How to Start a Daycare in New York

Owning and maintaining a child daycare center can be very rewarding. Success in this industry demands hard work, love, and patience. The workday is long, but the enjoyment of seeing children grow and develop is well worth the extra effort.

Starting a home daycare or childcare business in New York entails a unique set of legal issues particular to this type of business and New York State. Understanding the process and how it relates to New York is the key to success in this demanding but worthwhile industry.

How Many Kids Can You Babysit Without a License?

First, is it necessary to start a business to care for children? The simple answer is yes, it’s required to have a license to start a daycare in New York. However, you can babysit kids without one, but there are limitations.

In New York, you cannot care for more than two children without a license. If you regularly care for three to six children for a fee in your home, you must at least register as a family daycare.

A family daycare provides regular childcare in a family home for more than three hours each day per child. This form of care may include three to six children ranging in age from six weeks to twelve years and two more school-age children. The provider is not allowed to care for more than two children under the age of two at the same time, either.

If you regularly care for seven to twelve children for a fee, you must register as a group family daycare. The provider must have at least one assistant, and one caregiver must be present for every two children under two.

Develop Your Vision

Part of choosing to open a daycare business is deciding what kind you want to operate. New York breaks childcare services down by age and number of children. They fall into distinct categories:

  • Child Daycare Center – You may accept more than six children aged six weeks to 12 years for more than three hours per day. The care must not be in a residence.
  • Small Daycare Center – You may accept three to six children aged six weeks to 12 years for more than three hours per day. The care must not be in a residence.
  • School-Age Child Care – You may accept seven or more children aged five to 13 years. They must be enrolled in school or cared for when school is not in session.
  • Group Family daycare – You may accept seven to 12 children aged six weeks to 12 years for more than three hours per day. The care must not be in a residence.
  • Family daycare – You may accept three to six children aged six weeks to 12 years (six weeks to six years in NYC) for more than three hours per day. This care can be in a residence.
  • Informal care – This is babysitting. You can babysit up to two children of any age.

Except for School-Age Child Care, children in care can range from six weeks to twelve years. Other, more particular regulations apply as well. A Small Daycare Center, for instance, cannot care for more than two children under the age of two at the same time, and, in rare cases, such as minors under court supervision, children 13 and older may also receive care from daycare centers or daycare homes. Also, keep in mind that various restrictions apply to childcare services in New York City in some cases.

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) requires licensing for Family Child Care, Group Family Child Care, Child Care Centers, and School Age Child Care programs. The OCFS regulates, monitors, and inspects these businesses. Choosing a name and legal structure for your center is critical, especially if you intend to borrow money to get started. Many entrepreneurs don't think about these issues until they're asked about them on loan or licensing applications. Choose a name that is memorable and catchy.


The licensing process in New York is complex. The only format that does not require at least registration is informal care. Expect to need a license for any other type of daycare in NY. The licensing application is long and comprehensive. To apply, you will need:

  • Your current and prior addresses
  • The legal structure of your child care business
  • Names of individuals with CPR and First Aid certificates
  • Two types of identity
  • Statements describing previous childcare experience and credentials
  • References
  • A description of the employees' medical conditions
  • Statement of the daily schedule
  • Inside floor layout
  • Outside play area information
  • Criminal conviction statements
  • Acknowledgment of awareness of, and compliance with, health and safety, criminal record, and other requirements

Also, a New York State Department of Health (DOH) permit to operate a daycare is necessary for all programs with more than six children up to six years of age. A special license is required for daycare services with children under two years of age.

The licensing of childcare enterprises in New York is handled by OCFS. All operators must attend a 15-hour health and safety training program. In addition, the daycare requirements state that every two years, each provider and helper must complete 30 hours of training in nine different topics. Depending on the type of care facility, other personnel may be subject to the same training requirements.

Consider your options carefully before settling on a legal framework for your center. Individual entrepreneurs run the majority of childcare centers. However, you may discover that incorporating or joining a partnership provides additional benefits.

Some options for the legal structuring of your center include:

  • Sole proprietorship – You are the sole owner of the business. You must file both business and personal taxes at the same time.
  • Incorporation – This is a practical choice if you need bank financing to get started. Also, if your business fails, incorporation protects your assets for forfeiture if you owe money.
  • Partnership – You distribute the earnings and losses between partners.


Formal Education

The regulations regarding formal training will vary from place to place. Some areas may require a degree in Early Childhood Education. This is becoming more common.

In New York State, for example, the director of a daycare center must have one of the following qualifications:

  • An associate degree in early childhood education or equivalent
  • A CDA (child development associate) certificate and at least two years of experience caring for children
  • A high school degree and at least three years of childcare experience

The Child daycare Orientation is required to apply for a license or registration for a childcare service. This orientation will assist you in determining if running a child care center in New York State is a good fit for you. It defines the prerequisites for starting a childcare program, the venues where care can be delivered, the kid-to-adult ratios, and provider resources. Orientation covers crucial rules and regulations that you must understand to manage your business. You can also get information on how to provide the greatest care for the children in your program.

The regulations also require CPR and, in some cases, basic first-aid training.

Find The Right Location

The licensing application requires you to provide an indoor and outdoor layout, so you’ll need to have a location before applying. Whatever facility you choose must meet the state’s zoning, health, and safety regulations.

You will also need insurance. Numerous types of insurance protect daycare businesses, including general liability insurance, workers' compensation insurance, property insurance, abuse and molestation insurance, and others. You are encouraged to consult with an insurance broker to determine which coverage is ideal for your company.


It isn't easy to start any new business without proper financing. There are several options available, including:

  • SBA (Small Business Administration) MicroLoan – These are set up to help get start-ups off the ground. They are available to women, minorities, and people in low-income areas. The cap is $50,000.
  • SBA Community Advantage – This loan is for businesses in underserved communities.
  • Government grants – Financial assistance might be available through a government, federal, or state grant, as well.

Also, set up a business bank account and get a business credit card. This helps separate your personal and business expenses.

Setting Up Your Team

In most cases, you’ll need more than one person to run your daycare. In New York State, a daycare center must have one adult for every six children under six. However, in New York City, there must be two teachers or one teacher and one assistant for every six children aged two to three, with a maximum of 12 pupils in a single group. Your own children may or may not be counted as well.

They will likely have to complete the orientation provided by the state. There may be requirements for training and background checks, too. You can also use training and background checks as a marketing tool.


Finally, few businesses survive without a strategic marketing program. You will need to look for ways to advertise your new business. You’ll also want to set up an online presence by creating a website and social media pages.

Use your formal training, the extensive checks you do for staff, and your teacher-to-child ratios as tools that set you apart from other daycares in the area.

Are you interested in learning more about Early Childhood Education at Monroe College? Talk with us and request more information - or apply today!