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Get Licensed as a Child Care Center

It is illegal in the State of Michigan to provide child care services without being licensed by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Child Care Licensing Division.

Step I - You must read the Licensing Rules for Child Care Centers and the Child Care Organizations Act (1973 PA 116) prior to submitting your online application. Upon receipt of your application, a rule book and the Child Care Organizations Act will be sent to you.

Internet Explorer is required to complete the online application.

Note: You must have a credit card or a debit card to pay the fee online (Discover or American Express Cards are not accepted). If you do not have a credit card or debit card, click here.

THE FEE IS NON-REFUNDABLE. The fee is based on the capacity of the child care center:


  Original  Application  Fee











Rules and Procedures

Become familiar with the Licensing Rules for Child Care Centers and the following procedures in order to assist you in the licensing process.

Site Selection

A license is issued to a specific person or organization at a specific location, is non-transferable and remains the property of the LARA. Therefore, an application to establish a child care center must be for a specific location.

In the event you have several sites in mind, a licensing consultant may be able to provide you with professional advice.

Prior to submitting an application, you must contact local zoning authorities to see if operating a child care center is allowed in the proposed area.

Contact with Licensing Consultant

Make an appointment with your consultant to discuss the Child Care Organizations Act (1973 PA 116) and the Licensing Rules for Child Care Centers. In signing the application, you agree to operate the center in compliance with the Act and Rules. You will want an opportunity to gain a clear understanding of the total process and have time to ask questions. Consultation and technical assistance from LARA are provided without charge to applicants.

Facility Inspections

FIRE SAFETY INSPECTION - It will be your responsibility to make arrangements for a fire safety inspection by a qualified fire safety inspector. A list of qualified fire safety inspectors can be found that the Fire Safety Inspection link above. The completed fire safety inspection report must be forwarded to the licensing consultant. If new construction or remodeling will occur, a set of plans must also be submitted to the Bureau of Fire Services for a plan review. More information on plan reviews can be found at

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH INSPECTION - It is your responsibility to arrange for an environmental health inspection with the local health department by sending the Environmental Health Inspection Request (BCAL-1787-CC) to the appropriate local health department. The BCAL-1787-CC and information on determining the appropriate local health department are included in the Original Center Application Packet. A fee may be charged. The completed inspection report will be forwarded to the licensing consultant by the health department completing the inspection.

A child care center applicant considering new construction, renovation or structural modification of the kitchen, bathroom, or food preparation or food storage area may also be required to submit a set of plans with the BCAL-1787-CC. Contact the local health department regarding plan reviews. If the local health department will not do a plan review, the applicant must provide documentation of this to licensing.

PLAYGROUND SAFETY INSPECTION - It is your responsibility to ensure the playground equipment, use zones and surfacing in the outdoor play area comply with licensing rule 400.8170(11). This is usually determined by having a playground inspection. See the playground inspection webpage for more information on playground inspections and documentation of playground safety.

LEAD HAZARD RISK ASSESSMENT - It is your responsibility to obtain a lead hazard risk assessment if the building was built prior to 1978. The lead hazard risk assessment must be completed by a certified lead risk assessor. A list of certified lead risk assessors and more information on lead risk hazard assessments can be found at the lead hazard risk assessment webpage. The Lead Hazard Risk Assessment Summary (BCAL-4344) form must be included with the lead hazard risk assessment.

OTHER INSPECTIONS - It is your responsibility to obtain the following inspections, as applicable:

  • If a boiler is used, it must be inspected and a certificate provided by the boiler division at LARA.
  • Fuel-fired furnaces must be inspected by a licensed mechanical contractor.
  • Fuel-fired water heaters must be inspected by either a licensed mechanical contractor or a licensed plumbing contractor.
  • New furnace and water heater installations must be inspected and approved by the LARA inspectors or local mechanical inspecting authorities at the time of installation.

Upon receipt of any required inspection reports, your licensing consultant will notify you of the department's preliminary findings. Any work requested in these reports must be completed and your licensing consultant notified of completion.

LICENSING CONSULTANT'S INSPECTION - Your licensing consultant will make an on-site inspection during the licensing process. Your licensing consultant may take pictures to document their findings. Through discussion with the licensing consultant, the scheduling of the inspection will be arranged at a mutually satisfactory time.

Supporting Documents and Policies

Prior to the final licensing determination, the following will need to be submitted, by mail or in person, to your licensing consultant for review and approval:

  1. Program Director Qualifications - Transcripts are used to verify the semester hours of credit from an accredited college or university. Depending on the individual’s specific education, the individual may have to submit verification of hours of experience working with children. See Licensing Rules 400.8113 for detailed education and hours of experience requirements. Submit this information with a cover letter identifying the name and address of the proposed facility.

