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Divisions > Early Childhood Development > Licensing
Opening a Family Child Care Home
If you enjoy working with children and are interested in starting a home-based business, family child care may offer you a rewarding and challenging career opportunity.

In this section, information is provided about:

What is a family child care provider?

Is this the career for me?

What about government regulations?

What steps do I need to take to become a family child care provider?

What is the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)?


A family child care provider is a person who uses a residence other than the child’s home to provide paid care, on a regular basis, for one or more children who are not related to the person. In order to ensure a safe environment, the State of Maryland limits the number of children in a family child care home. A provider may have a maximum of eight children, with no more than two under the age of two. The provider’s own children under the age of six are counted within the group of eight.

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Ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Do I enjoy working with children?
  2. Am I knowledgeable about child development or willing to take classes about child development?
  3. Would I like to be able to set my own hours and/or wages?
  4. Am I interested in running a competitive business in my own home?
  5. (If you are currently employed) Can I afford to lose income and/or benefits while my business grows?
If you answered "yes" to all of these questions, then you may be a good candidate for a career in family child care.

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The Maryland State Department of Education's Office of Child Care (OCC), is responsible for all child care licensing and regulation in Maryland. OCC's goal is to make sure that safe child care is available to all Maryland families. OCC maintains 12 Regional Licensing Offices around Maryland, each of which is responsible for all child care licensing activities in its geographical area.

In Maryland, family child care is regulated under the Code of Maryland Regulations COMAR 13A.15. These regulations require a person to obtain a "certificate of registration" (which is a form of license) before the person may operate a family child care program. Being registered means that your program meets certain child health and safety requirements. It also makes you eligible for tax deductions, certain food subsidies, and liability insurance. These benefits make your family child care home attractive to parents and more profitable as a business.

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1.  Contact the OCC Regional Licensing Office in Your Area

Call the OCC Regional Licensing Office responsible for your area to let them know that you are interested in applying to become a registered family child care provider. That office will be responsible for processing your application, issuing your certificate of registration, inspecting your program to make sure it meets regulatory requirements, and providing you with technical assistance.


2.  Attend Family Child Care Orientation Sessions

You must attend and complete two orientation sessions that will be scheduled for you by the Regional Licensing Office that covers the area where your home is located. It is important to arrive on time and be prepared to take notes. As a courtesy to others in attendance, please do not bring babies or young children to the sessions.

The first orientation session is largely designed to inform you about the application process and the requirements you’ll need to meet in order to receive a certificate of registration. During the session, OCC licensing specialists will give you the following forms to complete and send back to the regional licensing office. We strongly suggest that you make copies for your own records of all completed forms and correspondence before you submit them to the regional licensing office.

·          An application form asking for your name, address, references, and other information.

·          A medical evaluation form for yourself and each resident in your home.

·          A written emergency escape plan.

·          A substitute form that names a responsible adult to be in temporary charge of your program if you are called away on some emergency.

·          Releases of information to permit OCC to conduct child abuse and neglect clearances for you and adult residents of your home.

You will also need to complete criminal background check forms and fingerprint cards for yourself and each adult (18 years or older) resident of your home and send them to the Maryland Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) for processing. A criminal background check includes a review of both federal (FBI) and State records. There is a fee of $37.25, payable to CJIS, to process the criminal background check.  However, there will also be a fee to have your fingerprints taken.  This fee varies in different parts of Maryland, but the average fingerprinting fee is typically $15-20.  

The second orientation session takes place after you have submitted a completed application to the OCC regional licensing office. This session is intended to help you understand how to comply with family child care regulations. During the session, OCC licensing specialists will provide you with detailed information about regulatory requirements concerning child health and safety, child supervision, and general program operations. At the conclusion of the second orientation, you will be given a Self-Assessment Guide to help you can use to test your knowledge of compliance requirements and the readiness of your home for child care purposes. As a first-time applicant, you will be required to complete the self-assessment and review the results with a OCC licensing specialist when your home has its pre-registration inspection.

