Most states have requirements about minimum education and experience qualifications for child care providers. They also have ratio requirements - the number of staff required for a specific number of children. This number is based on the ages of the children. This ratio will tell you how many providers are required for each group of children.

Provider qualifications

Minimum qualifications vary by state, so check with your state licensing agency. These requirements usually include:

  • Minimum age, usually 18 years
  • Education level, usually a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Initial and ongoing training

You may want your staff to have additional qualifications.

Child Care Aware® of America recommends that all family child care providers and child care center staff have at least 40 hours of initial training, including Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), first aid and other basic safety and health training, in addition to information about child development before they work with children. Child Care Aware® of America also recommends all providers complete 24 hours of annual training.

The Child Development Associate (CDA) credential is a nationally accepted early childhood credential awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition. It shows that a person has a specific number of training hours and experience working with young children. The credential is earned by individual providers working in both child care centers and family child care programs. It is not a credential for the entire program.

A CDA candidate must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Hold a high school diploma or General Educational Development diploma (GED)
  • Have 480 hours of experience working with children within the past five years
  • Have 120 clock hours of formal child care education within the past five years. The 120 clock hours must include at least 10 hours in each of the following eight content areas:
    • Planning a safe, healthy learning environment
    • Steps to advance children's physical and intellectual development
    • Positive ways to support children's social and emotional development
    • Strategies to establish productive relationships with families
    • Strategies to manage an effective program operation
    • Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
    • Observing and recording children's behavior
    • Principles of child growth and development

The credential must be renewed every three years. For more information, contact the Council for Professional Development.

Number of providers you need

Child care providers: The minimum number of providers you will need depends on the age and number of children in your program. Your state licensing regulations have very specific information about the following factors:

  • Requirements about staff-child ratios (number of staff needed for specific number of children)
  • The number of usable square feet of your center or home. This will tell you the number of children you can have in your program
  • Requirements about group sizes (maximum number of children allowed in a group/classroom)

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation criteria recommends you use the following ratios for child care centers:

Age of Child

Staff-Child Ratio

Birth to 15 months

1:3 to 1:4

12 to 28 months

1:3 to 1:4

21 to 26 months

1:4 to 1:6

2 to 3 years

1:6 to 1:9

4 years

1:8 to 1:10

5 years

1:8 to 1:10

NAEYC accreditation criteria also recommend you follow the group sizes listed below for child care centers. Group size consists of two ratio groups of children based on the age of the children. Additional information about NAEYC recommendations is available here.

 

 Table 6.9
NAEYC Group Size Requirements

 Age of Child

Size of Group

Birth to 15 months

6-8 children

12 to 28 months

6-8 children

21 to 26 months

8-12 children

2 to 3 years

12-18 children

4 years

16-20 children

5 years

16-20 children

 

Additional staff: You must have enough qualified providers to be able to replace your regular providers when they are unavailable during breaks, meal times or absent due to illness or vacation. If you are a family child care provider, you will need a qualified substitute provider to come to your home or a qualified backup provider home where parents can take their children when you cannot provide care.

Some child care centers need staff for additional services. These services may include administration, training, cooking, housekeeping, and transportation. These services are usually performed by staff you employ, but you may want to contract with other businesses to perform the work. Most family child care providers do not employ staff to perform these services, but may choose to. Check with your licensing agency for any specific requirements for contract staff.