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 and the applicant will forfeit the non-refundable application fee.
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 the facility meets those requirements or that the facility can be renovated to meet them. It is highly encouraged to consider all of the child care licensing requirements, any enhancements to your facility to make your space friendly to group child care, usable square footage, and your plan for operation when choosing a facility and location. The facility will also need to pass inspections by other agencies, such as health, fire and building inspections.
For more information, see Fact Sheet: Child Care Center Facility Considerations.
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, the applicant (or its authorized agent if the applicant is an organization or government entity), and 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. If the applicant or any controlling individual has a background study that cannot be completed or has disqualifying information, the licensed child care center application will be denied and the application fee will not be refunded. More information about background studies will follow in Phase two of the application process 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 must be included that identifies all indoor space used exclusively by the child care center and the outdoor activity area during the hours of operation as requested 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 resubmit 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.
The completed application and the non-refundable application fee is processed by the Licensing Division after the application is submitted to DHS.
Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.04 contains requirements for application procedures for licensed programs. DHS does not consider an application complete until the commissioner receives all of the required information. If an application is incomplete or substantially deficient, the licensor shall provide the applicant written notice of 45 days to resubmit an application that is complete. When given a 45-day notice to make corrections or additions to the application, the applicant is asked to resubmit only the items that are missing or require a change. Because Minnesota statute requires the application to be complete before the license is granted, the cycle of applicant resubmission and licensor review will continue until the application and additional requirements are in compliance with Minnesota rules and statute. This cycle can significantly increase the time between application submission and licensure. A complete application that meets all requirements will decrease the time from application submission to the pre-licensure inspection.
Failure to submit a substantially complete application within 45 days from notice could be basis for license denial.
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. 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. For tips, resources and instructions on required inspections, see the Fact Sheet: Required Inspections for Child Care Centers.
Child care centers are required to ensure that meals and snacks are available to children during licensed hours of operation. Menus must be submitted for review if the child care center is planning to provide food to children. 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. For more information about equipment requirements for child care centers, see the Fact Sheet: Equipment and Supplies for Child Care Centers (for I-SA)
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
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. Some forms have been provided for applicants on the DHS Licensed Child Care website. Many of these forms are optional, but if used by the center and completed as directed, licensing requirements for documentation are more likely to be in compliance.
Health and immunization information is required for all children before being admitted into the licensed child care center in Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0125, item G. A health care summary and immunization form have been provided on the DHS Licensed Child Care Center website to document these requirements. These forms can be used as samples when submitting the application. After the license has been granted, the child care center can accept a documentation of a physical examination on a different form as long as the documentation includes a signature by the child’s medical source. Documentation of current immunizations can also be provided from the child’s medical source.
The DHS Licensed Child Care Center website has a form to document individual child care program needs for the child, as required in Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0125, item L. This form also meets requirements to document requirements for children with allergies before a child is admitted into the licensed child care center, per Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.41, subdivision 1.
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.
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.
A form is provided on the DHS Licensed Child Care Center website to document the center’s schedule of staff distribution, called Staffing Pattern Documentation. A template for the risk reduction plan is also provided on this website. Many of these forms are optional, but if used by the center and completed as directed, licensing requirements for documentation are more likely to be in compliance. The Emergency Preparedness Plan and the Emergency Plan Addendum are required forms for licensed child care centers per Minnesota Statutes, 245A.41, subdivision 3, paragraph a.
Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0115, item A includes field trip permission forms and form to obtain permission for research, experimental procedures, or public relations activities that involve a child. Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0115, item E includes fire and tornado drill records. Minnesota Rules, part 9503.0115, item H includes documentation of medication administration.
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 when the application is complete, 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 your behalf to show the licensor that you understand the applicable rules and statutes. The licensor is evaluating your ability to operate your program in compliance with the law. Even if you plan to hire a person to run your program, the controlling individual must possess sufficient knowledge to ensure that person runs your 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 your knowledge of the rules or laws, the licensor may end your pre-licensing inspection at that time and will make a decision about your application without giving you 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. These visits are also an opportunity for the license holder and center staff to get more familiar with licensing requirements and ask questions to the licensor. 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 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 follow up on the report. Based on the information collected, DHS will determine if any action will be taken. For guidance on the responsibilities of child care providers as mandated reporters of child maltreatment, information is provided in the following resource guide.
Legal authority for the investigation of alleged violation of applicable laws and rules:
Legal authority for the Maltreatment of Minors Act: Minnesota Statutes, section 626.556
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.