background shadows
  1. How can I start a regulated program?
  2. How can I start a licensed child care center?
  3. How can I start child care in my home?
  4. How can I find out about background checks and fingerprinting?
  5. How can I get help paying for, starting, or operating a regulated program?
  6. How can I find training for staff in a child care program?

How can I start a regulated program?

For information about becoming a foster parent, please call 1-877-NJ FOSTER or click HERE.

For information about adopting a child, please call 1-800-99 ADOPT or click HERE.

For information about starting children's group homes and residential programs, please contact the Division of Children's System of Care.

For information about starting an adoption agency, please call OOL at 1-877-667-9845.

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How can I start a licensed child care center?

Under the provisions of the Manual of Requirements for Child Care Centers (N.J.A.C.10:122) every person or organization caring for six or more children below 13 years of age is required to secure a license from the Office of Licensing in the Department of Children and Families unless the program is exempt by law. Please refer to 10:122-1.2(d) for a list of these exemptions.

Take these steps to start the licensing process:

  • Identify a potential site:
    • Contact the construction official of the town or municipality, where the potential site is located, to determine if the property has been zoned to include a child care center;
    • Secure a variance (permission to operate a child care center in an area that is not approved for business use) from the municipal officials if the building is not in a business zone; and
    • Obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) from the municipal construction official reflecting the building's compliance with applicable requirements of the State Uniform Construction Code (NJUCC). The CO must be one of the following use groups:
    • I-4 (Institutional) for children younger than 2 ½ years of age;
    • E (Educational) for six or more children 2 ½ years of age or older; or
    • A-3 or A-4 (Assembly) for school aged child care programs (I-4 or E may also be used)
      • The municipal zoning office or construction official can answer questions regarding a variance or a CO.
  • Once you have established a potential site is zoned for a child care center, you may contact the Office of Licensing at 1-877-667-9845 for a courtesy inspection.  The Office of Licensing also reviews architectural plans for renovations and new construction of child care centers. These services are offered to prospective center operators at no cost.
  • Read the Manual of Requirements for Child Care Centers very carefully. It includes requirements for:
    • Comprehensive liability insurance
    • Vehicle insurance
    • Staff qualifications including director, head teacher, group teacher and program supervisor
    • Supervision and staff child ratios
    • Program activities and equipment
    • Health and sanitation conditions and practices
    • Food and nutrition
    • Provisions for rest and sleep
    • Parent and community participation
    • Administrative and record-keeping requirements
    • All regularly scheduled staff members will be required to complete both a Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) fingerprint background check (if 18 years or older) and a Child Abuse Record Information (CARI) background check (regardless of age).

If you decide to pursue licensure, please contact the Office of Licensing, Child Care and Youth Residential Licensing if you have any questions.

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How can I start child care in my home?

If you are a New Jersey resident, you may choose to become a registered family child care provider and care for up to five children in your home.

To become a registered family child care provider:

  • Submit an application to the Child Care Resource and Referral Center for your county, along with: two character references; results of a medical examination and tuberculin Mantoux test; disclosures of any criminal convictions; and consent forms for Child Abuse Record Information (CARI) background checks for everyone living or working in your home who is at least 14 years old.
  • Attend eight hours of pre-service training given free of charge by the sponsoring organization, which covers: child development; discipline; safety; first aid and emergency procedures; health and sanitation; nutrition; program activities; parent-provider communication; and other important topics.
  • Have a home inspection by the sponsoring organization, which includes an examination of the numbers and ages of the children in care, health, safety, program activities, nutrition, supervision, discipline, record-keeping and communication with parents.
  • Pay a $25 fee to the sponsoring organization.

For further information, please call the Child Care Resource and Referral Center for your county.

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How can I find out about background checks and fingerprinting?

For information about Child Abuse Record Information (CARI) background checks for child care centers, youth residential programs, adoptive applicants and family child care homes call the CARI Unit at the OOLat 1-877-667-9845. 

For information about Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) fingerprint background checks for child care centers and youth residential programs, please call the Department of Human Services CHRI unit at 609-633-3761.

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How can I get help paying for, starting, or operating a regulated program?

For information on funding for child care programs, click on Child Care Facility Loan and Grant Information.

For information about funding for children's residential programs, please contact the Division of Children's System of Care.

For information about business funding resources, please contact the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

For information about child nutrition programs, please contact the Department of Agriculture, Division of Food and Nutrition.

For information about State regulations for building construction and safety, please contact the Department of Community Affairs

For information about starting a small business, please contact the New Jersey Small Business Centers

For information about business registration and taxes, please contact the Department of the Treasury

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How can I find training for staff in a child care program?

For information about child care training programs, please contact the New Jersey Professional Development Center for Early Care and Education at Kean University.

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