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Applying for a Child Care Center License

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 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?

Licensing requirements for child care centers help protect the health and safety of children by requiring that providers meet minimum standards for care and physical environment.  The requirements are in law and published by the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.  

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

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.

The application form, required documentation, and payment must be sent to DHS Licensing via United States Postal Service (USPS) to:  DHS Licensing Deposit Code 143 Initial License Application, PO Box 64837, Saint Paul, MN, 55164-0837.  Applications dropped off at DHS Licensing will be delayed.  At this time, there is no option to submit the application digitally, via fax, or email. If the application information, documentation, or payment is not included as required, DHS will contact the applicant and request the needed information.  

The final stage of Phase I of the application process is when the application and required documentation is assigned to a licensor who will work 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

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

If the applicant is consistently unable to provide documentation of compliance with the requirements, withholds relevant information or provides false and misleading information in connection with the application, has a background study disqualification, or is unable to demonstrate competent knowledge of applicable requirements, DHS may deny the application.   

If 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.

Contact the Child Care Licensing Unit

Email inboxes and phone lines are monitored Monday-Friday, daily from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. by a licensor who is on call.  All voicemail messages and emails are returned as promptly as possible.  Call us at 651-431-6500, option 3 or email us at

Licensed Child Care Center Website

The Department of Human Services licensed child care center website provides information, forms and resources for owners, administrators, and child care providers in Licensed Child Care Centers.

Additional Resources

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