Information About Becoming a Licensed Provider

Dear Prospective Child Care Provider:

We are pleased to provide information about becoming a licensed child care center.  Quality child care provides a needed and valuable service to the community.  An informational packet may be downloaded by clicking the "Documentation" link in step 1 below.

“Child care center” or “center” means a facility providing child care or preschool services for seven or more children, except when the facility is registered as a child development home. “Child care” means the care, supervision, and guidance of a child by a person other than the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian for periods of less than twenty-four hours per day per child on a regular basis.

The Iowa Department of Human Services has been delegated authority in Chapter 237A of the Code of Iowa to develop and enforce the rules setting the minimum standards for the licensing of child care centers. Chapter 237A also requires centers to comply with state health and fire safety laws.

A person cannot establish or operate a child care center without obtaining a license. The child care center minimum requirements are found, in their entirety, in 441 Iowa Administrative Code, Chapter 109. Be aware that local building codes and zoning laws may apply to your business as well. Contact your city officials for additional information.

Steps in the Process    

Familiarize yourself with licensing rules and minimum standards by reading the Child Care Centers and Preschools Licensing Standards and Procedures (2015) as well as the updated Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 109 (9/30/15).  This information can be found by clicking the "Documentation" link to the right of this paragraph.

The Department offers consultation and assistance in applying for a license and meeting the requirements of a licensed center through the child care consultants located throughout the state. There is no fee to receive consultation and assistance in obtaining a license. To initiate an application to operate a child care center, obtain and review an orientation packet provided by the child care consultant. Contact information can be located by clicking the "Documentation" link to the right of this paragraph.  Direct any questions regarding compliance with specific sections to the child care consultant. 

Step 1 - Documentation

The director or the operator of the facility must complete form 470-4834, Child Care Center Licensing Application and Invoice. The application and regulatory fee invoice will be sent to you when the consultant requests it from the Centralized Child Care office.  Submit the completed application with the regulatory fee to the License Fees Collections Unit, and submit all requested reports, including an approved State Fire Marshal’s report, to the child care consultant before opening the center to conduct business.


A center that has submitted a sufficient application for a license to the child care consultant may operate for a period of up to 120 days, pending the final licensing decision. To be “sufficient,” an application must include:

  • Child Care Center Licensing Application and Invoice, form 470-4834.

  • An approved State Fire Marshal’s report.

  • A floor plan indicating room descriptions and dimensions, including the location of windows, doors, and exits.

  • Information sufficient to determine that the center director meets the minimum qualifications.

  • Information sufficient to determine that the center director has a plan approved by the Department of Human Services to meet the  minimum personnel qualifications.

  • Verification that the center has completed Iowa record checks on all staff and has initiated FBI national fingerprint record checks.

The child care consultant will make one or more on-site visits to the center, including a visit made after the program is in operation, before issuing a license.

Step 2 - Consultant Map