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North Dakota law provides for a variety of licensed and license-exempt program options, from smaller family settings to larger center facilities, allowing families to take their needs, preferences, and experiences into account to choose the type of care that is the best fit.

    Licensed Child Care

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    Licensed Child Care

    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.

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    Center Child Care

    Child care centers are licensed and monitored by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit and must meet regulations per North Dakota Century Code 50-11.1 and North Dakota Administrative Rule 75-03-10 including standards for background checks and basic health and safety training.  These programs receive one announced and one unannounced monitoring visit per year.

    Setting: Programs are often in free-standing buildings, businesses, community centers, or places of worship. They may be privately-owned, for-profit business or a non-profit entity that is governed by a board of directors.

    Age Range: Infants through 11 years old

    Number of Children: 19 or more children

    Child and Adult Care Food Program Eligible: Yes

    Child Care Assistance Program Eligible: Yes

    Family Child Care

    Family child care programs are licensed and monitored by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit and must meet regulations per North Dakota Century Code 50-11.1 and North Dakota Administrative Code 75-03-08 including standards for background checks and basic health and safety training. These programs receive one announced and one unannounced monitoring visit per year.

    Setting: Private residence

    Age Range: Infants through 11 years old

    Number of Children: Up to 7 children, of which no more than 3 may be under the age of 24 months, plus 2 additional school-age children. A provider’s own children under age 12 must be included in the total.

    Child and Adult Care Food Program Eligible: Yes

    Child Care Assistance Program Eligible: Yes

    Group Child Care

    Group child care programs are licensed and monitored by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit and must meet regulations per North Dakota Century Code 50-11.1 and North Dakota Administrative Code 75-03-09 including standards for background checks and basic health and safety training. These programs receive one announced and one unannounced monitoring visit per year.

    Setting: Private residence (group-home license) or non-residential building (group-facility license)

    Age Range: Infants through 11 years old

    Number of Children: Up to 30 children, dependent upon square-footage requirements, staffing ratios and local ordinances. A provider’s own children under age 12 must be included in the total.

    Child and Adult Care Food Program Eligible: Yes

    Child Care Assistance Program Eligible: Yes

    Preschool Programs

    Private preschool programs are licensed and monitored by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit and must meet regulations per North Dakota Century Code 50-11.1 and North Dakota Administrative Code 75-03-11 including standards for background checks and basic health and safety training. These programs receive one announced and one unannounced monitoring visit per year.

    Private preschool programs provide care part-time, with hours limited to three hours a day. 

    Setting: Programs are often in free-standing buildings, businesses, homes, community centers, or places of worship. They may be privately-owned, for-profit business or a non-profit entity that is governed by a board of directors.

    Age Range: 2 through 5 years old

    Number of Children: Varies, dependent upon square-footage requirements

    Child and Adult Care Food Program Eligible: Yes

    Child Care Assistance Program Eligible: No

    School-Age Child Care

    School-age child care programs are licensed and monitored by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit and must meet regulations per North Dakota Century Code 50-11.1 and North Dakota Administrative Code 75-03-11.1 including standards for background checks and basic health and safety training.  These programs receive one announced and one unannounced monitoring visit per year.

    School age programs provide care for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. These programs offer services before and after school, sometimes on school holidays, and through the summer months. 

    Setting: Programs are often in free-standing buildings, businesses, homes, community centers, or places of worship. They may be privately-owned, for-profit business or a non-profit entity that is governed by a board of directors.

    Age Range: 5 through 11 years old

    Number of Children: 19 or more children

    Child and Adult Care Food Program Eligible: Yes

    Child Care Assistance Program Eligible: Yes

    Multiple-Licensed Facility

    Multiple-licensed facilities are licensed to provide more than one type of early childhood services, such as a center/preschool or group/preschool.

    Multiple-licensed child care programs are licensed and monitored by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit and must meet regulations per North Dakota Century Code 50-11.1 and all Administrative Rules applicable to group child care, preschool, or to child care centers, including standards for background checks and basic health and safety training.  Multiple-licensed programs receive one announced and one unannounced monitoring visit per year.

    Setting: Programs are often in free-standing buildings, businesses, homes, community centers, or places of worship. They may be privately-owned, for-profit business or a non-profit entity that is governed by a board of directors.

    Age Range: Infants through 11 years old

    Number of Children: Varies by early childhood service type

    Child and Adult Care Food Program Eligible: Yes

    Child Care Assistance Program Eligible: Yes

    License Exempt Child Care

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    License Exempt Child Care

    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.

