Starting your own child care center in Maryland involves a series of steps to ensure compliance with all regulations and #safety standards. Here's a comprehensive guide to help you get started:
Step 1: Contact Your OCC Regional Licensing Office
Reach out to the Regional Licensing Office responsible for your area to express your interest in obtaining a child care facility license or letter of compliance. This office will oversee your application, inspect your facility to ensure it meets regulatory requirements, issue your license, provide technical assistance, and address any regulatory inquiries you may have. They will serve as your primary point of contact throughout the licensing process. You can find a list of regional offices on the MSDE website.
Step 2: Attend an Orientation Session
For those applying for a Child Care Center license, you or your representative must attend an orientation session conducted by the Regional Licensing Office relevant to your facility's location. Although attendance is not mandatory for Letter of Compliance applicants, it is highly recommended. These sessions offer detailed information about the application process, requirements, and familiarize you with state and local child care regulations. If English is not your native language and you require language assistance, inform the Office to arrange for an interpreter or bring someone to assist you.
Step 3: Submit a Complete Application
Submit a comprehensive application packet for a child care facility license or letter of compliance at least 60 days before your proposed opening date. The application packet includes several essential items, such as:
- Notice of intent to operate a child care facility
- OCC application form for a child care facility license or letter of compliance
- Site plans
- Floor plans with architectural details
- Written plan of operation
- Documentation of compliance with local zoning, building, #health, and fire codes
- Documentation of workers' compensation insurance coverage
- Fire evacuation plan
- Menu plan for the first 4 weeks of operation
- Written child discipline procedures
Additionally, submit the following items to the Regional Licensing Office for review:
- List of all facility personnel with staff qualification documents (if applicable)
- Staffing pattern
- Results of criminal background checks for the applicant, director, and each paid employee with access to children in care
- Permission to access records of child and adult #abuse and neglect for director, facility residents (if any), and company officers (if applicable)
- Completed medical evaluation for facility staff before commencing work
Step 4: Ensure Facility Safety and Proper Equipment
Your facility must be in excellent condition, adhering to building, sanitation, lighting, and food storage/preparation standards outlined in COMAR 13A.16 or COMAR 13A.17. Moreover, all areas used for child care must be safe and equipped properly. Key safety and equipment requirements include:
- Storing potentially hazardous items out of children's reach
- Ensuring lead-safe environments
- Properly capping electrical wall sockets
- Maintaining a well-stocked first-aid kit
- Providing safe indoor and outdoor activity materials and equipment
- Having sufficient cribs meeting U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards for children under 2 years old
Step 5: Pass OCC, Fire Safety, and Other Required Inspections
Your facility will undergo inspections by local fire authorities and may also face examinations by the Health Department and other local government agencies to verify compliance with relevant codes. While the OCC Regional Licensing Office conducts inspections at no cost, other local authorities may charge fees for their inspections.
To operate a child care center, you'll need a "Use and Occupancy Permit" from the local government agency. Once all requirements are met, a licensing specialist from the Regional Office will schedule an application inspection to ensure compliance with child care licensing regulations and address any operational questions.
Step 6: Receive Your License or Letter of Compliance
After fulfilling all application requirements and successfully passing inspections, the OCC Regional Licensing Office will issue your child care facility license or letter of compliance. Initially, this authorization is valid for two years, and after this period, it may convert to continuing (non-expiring) status. However, non-expiring licenses may face conditional (probationary) status if State requirements are not met. All licensed child care centers undergo annual unannounced visits to assess child #health-and-safety compliance.
Variance Requests If you require a variance from regulations, the Office of Child Care (OCC) may grant it under specific conditions:
- Safeguards to children's health, safety, or well-being must not be diminished.
- Clear and convincing evidence must be presented that an alternative meets the regulation's intent.
- The variance is granted for a specified period or as long as the license/LOC is in effect and the provider/operator maintains compliance.
To request a variance, submit supporting documentation and information to the OCC, detailing how the regulation's intent will be met. Additionally, provide a proposed solution for achieving compliance. Sign and date the form and send it to the OCC Regional Office.
By following these steps diligently and ensuring compliance with regulations, you can successfully open your child care center in Maryland.
ChildCareEd is here to support you in completing your required training!