Can a Childcare Provider Be Exempt From Having a License?

Learn how unlicensed providers differ from their counterparts

Teacher and girls in art class
Teacher and girls in art class. Getty Images/Image Source

Before you decide what type of childcare provider should take care of your baby while you are at work you should look into all your options. One specific that makes traditional daycares stand out as a great choices for childcare is that daycares are regulated by each state. When seeking childcare for infants and toddlers, some parents encounter childcare providers without a license and wonder if it's okay to send their little ones to these facilities.

Whether or not to send your child to an unlicensed daycare is a personal choice as many parents are perfectly comfortable sending their children to unlicensed childcare providers. 

Do Your Homework

When you are looking for a daycare, start your search by looking online to find daycares in your area. Almost traditional daycare centers are required to meet state licensing regulations for health and safety to operate. Licensees have to comply with current laws relating to the health, welfare, and safety of children cared for. Ideally, the daycare center will be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Ask about the qualifications of the daycare providers and teachers.

 A study conducted at Rutgers University in New Jersey found that that three-and four-year-olds have increased social, emotional, and cognitive development when their teachers have four-year degrees and specialized in early childhood education.

That said, many parents are quite satisfied with the care their kids receive from staff without these qualifications.

Certain in-home daycare centers, also known as family care, may be unlicensed and don’t need to have childcare training which means they are not regularly inspected for quality and may not have to follow proper ratios in terms of child-to-caregiver ratios, group size, activities and materials.

As with any childcare situation, check with your state to learn specific laws related to provider regulations or licensing requirements. You should also ask about specific operating standards, discipline approaches and program specifications and complaint policies and procedures. Also be sure to determine your comfort level before selecting an unlicensed childcare provider.

Why Childcare Centers Receive Licenses

Before examining whether unlicensed childcare centers are appropriate for your family, learn why licenses are issued in the first place. Most childcare providers are required to be licensed or regulated by the state.  Moreover, childcare providers in many cases seek volunteer national accreditation to receive a higher designation of quality care. 

Childcare licensing helps to regulate the quality of care through health and safety inspections, standards for staffing and child-to-provider ratios as well as training requirements and background checks. But not all childcare requires a license. 

Which Caregivers Do Not Need Licenses

Caregivers are exempt from childcare licensing requirements when parents go out on their own and hire an individual to come into their home to care for children.

These includes nannies and babysitters. Other childcare providers who do not need licenses include family members who provide care for your children.

Providers of drop-in childcare, typically offered by certain businesses, health clubs, churches, recreational center programs or childcare programs (before or after school care) run by school districts don't need licenses. The same typically applies to caregivers who oversee children from a single family.

Tips for Parents

If the idea of placing your infant, preschooler or grade school-aged child in the hands of an unlicensed childcare provider makes you squeamish, listen to your gut.

As a parent, your responsibility is first and foremost to protect your children. But thoroughly vet the reasons why you don't want an unlicensed childcare provider. Is there something about a particular provider that makes your nervous, or would any unlicensed provider make you feel uncomfortable? If the former is the case, continue your search for the right provider. If the latter is the case, limit your search of childcare providers to licensed facilities only.

To make your decision easier, consider talking to other parents who have used licensed and unlicensed providers and ask specifics questions to address any concerns you have. The important thing is that you trust the caregiver watching your child all day long.


Barnett, W. S. (2003). Better teachers, better preschools: Student achievement linked with teacher qualifications. Preschool Policy Matters (2). New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.