How to Start a Daycare in Arkansas

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If you love working with children and like being your own boss, starting a daycare center is a viable option. There is a growing demand for daycare services. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, self-employment opportunities in the child care industry is one of the best in the economy.


The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) and its Division of Childcare and Early Childhood Education are responsible for licensing and regulating daycare centers in Arkansas. Knowledge of the state's licensing procedures is the first step to launching a successful daycare business in Arkansas.

  • Decide on the type of daycare you want to start. Arkansas recognizes four different types of daycare centers. The types are unlicensed homes, voluntary registered child care family homes, licensed homes and licensed child care centers. Visit the Arkansas Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education website (see Resources) to determine which daycare type best suits your experience, background and resources.

  • Review the minimum licensing requirements. Download the PDF of the Minimum Licensing Requirements from the division website. Click "Licensing." Select "Minimum Licensing Requirements." Choose the link for the type of daycare you are starting. Make sure you meet the requirements before applying for a state license.

    The requirements cover issues associated with owning and operating such as staff/child ratio, nutritional meal plan preparation, personnel qualifications and safety regulations. Take notice of the fact that child care centers, child care family homes and registered child care family homes have different licensing requirements.

  • Comply with local zoning and safety ordinances. Contact the zoning department of your local city government. Ask the staff whether the location of your daycare facility violates local zoning laws. If not, acquire a zoning permit. Ensure that your facility passes both fire and health inspections. Arrange for an inspection of your facility by contacting your local fire department and your county health unit.

  • Prepare additional daycare and application information. File the daycare's tax status (for example, sole proprietorship, partnership or nonprofit) with the secretary of state (see Resources). Determine the daycare service rates, hours of operation and how many months out of the year the daycare will be open. Diagram the floor plan of the daycare showing the rooms for the children and the areas for hand-washing and toileting. Complete forms for the Arkansas Child Maltreatment Registry, the criminal record check and the FBI record check. The forms are available on the division's website. The above information must be included with the daycare license application.

  • Apply for a daycare license. Obtain an application from the Child Care Licensing Unit. Call 501-682-8590. Submit the completed application to the Child Care Licensing Unit. Participate in a pre-application consultation meeting. Applicants are notified of the meeting within 30 days of filing an application. The application process takes up to 60 days.

    The Child Care Licensing Unit inspects the daycare facility. If the daycare passes inspection, a licensing specialist sends you a Notice of License Fee Due. Fees are due to the division before a license is issued. As of early 2010, yearly daycare license fees are as follows: $15 (serving up 17 children), $50 (serving 17 to 99 children) and $100 (serving 99 or more children).

Tips & Warnings

  • You do not need a license for an unlicensed home daycare. Unlicensed homes are home-based daycares serving fewer than six children.
  • You must have a zoning permit before obtaining a business license. Contact your local city government to obtain a business license.
  • As of early 2010, the fee for the FBI record check is $24.
  • All applicants are required to participate in a pre-application consultation meeting before an application is approved.

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  • Photo Credit Portrait of a styled children. Theme: education.. image by Andrey Kiselev from Fotolia.com
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