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    Self-Declaration Provider

    Self-declared providers are monitored by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit and must meet regulations per North Dakota Century Code 50-11.1 and North Dakota Administrative Code 75-03-07.1 including standards for background checks and basic health and safety training. Self-declared providers receive one announced and one unannounced monitoring visit per year.

    Setting: Private residence

    Age Range: Infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children

    Number of Children: Up to 5 children, of which no more than 3 may be under the age of 24 months. The provider’s own children under age 12 must be included in the total.

    Child and Adult Care Food Program Eligible: Yes

    Child Care Assistance Program Eligible: Yes

    Other Types of Care

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    Other Types of Care
    Approved Relatives

    By federal law, approved relatives must be related by marriage, blood relationship or court order and include: grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles. A sibling who is age 18 or older and who does not live in the same home as the children for whom care is being provided, can also become an approved relative. All adults living in the home are checked against the "North Dakota Office of Attorney General, Convicted Sex Offenders and Offenders Against Children-Public List." Approved relative providers and adult household members receive a background check. 

    Approved relatives are not licensed or monitored by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit.

    Setting: Private residence

    Age Range: Infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children

    Number of Children: Up to 5 children, of which no more than 3 may be under the age of 24 months. The provider’s own children under age 12 must be included in the total.

    Child and Adult Care Food Program Eligible: No

    Child Care Assistance Program Eligible: Yes

    Four-Year Old Programs

    Four-Year Old Programs are an approved child care program operated by a public or private educational entity designed to serve children in the year before kindergarten. Programs are open only during the school year and days/hours vary with each school district. 

    Four-Year Old Programs are not licensed or monitored by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit.

    Setting: Public or private school

    Age Range: Children who have reached the age of 4 years old before August 1st of the school year

    Number of Children: Varies by school

    Child and Adult Care Food Program Eligible: Yes

    Child Care Assistance Program Eligible: No

    Head Start and Early Head Start

    Head Start and Early Head Start are child development programs, serving children from birth to age five, expectant mothers and families. The overall goal of Head Start is to increase the social ability of children in low-income families and children with disabilities, and improve the chances of success in school.

    It is not mandatory in North Dakota for Head Start and Early Head Start programs to be state licensed, however, the programs that choose to become licensed are monitored by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit.

    Setting: Programs may be based in centers, schools, or family child care homes.

    Age Range:  Prenatal to age 3 (Early Head Start) and 3 to 5-years old (Head Start)

    Child and Adult Care Food Program Eligible: Yes

    Child Care Assistance Program Eligible: No, unless licensed by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit

    Learn More

    Public Approval Program

    A governmental organization may establish or operate a family child care, group child care, preschool, school-age child care, or child care center upon receiving public approval by certifying to the department or the department's authorized agent that it has complied with all rules applicable to family child care, group child care, preschool, or school-age child care, or to child care centers.

    Public Approval programs are not licensed or monitored by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit.

    Setting: Programs are often in free-standing buildings, businesses, community centers, or places of worship.

    Age Range: Infants through 11 years old, dependent upon early childhood service type Number of Children: varies by early childhood service type

    Child and Adult Care Food Program Eligible: No

    Child Care Assistance Program Eligible: No

    Registered In-Home Providers

    If a child’s health would be at risk if the child is taken to an outside provider or a child’s disability is such that taking the child to an outside provider creates an undue hardship, a registered in-home provider may care for the child in the child's home and must meet regulations per North Dakota Century Code 50-11.1 and North Dakota Administrative Code 75-03-07 including standards for background checks in order to receive Child Care Assistance for the care of children.

    Registered in-home providers are not licensed or monitored by the HHS Early Childhood Licensing Unit.

    Setting: Child's home

    Age Range: Infants through 11 years old

    Number of Children: Up to 5 children, of which no more than 3 may be under the age of 24 months. 

    Child and Adult Care Food Program Eligible: No

    Child Care Assistance Program Eligible: Yes

    • If a child’s health would be at risk, written documentation from a health care professional must be submitted to the CCAP State Administrator satisfactorily demonstrating the health risk to the child if the child is taken to an outside provider, or
    • For a disabled child, written documentation must be provided to the CCAP State Administrator demonstrating that the child’s disability is such that taking the child to an outside provider creates an undue hardship.

    Questions? Contact Us

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    Questions? Contact Us

    Early Childhood
    600 E. Boulevard Avenue, Dept. 325
    Bismarck, ND 58505-0250

    Phone: (701) 328-2115
    Toll-Free: (800) 997-8516
    Relay ND TTY: 711
    Email: dhsec@nd.gov