How do you become a licensed provider?

All South Carolina child care programs are required to be licensed, registered, approved or legally exempt. Requirements are determined by the type of provider you are. Licensing promotes health and safety by setting critical standards, then registering and regulating those who provide care for children.

As a child care provider, you must be licensed if you:

  • Care for children in your home and you care for more than 1 family not related to you
  • Operate more than 2 days a week 
  • Operate 4 or more hours a day 

If you are interested in becoming licensed, you should contact the Regional Licensing Office for your county and sign-up for an orientation session.

Find a New Applicant Orientation Session

 

Types of Care: Licensed, Registered, Approved or Limited Operations

All South Carolina child care programs are required to be one of the following: licensed, registered, approved, or legally exempt. Requirements are determined by provider type.

The state defines four types of child care:

  • Child Care Center—A center that is licensed for 13 or more children can be commercial, faith-based, or school-based.
  • Group Child Care Home—A facility within a residence occupied by the operator that cares for 7 to 12 children; The number includes those living in the residence and children who are related to the operator, must be licensed.
  • Family Child Care Home—A facility within a residence occupied by the operator that cares for no more than 6 children; The number includes those living in the residence and children who are related to the operator; Family Child Care Centers must be registered, but may choose to be licensed.
  • Legally-Exempt Operations—Child care center-based programs open less than 4 hours a day and/or open on school holidays; Not allowed for Family Child Care Homes or Group Child Care Homes.

NOTE: Many parents rely on family members, friends, or neighbors who provide care. These types of care are not registered or licensed but are regulated.

Determine how your program should be licensed and regulated

Licensed—The provider must meet health and safety requirements and is regularly inspected. A license is required for commercial and school-based child care centers and group child care homes. An unannounced inspection occurs one time per year.

Faith-based registration—For child care sponsored by a church or religious organization, this registration requires the provider to meet health and safety requirements and be regularly inspected. An unannounced inspection occurs one time per year. Faith-based facilities can elect to be licensed to receive Federal funding, if desired. 

Family Child Care Homes— The provider must be registered before they care for the second unrelated child. An unannounced inspection occurs one time per year. The Family Child Care Home can choose to be licensed. 

Legally Exempt—Child care providers who operate limited hours do not require licensing or inspection, but must apply for legally exempt status. According to state law, these provider types include:

  • Care for children in your home and you care for more than 1 family not related to you.
  • Care for children in a center less than 2 days a week or less than 4 hours a day
  • An educational program that operates solely for educational purposes in grade one or above.
  • Five-year-old kindergarten programs.
  • Kindergartens, nursery schools or other daytime programs, with or without stated educational purposes, operating no more than four hours a day and receiving children younger than lawful school age.
  • Programs that operate for more than four hours a day in connection with a shopping center or service or other similar facilities, where the same children are cared for less than four hours a day and not on a regular basis while parents of the children are on the premises or are in the immediate area and immediately available; however, these programs must meet local fire and sanitation requirements and maintain documentation of these requirements on file at the facility available for public inspection.
  • School vacation or school holiday day camps operating in separate sessions that run for less than three weeks per session unless the day camp permits children to enroll in successive sessions so that their total attendance may exceed three weeks.
  • Summer resident camps for children.
  • Bible schools normally conducted during vacation periods.
  • Facilities for the mentally handicapped provided for in Chapter 21, Title 44 of state law.
  • Facilities for the mentally ill as provided for in Chapter 17, Title 44 of state law.

To become licensed, registered or a legally exempt, your first step is an orientation session.

Staff to Child Ratios

The following staffing ratios apply at all times children are present on the premises at a child care center and during activities away from the center.

Age

Staff-to-Child Ratios

Birth to one year

          1:5

One to two years

          1:6

Two to three years

          1:8

Three to four years

          1:12

Four to five years

          1:17

Five to six years

          1:20

Six to twelve years

          1:23

How SC Licensing Works

Licensing is managed by the SC Division of Early Care and Education at the SC Department of Social Services (SCDSS). We regulate approximately 2,500 child care providers, through four regional offices. There are several key functions that build safe, healthy environments for children:

1. Inspections: These help to ensure that providers comply with state laws and regulations through a yearly unannounced inspection. Additionally, a fire and health safety inspection is conducted for all licensed child care providers. 

2. State and Federal Comprehensive Background Checks: As required by state law, federal and state background checks must be conducted on all child care staff members who work in child care facilities. More information on background checks can be found here. Background checks include:

  • SC Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry & Database checks and out of state Abuse and Neglect checks if child care staff lived out of SC in the past 5 years.
    • For all center-based care, licensed, registered, and legally exempt
    • Licensed and registered home child care facilities
    • Family, Friend, and Neighbor checks for providers enrolled in the SC Voucher Program
  • In-state and National Sex Offender Database checks for all child care facility types, to include legally exempt child care facilities
  • State and Federal fingerprinting for all child care facility types, to include legally exempt child care facilities

The State of South Carolina uses a digital fingerprint service. Find complete information here.

3. Investigations: We investigate complaints against regulated facilities and reports of facilities or individuals operating without a license or registration.

4. Regulation: A state Advisory Committee is responsible for reviewing the regulations regarding their improvement. 

Application Process

1. Attend Orientation (Call the Child Care Licensing Regional Office for your county to sign-up for Orientation).

2. Submit Zoning Approval the Child Care Licensing Regional Office for your county.

3. Submit architectural plans to DSS Child Care Fire and Health Safety at the Child Care Licensing Central Office:

Child Care Licensing
P.O. Box 1520
Columbia, SC 29202-1520

4. Complete the following forms and mail them to the Child Care Licensing Regional Office for your county.

  • Application to Operate a Child Care Facility (DSS Form 2902).
  • Health – Fire Inspection Request (DSS Form 2905)
  • Three (3) letters of reference for the director
  • Staff List (DSS Form 2964) – Include director and at least two staff members.
  • Consent to Release Information and Compliance Statement (DSS Form 2924) for the operator, all caregivers, and all Household Members over the age of 18. Use full names (no initials) on these forms.
    • Mail these forms with a check or money order made payable to SCDSS to the Child Care Licensing Central Office (P.O. Box 1520, Columbia, SC 29202-1520).
    • You pay online by clicking here (make sure you complete the online payment section of the form if you pay online).

5. Have State and Federal fingerprint checks completed on the operator, all other caregivers, and all household members 15 years and older. Only scanned prints are now accepted. Click here for more information on scanned fingerprints.

6. Licensing will conduct an Inspection. Have the following on file for the inspection:

  • First Aid/CPR Certification to cover all hours of operation.
  • Medical Statements (DSS Form 2901) for the operator, all other caregivers, and all Household Members.
  • Health Assessments (DSS Form 2926) for the operator, all other caregivers, and all Household Members
  • Training Records including blood–borne pathogens training as required by OHSA (Required for renewals only).

Forms & Resources

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