  2. Staffing Plan - A statement containing:
  • Number and ages of children in care each day.
  • Location of rooms to be used.
  • Number of staff/volunteers present throughout the day: early morning, naptime, lunchtime, afternoon, etc. using the Staffing Plan: Child Care Centers (BCAL-5001) form. This form is included in the Original Application Packet.
  • Procedures for screening staff/volunteers for prior criminal convictions and substantiated abuse or neglect of children.
  • Documentation that staff are free from tuberculosis (TB), are physically capable of meeting the duties required, meet the criminal and children's protective services history requirements, have signed the child abuse/neglect statement, have obtained CPR, first aid, and blood-borne pathogen training. The BCAL-5001 is used to summarize this information on each staff member but the center must maintain documentation of all of above items at the center.
  • Methods of supervision for staff/volunteers with prior criminal convictions and substantiated abuse or neglect of children.
    Staff training plan.
  1. Program Plan - A statement containing:
  • Planned daily activities for each age group.
  • A sample daily schedule with a description of activities that meet children's social, emotional, physical and intellectual needs.
  • A plan for rest and outdoor play (for centers planning to have children present five or more hours).
  1. Equipment List - A detailed listing of age-appropriate equipment (on hand or ordered) for each age group to be served. The list is to be divided into the following sub-categories:
  • Large and small muscle groups.
  • Sensory exploration.
  • Social interaction and dramatic play.
  • Discovery and exploration.
  • Early math and science experiences.
  • Language and literacy experiences.
  • Creative experiences through art, music, and literature.
  1. Nutrition and Food Service - If the center is planning for the majority of children to be in attendance for 2.5 hours or more, a copy of the written policy for the planned food service program must be included.
  1. Child Use Space - A sketch on 8 1/2 x 11 paper with measurements rounded to the nearest foot, is acceptable. It      does not need to be a scale drawing.
  • Indoor Activity Space - The drawing is to include all child use areas, including all dimensions. Label all hallways, bathrooms, kitchen, and storage areas.
  • Outdoor Activity Space - Indicate by drawing the location of the outdoor play space relative to the indoor space. Denote names of streets, adjacent parks, etc. Specify in writing, the location of this play area.
  1. Policies - Includes copies of all of the following policies:
  • Admission and withdrawal criteria.
  • Fee policy - The fee policy is to include when and how payment is due, payment policies for holidays, child illness or absence, or when the center is closed due to inclement weather or other reasons.
  • Discipline policy - The discipline policy is to indicate the child management techniques which will be used in the center as well as those which will be prohibited.
  • Parent notification plan for accidents, injuries, incidents, and illnesses - centers must develop a plan on how the center will notify parents when the center observes changes in the child's health, a child experiences accidents, injuries, or incidents, or when a child is too ill to remain in the group.
  • Transportation Policy, if applicable.
  • Medication policy.
  • Exclusion policy for child illnesses - centers must develop a policy detailing when children will be excluded from child care due to illness.
  1. Schedule of Operations - months, days and hours.
  1. Emergency and Evacuation Plans - Provide written detailed plans for each of the emergencies outlined in the licensing rules.

Sample emergency plans can be found on the Resources page of the licensing website.

If the proposed center will be providing care for specific age groups of children, or other program components, additional licensing rule areas will need to be discussed, such as:

  • Infants and toddlers.
  • School-age children.
  • Night-time care.
  • Transportation .

Technical assistance is provided by licensing on how providers can comply with the child care licensing rules.

Licensing Study Report

When all necessary materials and documents, including fire safety and environmental health inspection reports, have been submitted and reviewed, any necessary corrections have been made, and an on-site inspection has been conducted, a determination will be made with regard to licensure.

If the decision is to issue you a license, you will receive notification from the licensing. The letter will indicate when the center may begin caring for children. This original provisional license is valid for six months. After six months, a renewal inspection will be conducted by your licensing consultant. If the center is in compliance with the rules, a regular license will be issued. This license must be renewed every two years.

If the licensing decision is to deny your application, you have the right to appeal the decision in accordance with the Child Care Organizations Act (1973 PA 116), MCL 722.121(2).

While your center is licensed, inspections by a licensing consultant will be made annually and if a compliant is received.

Time Frame

As an applicant, you can expect the licensing process to take up to six months to complete after you submit a complete application packet. Individual circumstances may effect the actual time required to issue your license. The amount of time required in issuing the license will depend upon completion of:

  • Final approval from the appropriate qualified fire inspector and health department.
  • Providing documentation compliance with the Licensing Rules for Child Care Centers and the Child Care Organizations Act (1973 PA 116).



Estimated Cost

Fire Inspection


Fire Re-Inspection (if needed)


Environmental Health Inspection


Lead Risk Assessment (if building was built before 1978)


Lead Risk Assessment Re-inspection (if needed)


Playground Inspection (if needed)


Zoning Fees- Special Use Permit (if required)


Hot Water Heater Inspection (if fuel-fired hot water heater)


Furnace Inspection (may be less if both hot water heater and furnace are inspected during same visit)


Background Check/Fingerprinting


Application Fee (varies based on capacity of center)




There may be a number of additional expenses, such as:

  • Employment Costs -Wages, benefits, background checks, training.
  • Utilities -  Gas, water, electricity, telephone service, trash removal.
  • Equipment -Indoor/outdoor play equipment, consumable supplies, furniture, furnishings, appliances, electronics.
  • Other -  Rent/mortgage, taxes, liability insurance, advertising and marketing expenses.

These costs will vary greatly depending on the size of the center, number of staff, capacity of children, and repairs needed as a result of inspections.

This is intended to be a very rough estimate of the possible costs involved in opening and maintaining a child care center.  Actual cost incurred may differ.

It is recommended that you obtain zoning approval, a fire inspection and a lead risk assessment (if the building was built prior to 1978) before signing a lease or contract, as required repairs and fees may determine whether the location should be used. Always get good estimates of work and expected costs before making a commitment.