What Is Licensing?

​​​The purpose of child care licensing is to assure that children receiving early childhood services be provided food, shelter, safety, comfort, supervision, and learning experiences commensurate to their age and capabilities, so as to safeguard the health, safety, and development of those children.

North Dakota state laws, and local ordinances in some locations, regulate child care licensing.

Who Administers Child Care Licensing In North Dakota?

The Early Childhood Licensing Unit monitors and supports all licensed and certified child care programs. The unit consists of Licensing Specialists, Licensing Supervisors, a Resource and Referral Specialist, and a Licensing Administrator.

The Licensing Unit is the first point of contact for initial child care licensing and certification. Additionally, the unit also establishes policy and standards to regulate for the health, safety, and well-being of the children in licensed and certified child care programs.

Contact A Licensing Specialist

Who Needs To Be Licensed?

North Dakota Century Code Chapter 50-11.1 defines "early childhood services" as the care, supervision, education, or guidance of a child or children, which is provided in exchange for money, goods, or other services.

  • Any person providing early childhood services for more than 5 children or more than 3 children under the age of 24 months, including their own children, must be licensed. 
  • Any person providing early childhood services for 5 or less children, of which no more than 3 children are under the age of 24 months, including their own children, can choose to become a self-declared provider.
Accordion Section Title
Licensing Exemptions

Early childhood services does not include:

  • Substitute parental child care provided pursuant to chapter 50-11.
  • Child care provided in any educational facility, whether public or private, in grade one or above.
  • Child care provided in a kindergarten which has been established pursuant to chapter 15.1-22 or a nonpublic elementary school program approved pursuant to section 15.1-06-06.1.
  • Child care, preschool, and prekindergarten services provided to children under six years of age in any educational facility through a program approved by the department.
  • Child care provided in facilities operated in connection with a church, business, or organization where children are cared for during periods of time not exceeding four continuous hours while the child's parent is attending church services or is engaged in other activities, on the premises.
  • Schools or classes for religious instruction conducted by religious orders during the summer months for not more than two weeks, Sunday schools, weekly catechism, or other classes for religious instruction.
  • Summer resident or day camps for children which serve no children under six years of age for more than two weeks.
  • Sporting events, practices for sporting events, or sporting or physical activities conducted under the supervision of an adult.
  • Head start and early head start programs that are federally funded and meet federal head start performance standards.
  • Child care provided in a medical facility by medical personnel to children who are ill.

A government entity may operate a non-licensed early childhood program, known as a Public Approval, upon self-certifying that the program complies with North Dakota Century Code Chapter 50-11.1.

These exempt programs are not eligible to receive Child Care Assistance Program funding.


Why Do Child Care Programs Need To Be Licensed And Monitored?

Not only does licensing assure local and state ordinances are met by child care providers, but it also assures compliance with the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) program.

CCDF supports North Dakota’s efforts to provide child care subsidies through the Child Care Assistance Program to more than 4,100 children from 2,600 income-eligible families, making child care more affordable as they work toward economic security.

To receive federal CCDF funds, states must establish requirements for health and safety standards in 11 areas. All licensed and self-declared providers in North Dakota are eligible to receive CCDF funding and must follow these standards.

To assure health and safety standards are being met by child care providers, states must conduct both announced and unannounced monitoring visits annually.

Learn More About CCDF


Questions? Contact Us

Early Childhood

600 E. Boulevard Avenue, Dept. 325
Bismarck, ND 58505-0250
Phone: (701) 328-2115, 711 (TTY)
Toll-Free: (800) 997-8516