A location with a valid mailing address must be secured before the child care center application is submitted. If this information is missing, the application cannot be processed.
Child care center licensing laws in Minnesota have specific requirements related to the indoor facility and outdoor space where child care will be conducted. For that reason, particular attention should be focused on ensuring that the physical location and facility meets those requirements or that the facility can be renovated to meet them. It is highly encouraged that applicants consider all of the child care center licensing requirements, any enhancements to the facility to make the space suitable for group child care, usable square footage, the outdoor activity area, and the operation plan when choosing a facility and location. The facility will also need to pass inspections by other agencies, such as zoning, health, fire and building inspections.
The name and legal ownership structure of your child care center is an important step. You will need both of these determined before registering your business with the Minnesota Secretary of State. The legal ownership structure of the business has to do with how the business is legally set up with respect to financial stakeholders and business ownership liability. For example, will the child care center belong to one individual, be a partnership, a limited liability company, or a corporation? The business should also consider whether the structure is for-profit or not-for-profit. The way the business is structured may affect what types of loans or other sources of financing are available to the business. For more information, First Children’s Finance has a For Profit vs Non-profit resource to review. A business attorney or accountant can provide individual guidance how to make these decisions.
Before a child care center license is granted by the Department of Human Services, all controlling individuals will need to complete the process of submitting a Department of Human Services background study request and each background study must result in the issuance of a clearance notice. More information about background studies will follow in Phase II of the application process (see below) and information about background study requirements can be found on the DHS Background Studies website.
Legal authority: Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.04, subdivision 3
The Licensing Application (DHS–7118) is required to open a licensed child care center in Minnesota.
IMPORTANT! Use the Application Instruction Guide when filling out the application form. It will provide instructions, information about requirements, and useful tips to completing the application accurately.
It is highly recommended that applicants fill out the entire application electronically before printing it out. New fields appear when check boxes or buttons are selected. If the application is printed out before it has been completed, some fields may not appear in the printed version. The electronic version adapts to only show the fields that are required for a child care center license. The printable version is a much longer document and has several pages that do not apply to child care centers and may complicate completing the application.
For individuals and organizations
Submit documentation of your business’ legal name as filed with the Minnesota Secretary of State. Some of the additional information included in a secretary of state business record are the business type, the file number and date, when the business license needs to be renewed, relevant addresses, and agents for the business. Business filings can be found on the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State website.
For government entities
For government entities, 245A.04, subd. 1(h)(3) requires it submit “a letter signed by the manager, administrator, or other executive of the government entity authorizing the submission of the license application” with the application. This would serve as verification that the applicant is, in fact, a government entity and that the government entity is approving the application.
Legal authority: Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.04, subdivision 1, paragraph (f), clause (2); Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.04, subdivision 1, paragraph (g), clause (2); Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.04, subdivision 1, paragraph (h), clause (3+
The organizational chart required in the application must specify the organizational structure and authority within the program. Within the structure of the organization, designate the names of the authorized agent, all controlling individuals, and any other roles within the program. A clear organizational chart will make the application process more efficient, as delays to the application can occur when the legal responsibility for the license is unclear.
Legal authority: Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.04, subdivision 1, paragraph (f), clause (1); Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.04, subdivision 1, paragraph (g), clause (1); Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.04, subdivision 1, paragraph (h), clause (2)
Worker’s compensation insurance provides compensation to employees who have a work-related injury or disease. Minnesota Statutes, section 176.182 requires every employer to pay compensation in case of personal injury or death arising out of and in the course of employment. Every state or local licensing agency is required to withhold issuing or renewing a license or permit to operate a business in Minnesota until the applicant presents acceptable evidence of compliance with the workers' compensation insurance coverage. Complete the Minnesota Workers Compensation Law form to verify that workers compensation insurance is required for the child care center. This form will be submitted with the application.
A valid workers’ compensation policy must be kept in effect at all times by employers as soon as employees begin working in the child care center. If the business has no employees at the time the application is submitted, documentation from the insurance company must be provided that states the center will start the policy when staff have been hired.
Legal authority: Minnesota Statutes, section 176.182
A floor plan of your facility that identifies all indoor and outdoor spaces used during the hours of operation must be included in the application. The floor plan, including the outdoor activity area, must indicate the size (dimensions) and planned use of each area per Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0155, subpart 4. The primary and secondary exits and tornado shelters must also be included on the floor plan.
