Licensing and certification help ensure that child care and early education programs are meeting basic health and safety standards. In Minnesota, child care programs are required to be licensed, unless the program falls under a specific exemption (often called a license-exempt program). The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) licenses and monitors child care centers, while county/tribal licensing agencies license and monitor family child care programs. License-exempt programs must become certified to serve families receiving child care assistance. DHS certifies and monitors certified license-exempt programs (often called certified centers).
To be issued a license or certification, programs must show they are able to operate in compliance with requirements. Programs must:
State and county licensors monitor child care programs to determine whether the programs meet minimum physical environment standards, that background checks are completed on required individuals, and that providers have attended required child care training. Read more about requirements for these programs on the DHS website.
Licensed and certified programs receive an inspection each calendar year to ensure compliance with requirements. Annual licensing reviews for licensed child care centers and family child care programs are unannounced. Annual certification reviews for certified child care centers are announced.
Information about licensed and certified child care programs and inspections is public, so families can view a program’s license and certification history on DHS Licensing Information Lookup. Read more about understanding licensing records.
To help protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of children in licensed and certified programs, reports of possible licensing or certification violations and/or alleged maltreatment are investigated.
When licensors find licensing violations in a program, they issue a correction order to the program. If the violation is serious and/or reoccurring, licensors may issue sanctions, including:
When licensors find violations in a certified center, they issue a correction order to the program. If the violation is serious and/or reoccurring, licensors may decertify the program.
There are child care programs that are exempt from licensure under state law. These programs are often referred to as license-exempt or legally nonlicensed. These programs may be exempt from licensure because they meet other government standards for health and safety.
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 Parent Aware online search results, include:
These license-exempt programs are not monitored by state or county licensors. If you are considering a program that is not licensed, it is recommended that you ask the program about its exemption from licensure.
For more information about the different kinds of child care programs, including Parent Aware Ratings eligibility, visit the Types of Care & Education page.
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