daycare center The Nook. It includes quite a bit of stuff as you can see! These need to be prepared in advance in compliance with your state’s standards.

Your daycare center should be ready to go on inspection day …

Next up you want to make sure you have the infrastructure for when you do have staff and clients. This means a filing system that you have a consistent organization for. Licensing agencies still like to come and check compliance on paper, so it isn’t good enough just to store everything on a computer: sorry!

In-service training: in my state you need a certain amount of hours of annual training on childcare-related topics. I pay someone to come in and train our staff for 15 hours a year. They get a certificate of completion and they pass the requirement. You’ll want to make sure you keep track of how much in-service training you’ve done accurately and fully.

Have a nurse consultant hired …

Nurse consultant: if you have infants or toddlers you’ll likely need a nurse consultant. Basically they make sure everyone is healthy, developing how they should and immunized to state standards. The nurse consultant will also make sure overall health standards are up to par. It’s not a super expensive thing. Mine I think charges only a modest flat fee to show up every month for a checkup. Before opening your daycare center you need to get this set up.

Keep track of employee recruitment efforts

Next up, employee recruitment efforts binder: Show your efforts to recruit. Staff turnover is high in childcare, so if you have someone else doing this for you like an assistant director have them keep a log of all their listings, recruiting attempts and interviews.

Always be recruiting staff and keep a reserve of options, resumes and strategies. Your staff recruitment effort binder will show what you’ve done before and what’s worked or what hasn’t, from Craigslist to online listings.

Classroom forms and other forms you’ll need …

Keep a binder full of blank forms and pre-filled templates that are ready to be filled out in each classroom. These should include incident report forms. God forbid anything happens like a head bump or an unexpected allergic reaction. Give one filled-out copy to the director to put in the kids file and the other to their parents

Emergency contact form: A form to be filled out containing the kids’ parents phone, address, alternate contact, etc. Every kid in the classroom should have one of these in a binder in class so a teacher can contact parents directly.

Medication consent form for kids can be kept in the child’s file in the front office with perhaps a copy in the classroom binder. This is the parent authorizing tylenol or necessary meds.

You’ll need a transition form that is giving to parents before their kid goes to a different class, for example, from infants to toddlers. The form explains why the child is developmentally ready, which particular class they’ll go to and what date they’re recommended to switch.


Generally the rule of thumb for meds like antibiotics is that they should be taken twice a day morning and night. As a provider you want to limit the amount of medication duties your staff handle. So, in the above example, you’d want parents to give meds morning and night. If, however, there were a medication that needed to be given three times per day, daycare center staff would give afternoon meds.

Observation reports: this is basically to report any notable occurrence during class. Say if a kid gets in a fight or has an ongoing issue with slower than normal speech development or things like that. The report doesn’t have to be given to the parent depending on director’s discretion but is a good way to keep track of issues in class.

Employees should be getting trained on all this necessary paperwork during orientation which is a whole other topic.

Passing daycare center inspection involves a long line of inspectors.More to keep in mind …

    • Storage space can eat up square-footage. And remember, square-footage determines class capacity. So you want to make sure you factor in storage space for linens, cots, supplies and toys. Inspectors will check for your compliance on space requirements.
    • Make sure electrical outlets have protective coverings. Ensure there are no extension cords in areas with kids.
    • Have a clock clearly displayed.
    • No chipping paint, cracked flooring or other issues are permitted. Double check you’re all good on these kind of details.
    • As always check with your local authorities for detailed requirements for your city and state.

Thanks for reading! Join our e-mail list to stay updated and don’t forget to check out Part 7: Daycare Center Paperwork for Employees and Kids.

How to start a daycare center table of contents

1: Location and Square-Footage

2: Finding Funding and Calculating Expenses

3: Learn Your Way Around Red Tape and Zoning

4: All About Daycare Center Construction

5: Classroom Signage and Daycare Center Setup Basics

6: Passing Daycare Center Inspection

7: Daycare Center Paperwork for Employees and Kids

8: Ready to Rock!


Author: Hopping In Blog

Sholom Strick is an expert on the business of running daycare centers and founder of Hopping In, a tool that helps daycare centers earn more when children are absent.

To contact him or for media inquiries email s.strick@daycareteam.com

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