Developing complete, effective policies and procedures is an important part of the licensed child care center application process. Minnesota statute requires that the license holder develop policies and procedures necessary to maintain compliance with licensing requirements. The DHS Licensed Child Care Center website has a resource for applicants to guide them in writing complete policies and procedures, Guidelines for Developing Policies and Procedures. Use this resource as a checklist to ensure that the policies and procedures submitted meet all requirements in rule and statute. The Guidelines for Developing Policies and Procedures also includes requirements for the child care program plan, risk reduction plan, and the child care emergency plan. Policies and procedures must be indexed with a table of contents, per Minnesota Statutes, 245A.04, subdivision 14.
Health policies and practices are required and must be approved by a qualified health consultant before licensure per Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0140, subpart 2.
In Phase II of the application process, the DHS Licensor assigned to your application will review your policies and procedures. If the policies and procedures are incomplete or missing required information, DHS will give written notice identifying documents or requirements that are missing or deficient. The applicant will have 45 days to resubmit a second application that is substantially complete. When given a 45-day notice to make corrections or additions to policies and procedures, the applicant is asked to re-submit only the items that need changes made. Because policies and procedures must meet all requirements before the license is granted, the cycle of applicant resubmission of incomplete or deficient policies and licensor review will continue until policies and procedures are in compliance with Minnesota rule and statutes. This cycle of policy revision can significantly increase the time between application submission and licensure.
Legal authority: Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.04, subdivision 14
A non-refundable application fee is required at the time that your application is submitted to the Department of Human Services. This application fee is for evaluation of the application and inspection of licensed program. The application fee for a licensed child care center is $500. Payment of the application fee must be a check made payable to DHS Licensing Deposit Code 149.
Upon receipt of the child care center license application, DHS will request a zoning inspection from the local zoning authority where the center will be located to ensure that the property has been cleared for child care center services. The DHS Licensor assigned to the application will request any applicable inspections from local building inspectors, trained local fire inspectors or state fire marshal, and the health department with jurisdiction in the area where the center will be located. In some cases, the applicant may be required to submit inspection forms directly to the inspector or responsible agency and pay any fees associated with an inspection. If this is required the DHS licensor will inform the applicant that this is required and provide the required forms to the applicant. Once requested, the individual inspectors will contact the applicant to provide more information on the specific details of each inspection and how to go about scheduling the inspections.
Child care centers are required to ensure that meals and snacks are available to children during licensed hours of operation. Menus that meet the nutritional needs of children must be submitted for review. The site of preparation can be different for each of these meals and snacks served. For example, if the parents provide lunch, but the center provides breakfast and snacks, the menu should reflect the meals served by the center. If the center is planning to cater meals, but not snacks, the center must have a plan of how snacks will be provided.
Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0145, subpart 4 requires that each meal provides one-third (1/3) of the child’s daily nutritional needs, as specified by the United States Department of Agriculture, Food, and Nutrition Service (USDA). The actual number of meals and snacks a child must be provided is determined by how long the child is in attendance each day. Menu components, such as how many servings of fruit, whole grains, and dairy, are also specified by the USDA. Meal Patterns are provided by the Minnesota Department of Education that specify the USDA requirements for infants and children aged 1-18 years. The Department of Human Services (DHS) child care licensors monitor menus for compliance to USDA requirements and additional requirements related to food and water found in this chapter.
Legal authority: Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0145
Specific types of equipment and supplies are required for each age category the child care center will be licensed to serve. Equipment purchases are often purchased during Phase II of the application process. Equipment must be age appropriate and address any special needs of children served. The center must have enough equipment for the number of children for which the center is licensed. If equipment is rotated among groups of children, there must be enough to serve the maximum group size of the age group using the equipment and the rotation must be shown on the daily schedule in the child care program plan. Equipment must be in good repair and accessible for use by the children during hours of operation each day. Accessible means that the equipment is stored in a location where children themselves are able to reach and use the equipment.
Checklists for equipment are also available on the DHS Licensed Child Care Center website for each age category:
Legal authority: Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0060
Licensed child care centers must have a health consultant who reviews policies, procedures, and practices related to the health and safety of children. The health consultant review of policies and procedures must be done before the license is granted and documentation of this review must be submitted before policies are approved by licensing. Applicants may find it beneficial to begin their contract with a qualified health consultant earlier in the application process.
Additionally, a health consultant review of policies, procedures, and practices must be repeated every year related to first aid and safety policies and procedures required by part Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0110, subpart 3, items A, B, and C, unless the center serves infants. For centers serving infants, this review must be done before the application is submitted and monthly thereafter. Additionally, the license holder must request a review by the health consultant of the center's health policies and practices if there is a proposed change in the center's health policies or practices or an outbreak of contagious reportable illness as specified in part 4605.7040. A copy of the health consultant’s findings must be placed with the center’s administrative records.
