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Child Care Centers Application

In Minnesota, a child care provider is required by state law to obtain a license to operate a child care center unless the provider meets an exemption in state law. Licensure provides the necessary oversight to ensure child care is provided in a healthy and safe environment, by qualified people, and meets the developmental needs of all children in care.

Pre-application: Is a Child Care Center license right for you?

The decision to open a licensed child care center can be a complex one. For a prospective applicant that does not have business ownership experience, or one that is new to licensed child care, the pre-application stage is a perfect time to do some research. See below for considerations [and a worksheet] to help determine if owning and operating a licensed child care center is a good fit.

What are the requirements for licensed child care centers?

The Human Services Licensing Act contains the laws and requirements for licensed child care centers and other programs licensed by the Department of Human Services. The original law for licensed child care centers was Minnesota Rules, chapter 9503 (Rule 3). When additions or changes to child care laws are made during a legislative session, the new requirements are entered into Minnesota Statutes, section 245A. If the new item in statute changes the requirement in Rule 3, the Rule 3 item may be repealed. Licensed child care centers are also responsible for following requirements in the Human Services Background Studies Act and the Maltreatment of Minors Act.

Phases of the application process for child care center licensure

The application process to get a child care center licensed in Minnesota can be broken into three phases to better illustrate the process.

  • Phase I - Submitting an application
  • Phase II - A review of the application by a licensor while the applicant works on completing application requirements, such as additional submissions, completing inspections, background studies and setting up the facility
  • Phase III - A pre-licensing inspection to verify all requirements have been met before the license can be granted.

    Application process graphic (“timeline” of phases from pre-application to licensure)

Phase I

The first step in applying for a licensed child care center is submitting the application. The application and all the required documentation is most often submitted in a three ring binder with tabbed sections and table of contents. See below for the items to include in your application submission.

Complete applications must be sent to DHS Licensing via United States Postal Service (USPS) mail to the address listed on page six of the application. Applications dropped off at DHS Licensing will be delayed. At this time, there is no option to submit the application and supplemental documentation digitally via fax or email. The application and all the required supplemental documentation is usually submitted as a three ring binder with sections and table of contents. Policies and procedures are required to be readily accessible and indexed with a table of contents, per Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.02, subdivision 14c. Submitting the application is the final item in Phase I.

Once the application payment has cleared, the application will move to the Child Care Licensing Unit to be checked for accuracy and completion. Once the business and ownership information provided in the application has been verified, the application will be assigned a licensor. The DHS licensor works with the applicant through the rest of the application and pre-licensing process. While waiting for communication from the DHS licensor, the applicant should begin work on the items in Phase II.

Phase II

Once your application has been submitted to the Department of Human Services Licensing Division, phase two of the application process begins. This phase has many working parts that both licensors and applicants can be working on simultaneously and progression is not necessarily linear. There are many factors that affect how this phase is completed, some of which are the interaction of other agencies for required facility inspections, background studies, engaging a health consultant, and meeting equipment and supply requirements. The applicant will work directly with their licensor for support through this part of the application process.

Phase III


Following the pre-licensing inspection, DHS licensing will review the complete application, including the documentation gathered during Phase II and the information from the pre-licensing inspection. DHS has 90 days from the completion of the application process to either grant or deny your application to provide child care.

Once the licensing requirements are met, a license is granted. The center cannot serve children and families until the license has been issued by DHS. Operating a child care center without a license is punishable by law. The child care center license will expire on December 31 of each calendar year and must be renewed prior to this expiration date.

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