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Health & Safety in Licensed & Certified Child Care Programs

Licensing and certification are ways for families to know that a program has met basic health and safety standards

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).

Becoming a Licensed or Certified Program

To be issued a license or certification, programs must show they are able to operate in compliance with requirements. Programs must:

  • Submit an application
  • Undergo fire and health inspections (when required)
  • Complete background checks for all caregivers and staff
  • Complete required trainings
  • Receive a pre-licensure inspection (not required for certified centers)


Monitored for Compliance with Health and Safety Standards

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 licensing requirements for these programs on the DHS website.



Licensed programs have historically been inspected every two years, though state and county licensors will begin inspecting programs annually beginning in 2018. Information about licensed child care programs and licensing inspections is public, so families can view a program’s license history on DHS Licensing Information Lookup. Read more about understanding licensing records.

Certified centers are inspected annually. Information about certified centers and their inspections will be available on DHS Licensing Information Lookup beginning in 2019.



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.

  • To report unsafe conditions at a licensed family child care program, contact your county/tribal licensing agency.
  • To report unsafe conditions at a licensed child care center, contact DHS at 651.431.6500.


Correction Orders and Sanctions

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:

  • Fine
  • An order to operate under a conditional license
  • Suspension
  • Temporary Immediate Suspension
  • Revocation

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.


About License-Exempt Programs

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:

  • 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

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 Child Care page.

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