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Health and Safety Standards

Licensing is one way for families to know that a program has met basic health and safety standards

Licensing does not measure how well a child care program prepares children for school.


Licensing helps ensure that child care and early education programs are meeting basic health and safety standards. Programs generally fall into two licensing categories School-Age Care and Preschool programs may be licensed or license-exempt, depending on the facility. : Licensed and License-Exempt Being license-exempt does not mean that the program is unsafe. All programs listed in the online search results are required to meet basic health and safety standards.

Parent Aware Ratings build on licensing by identifying programs going above licensing requirements and using practices that best prepare children for school. Programs may also earn accreditation in recognition of their quality.


Licensed Programs

Licenses are issued by either the state, a county or tribe to programs meeting requirements for providing healthy and safe care. Those issuing licenses collect information about how individual programs are complying with standards. This information is public, so families can request to see it in the form of a licensing record [Reading a Licensing Record guide link]. Links to a program’s licensing record can be found in the program’s profile page as part of your search results on the Parent Aware website.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) oversees licensing for Child Care Centers and county licensing agencies oversee licensing for Family Child Care Homes DHS licensing ensures that programs meet minimum physical environment standards, that background checks are completed on required individuals, and that individual providers have attended required child care-related training. Programs are required to be inspected every two years. Read more about licensing requirements for these programs on the DHS website.


License-Exempt Programs

There are child care programs considered license-exempt, or legally unlicensed. Some programs are not legally required to be licensed because they meet other government standards for health and safety. Public School Pre-Kindergarten, Head Start and Early Head Start are all license-exempt programs.

Other types of programs are license-exempt because of the limited number of children they care for and/or the relationship the provider has with children in their care. Some common examples of these programs, which do not appear in the online search results, include:

  • Family, Friend or Neighbor Care: The provider cares only for related children or children from no more than one unrelated family
  • In-Home Care: Providing care in the child’s own home
  • Playgroups and Exchanges

If you are considering a program that is not licensed, it is recommended that you ask the program about the program’s exemption from licensure.

For more information about the different kinds of child care programs, including Parent Aware Ratings eligibility, visit the Types of Child Care page.

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