Is It Safe to Start an Unlicensed Daycare?

You’ve gotten everything ready to start your daycare, but you are missing one thing. Your facility or home needs a license to take care of multiple children. However, going through the licensing process takes time and you do not want to have to go through all that. So, is it safe to start an unlicensed daycare? 

You should NOT start an unlicensed daycare because:

  1. It shows low credibility.
  2. You can experience legal trouble while operating an unlicensed facility.
  3. You would not be upholding health and safety standards.

Apply for and complete the licensing requirements before opening day, so you can attract more potential clients to your facility.

Is It Safe to Start an Unlicensed Daycare?

  1. Low Credibility

Operating an unlicensed daycare facility shows low credibility because it is saying to the parents of the children in your care that you are not professional enough to go through the daycare licensing process. It also shows parents that you do not truly care for the health and safety of your children.

While you may feel a wholesome care for the children you are watching daily, parents go by what they can see. If they see that you are an unlicensed facility, they may be iffy about leaving their children with you.

Licensed daycares have undergone extensive childcare training to be able to care for children in a high quality manner. They are also trained on health and safety standards to be sure children are cared for in a clean and stable environment with qualified childcare staff. All the Teachers and Aides should be CPR and First Aid certified in case an emergency arises with one of the children.

  1. Legal Trouble

If a local neighbor reports you for illegally operating an unlicensed home daycare facility, you could face one of four legal actions against you.

  1. Misdemeanor fines
  2. Cease and desist notion
  3. Felony charge
  4. Monetary fines

Legal actions that are taken depend on the state in which the unlicensed daycare is operating.

Find out more information on the consequences of running an unlicensed facility here.

  1. Not Upholding Health and Safety Standards

Operating an unlicensed daycare facility means you and your staff (if applicable) have not undergone the important training to make sure you are keeping the children healthy and safe while they are in your care.

The health and safety standards that daycares should follow include:

  • Nutritious food served to the children for meal times.
  • Maintaining the proper teacher to child ratio in each classroom.
  • Teachers receiving all the health and safety standard training mandated by the state where the facility is operating.
  • Making sure the building is safe and properly zoned (exit signs, correct amount of people inside the building not going over, etcetera).
  • Reducing disease spread by everyone having their immunizations, younger children staying cleanly diapered, and proper handwashing habits amongst teachers and children.

Find out more about the importance of daycare licensing here.


Which Daycares Do Not Have to Be Licensed?

Daycares that do not have to be licensed include:

  • Those that only care for 1-2 kids not related to them for less than 4 hours per day (they can also care for any number of children that are related to them in some way).
  • Those that care for more than 2 children not related to the owner for less than 4 hours per day.

More than likely, these are small home daycares just starting out in the industry. It could be your local caretaker off of that may be caring for children in this way.

Despite not being licensed, these home daycares must uphold health and safety standards to remain operable. If the caretaker ends up taking in another child above the 2 child limit or if they start watching these children for more than 4 hours per day, it’s time for them to get licensed and move to a larger facility.

Is It Safe to Start an Unlicensed Daycare?

How Do I Get My Daycare Licensed?

Visit to start the licensing process. Go to this page to discover state specific licensing requirements and the completion process.

Once you click on your state, scroll down to a heading that says “Childcare Licensing”. Underneath of that heading, you will find a link that says “(Your State) Child Care Licensing Information”. This will provide you the starting information you need on getting your daycare facility licensed via your state’s mandates.

What Will I Have to Do to Get My Daycare Licensed?

The entire checklist of what you will have to do to get your daycare licensed will be based on your state’s licensing mandates.

You will have to do the following in general to get your daycare licensed.

  • Fill out the necessary state licensing paperwork.
  • Meet with a licensing agent to finalize the process.
  • Have all of your childcare staff receive a criminal background check.
  • All background checks must come out positive. If there is a negative background check, you must hire someone in that person’s place.
  • All staff must receive the health and safety standards training implemented by your state of operation.
  • Staff members must receive in-depth childcare training, so the state is sure that your teachers and aides are properly caring for the children attending your facility.
  • Each staff member must get a health and safety physical done to be sure they are healthy and fit to care for the children.
  • The fire department must zone the facility and determine the amount of people allowed in the building at one time, so you do not exceed this amount when enrolling students.
  • A local building inspector must visit to be sure the building is up to standard.

What General Topics Are Included in the Health and Safety Training?

During the licensing process, your childcare staff will be trained on general health and safety topics such as:

  • How to create a safe space for all the children in your care.
  • How to handle a variety of emergencies.
  • The proactive ways to respond when a child has an allergic reaction to food or something else.
  • How to safely put babies and toddlers to sleep during nap time.
  • CPR & First-Aid training exercises.
  • Methods of identifying child neglect and abuse as well as the resources to report your findings.

Is It Safe to Start an Unlicensed Daycare?


Never consider operating an unlicensed daycare. It will only lead to more negative than positive outcomes. Take the steps to get licensed today, so you can operate seamlessly and productively while keeping the children in your care safe and healthy.

Related Questions

How can I start my own unlicensed home-based daycare?

Consider starting an unlicensed home-based daycare only if you are watching 1-2 children per day that are not related to you for 4-8 hours at a time. If the amount of children and time exceed beyond this, it’s time to get licensed.

If you are only watching 1-2 children for now and starting your daycare venture very small, follow these steps to get started.

  1. Set up your daycare room. It could be a spacious spare bedroom in your home.
    1. Strategically fill the walls with educational decorations.
    2. Set up center areas, craft activity areas, and designate a nap area.
  2. Purchase age-appropriate toys and activities for the children to keep busy during center time. If any of the toys are second hand, be sure they are disinfected and wiped clean before allowing a young one to play with them.
  3. Coordinate with parents what they must bring daily to you for you to properly care for the child(ren).
  4. Make sure each child has a designated plate or tray and their own fork and spoon set, so they are not sharing germs with one another.

What can I do to improve my child care staff’s training beyond the training they receive when we are licensed? 

You never learn everything about your job just from one training session. Continue enriched training and development for your employees by:

  • Hosting monthly training sessions to strengthen knowledge on a core daycare topic.
  • Finding reputable online daycare training webinars to show to your staff.
  • Having a weekly meeting where you demonstrate a “daycare provider secret” at the end to help them with educating and redirecting the children.
  • Having a suggestion jar at the clock-in station where staff can write on a slip of paper what they feel they need more training to be successful at their job.
  • All staff have a meeting together at the end of each day (or every few days) to discuss observations about what methods worked for them in helping to educate and redirect children.

Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.

To find out more about what is needed, checkout our startup course and documents here.

Is It Safe to Start an Unlicensed Daycare?