A “health consultant” means a physician licensed to practice medicine under Minnesota Statutes, chapter 147; a public health nurse or registered nurse licensed under Minnesota Statutes, section 148.171; or the community health board as defined in Minnesota Statutes, section 145A.02, or its designee.
Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0120 specifies requirements for personnel records and includes documentation of information about the staff person, verification of qualifications for their position, orientation training, Pediatric CPR and Pediatric First Aid training, and in-service training.
The DHS Licensed Child Care website provides forms that can be used for personnel records. The Personnel Information Form includes staff information, education documentation, and verification of qualifications. The Orientation Record and In-service Training Record include training documentation. CPR and First Aid training will be verified with a card or document from the training organization.
Legal authority: Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0120
Forms used to document requirements for children’s files must be submitted before a license is granted. Requirements for children’s files can be found in Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0125. At enrollment, a number of items must be maintained in each child’s record. The DHS Licensed Child Care website provides forms that can be used for children’s records.
A checklist is available to assist applicants in understanding the children’s record requirements that must be maintained by the program within the center at all times and be available for inspection at the request of the Commissioner.
Legal authority: Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0125
Forms used to document requirements for the child care center’s administrative records must be submitted before a license is granted. Requirements for center administrative records can be found in Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0115. The DHS Licensed Child Care website provides forms that can be used for administrative records.
A checklist is available to assist applicants in understanding the administrative record requirements that must be maintained by the program within the center at all times and be available for inspection at the request of the Commissioner.
Legal authority: Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0120
The DHS licensor will work with the applicant to schedule an on-site licensing inspection called the pre-licensing inspection once all required documents, policies, and procedures have been approved, and all applicable building, fire, and health inspections are in compliance.
The facility should be set up as if children are attending the next day. Some examples of having your facility “ready to serve children” include:
Before the pre-licensing inspection can be scheduled, background studies for the license holder, all controlling individuals, and all staff required for appropriate staffing distribution requirements must be complete. The results of the completed background study must indicate that individuals have been cleared to work with children, and any additional details specific to an individual’s background study results must be complied with. Staffing pattern documentation must indicate that one teacher-qualified staff per age category with a completed background study is scheduled to work during all hours of operation. Additionally, if an individual has a background study that requires supervision at all times, the staffing pattern documentation must show the center’s plan for ensuring compliance to the background study requirement.
During the on-site inspection, the DHS licensor will review all items on the Licensing Checklist. The licensor will also measure the child care spaces to determine capacity, observe the facility layout and condition, verify appropriate equipment and supplies, and review files and other documentation requirements that were not previously submitted in Phase I and Phase II.
The DHS licensor will ask questions to ensure the license holder has competent knowledge of all applicable laws, rules and statutory requirements, as required in Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.04, subdivision 6. For example, the applicant must be ready to articulate how the program expects to comply with staffing ratios for each of its classrooms and articulate how staff scheduled for those positions meet staff qualification requirements; provide the licensor with a personnel file that complies with licensing requirements; and expected practices for emergencies that may arise consistent with your program’s policies and procedures and Minnesota law.
Although friends, relatives, consultants, and attorneys can be present during the pre-licensing inspection, these individuals cannot interact with the licensor on behalf of the applicant. The licensor is evaluating the applicant’s ability to operate the program in compliance with the law. The licensor may require that a controlling individual be present at the pre-licensing visit to determine whether the controlling individual can demonstrate competent knowledge of the applicable rules and statutes. If a friend, relative, consultant or attorney intervenes to demonstrate knowledge of the rules or laws, the licensor may end the pre-licensing inspection at that time and will make a decision about the application without giving the applicant any additional opportunity to provide information.
In an effort to promote a license holder’s success and ensure that the health and safety of children is maintained, expect to have multiple visits from a DHS licensor during the first year the child care center is licensed. These visits are an opportunity for DHS to engage more frequently with license holders and provide increased technical support and oversight. The first licensing visit will be announced and will occur approximately three months from the time the license was issued. The DHS licensor will to contact the authorized agent to schedule the first licensing visit. The subsequent licensing visits in the first year will be unannounced.
If information is received that a center is allegedly not following licensing requirements or alleged or suspected maltreatment of a child may be occurring in a licensed child care center, the Department of Human Services may assign a child care center licensor or maltreatment investigator to investigate.
Legal authority for the investigation of alleged violation of applicable laws and rules: Minnesota Statutes, section 245A
Child care centers can subscribe to receive important information, including legislative changes, by email. The information will be periodically sent from DHS Licensing. Do not reply to emails sent to you, as they will not be read or forwarded for handling. Your email address is used only to deliver the information you requested.