3.  Complete Pre-Service Training

You will need to complete a minimum of 24 clock hours of approved training in a topic or combination of topics related to child development (i.e., the "ages and stages' of children's developmental needs), program curriculum (i.e., planning and conducting program activities), child health and safety (i.e., childhood illnesses, child nutrition, fire safety, etc.), the care of children with disabilities, or provider professionalism (i.e., running a child care business, provider-parent relations, etc.). In addition, you must obtain skills-based CPR and First Aid Certification suitable for the child age-ranges that you wish to provide care for. If you plan to provide care to children younger than 2 years old, you will also have to complete SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) training. To be acceptable for family child care registration purposes, pre-service training courses must first be approved by OCC. So before you sign up for a course, check with the regional licensing office to make sure the course has been approved.


4.  Make Sure Your Home is Safe and Properly Equipped

A safe physical environment is critically important for child care, especially if you plan to care for young children. Examples of how you can make sure that your home is "child safe" include:


  • Using baby gates to restrict access to potentially hazardous areas such as stairs
  • Covering electrical sockets
  • Making household cleansers, medicines, tools, sharp implements, weapons, and other harmful items inaccessible to children by placing them under lock and key
  • Having operable hard-wired smoke detectors in each room where the children will nap or rest
  • Maintaining a first aid kit

Making sure your home is properly equipped for child care will be important for the proper growth and development of the children in your program. The following are examples of equipment family child care providers usually need:


  • Cribs, playpens, cots, and/or mats for children to nap or rest on
  • A variety of age-appropriate toys, games, and books
  • High chairs or booster seats
  • Outdoor play equipment and toys
  • Strollers


5.  Pass OCC, Fire Safety, and Other Required Inspections

Once everything is in place for business, at least two home inspection visits will be made. First, a OCC licensing specialist will schedule a pre-registration inspection with you to make sure your home meets family child care regulations. At this time, the licensing specialist will review the Self Assessment Guide with you, as noted above, and answer any questions you may have about operating a child care program. Next, your home will need to be inspected by the local fire authority to make sure that it meets all applicable fire codes. Depending on where the home is located, other pre-registration inspections by the Health Department or other local government agencies may also be required. There are no fees for any inspections conducted by the Regional Licensing Office. However, there may be fees for inspections by the local fire authority, Health Department, and/or other local agencies.

After all application requirements have been met and all required inspections have been passed, the OCC Regional Licensing Office will issue a certificate of registration to you.


All registered family day care homes are initially authorized to operate for a period of two years. At the end of that period, a continuing (i.e., non-expiring) registration may be issued that continues in effect until it is surrendered, suspended, or revoked. A non-expiring registration may also be placed on conditional (i.e., probationary) status if the family day care provider does not comply with certain State requirements.  If failure to comply continues, the provider's registration may be suspended or revoked.


All registered family day care homes are routinely inspected at least three times every two years. Two of these inspections are unannounced “drop-in” visits that are intended primarily to determine if child health and safety requirements are being met. The third inspection is an announced inspection that includes a comprehensive review of program records as well as an assessment of child health and safety compliance.

CONGRATULATIONS! As soon as you receive your certificate of registration, you are ready to open your family child care home for business! The following are some resources you may wish to use to help get your business started:


  • Maryland Child Care Resource Network -- A statewide network of agencies that provide resource and referral services to parents to help them find child care and that also provide training and support services to potential and current child care providers.
  • The Family Day Care Provider Grant Program -- Administered by OCC, this program reimburses registered providers who meet income eligibility requirements for up to $500 in expenditures related to achieving or maintaining compliance with family child care regulations.

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What is the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)?


The Child and Adult Care Food Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered in Maryland by MSDE's School and Community Nutrition Programs Branch.  The program provides child care food subsidies for low-income families. Child care centers that participate in the program are eligible to receive reimbursement for program food costs.

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Contact Information
Maryland State Department of Education
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Maryland State Department of Education
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
 Licensing Branch
Regional Licensing Offices
Finding the Right Child Care
Parent's Guide to Regulated Care
Una Guía para Padres (en español)
Opening a Child Care Center
Opening a Family Child Care Home
Provider Grant Program
Partners Newsletter
Formularios de Licencia (en español)
Resource Documents
Enforcement Actions and Appeals
Internet Links
Policies and Guidelines
 Office of Child Care
Licensing Branch
Child Care Subsidy Branch (Purchase of Care Program)
Program Development Branch
Credentialing Branch
Maryland EXCELS Branch
Grants Programs
Child Care Resource Centers
Guidelines - Healthy Child Development
Early Childhood Curriculum Project
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