Start a Daycare in Rhode Island – Licensing – Regulations – Laws

The government of Rhode Island is very much concerned with the welfare of children in their state. This is proven by the existence of different agencies (government and non-government) in the area which focus on assisting the children in their needs.

The government agency in the state which is concerned to this is the Rhode Island Department of Human Services or DHS. This department offers a variety of important services to the children and families of the state to make them strong, economically independent, and productive.

Rhode Island provides child care subsidies especially to working families with low income.

Child Care Assistance Program of DHS

DHS assists the working families who earn 180% of federal poverty level, by helping them in paying the cost of child care. It is not required that someone is a participant in DHS Family Independence Program to avail of the service of DHS.

For the information on eligibility or applying for an assistance, you can call the DHS Info Line at 401-462-5300 and TTY/Hearing Impaired 401-462-3363.

  • The assistance depends on the income of the working families including the number of hours that they work, and their family size.
  • There is no limit on the total number of families that will be granted with the assistance as long as the family falls under the requirements in the Family Independence Act that took effect in May 1, 1997.
  • The range of income that qualify to the child care subsidies, including the co-payment, are:
    • Family of two: $24,642 annual income (Weekly Co-Payment is $32 to $38);
    • Family of three: $30,906 annual income (Weekly Co-Payment is $40 to $48);
    • Family of four: $37,170 annual income (Weekly Co-Payment is $48 to $57);
    • Family of five: $43,434 annual income (Weekly Co-Payment is $56 to $67); and
    • Family of six: $49,698 annual income (Weekly Co-Payment is $64 to $76).
  • Parents can choose the child care provider they want and if there are unique needs of their children which requires different provider, they can hire many providers. The options are:
    • a licensed child-care center or an after-school program;
    • a certified family child-care home;
    • care by a relative in the relative’s house; or
    • care by a provider in child’s house.
  • Around 80 percent of the assistance is subsidized by DHS if the care took place in the child-care centers and the after-school programs which are licensed by Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) or in the family child-care homes which are certified by DCYF.

If the parents are confident with the providers of their children, they can work well and more productive which also benefits their employers. Therefore employers help their workers/employees to scout for quality child care through the provision of regular resources and referral information to their workers/employees. There is a DHS funded program named “options for working families” which gives information to the licensed and certified child care providers and it also gives the resource and referral services to the employers.

Regulations for Licensing Child Care in Rhode Island

From the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education, the regulations in Rhode Island are the following:

  Documents which regulate the health and safety of child care centers Effective Date
  Child Day Care Center Regulations for Licensure 1993
  Family Child Care Home Regulations for Licensure 10/1/2007
  Group Family Child Care Home Regulations for Licensure 10/1/2007
  Child Day Care Center School Age Child Day Care Program Regulations for Licensure 1993
  Regulations for Child Care Programs 1987

Licensing of Child Care

Licensing of child care in Rhode Island is important because this assures that the children served are well taken cared. With a license, it means that the grounds, building, and premises of the child care are safe. This also implies that they have responsible and well trained staff and their program promotes healthy development and growth of the children. The license also gives assurance to the community, particularly to parents, that they provide healthy environment and that their main concern is to check the safety of children. This implies also that the center have appropriate time schedules, activities, materials, food, equipment. And the staffs are always available and they encourage and support the children’s growth particularly on physical, emotional, intellectual, and social aspects.

Through licensing, it regulates the child care centers and they are forced to follow and implement the state’s directions and requirements. After evaluating the details of the program and facilities of the child care and after checking its conformity with the state’s regulations, a license is released. The application form for licensure of child care can be secured from Day Care Licensing Office of Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families. Its address is:

Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families
Day Care Licensing Unit
101 Friendship Street
Providence, RI 02903-3716
Phone: 401-528-3624
Web Site:

The following are links to other contacts of Rhode Island State Child Care:

The procedures in securing a license are the following:

CONSULTATION – before you open your child care, you have to contact first the Day Care Licensing Supervisor so that they would assign you to the in-charged licensing worker. There would be initial consultation to: check on the existing regulations; justify the demand of that program on your chosen community; study the content and details of your program; and evaluate your financial capacity and possible resources available. Then, an ocular visitation is done by the licensing officer to evaluate the feasibility and possibility of compliance to the regulations.

APPLICATION – the application form must be submitted to the Day Care Licensing Office. There is a separate application for each type of physical facility that will be operated. Along with the application are different supporting documents that are required to be submitted.

The application may include the following:

  • profile of the child care center such as name, address, postal address, and phone number
  • name and address of the business owner
  • information on the incorporation of the child care center like names, addresses, and board of directors
  • information about the building to be used including its layout
  • layout of the play areas
  • the child and staff ratio
  • information regarding the staffing of the center
  • staff’s medical information
  • background of the staff
  • information about the program to be offered
  • a list of equipment and materials to be used
  • information about the feeding program
  • financial information
  • a statement showing the proof that the applicant agrees with the licensure regulations

INSPECTION APPROVALS – before the issuance of the license, there would be some inspections done for the compliance of local zoning ordinances and the inspections on the building, state fire, sanitation and health will be done.

LICENSING VISIT – there would be visitation on the facility to check the compliance to regulations.

ACTION ON THE APPLICATION – after complying with the application, inspection approval, facility tour, you will be notified whether your application is accepted or disapproved.

The regulations used in evaluating the child care center are the following:

  • admittance and supervision
  • qualifications of staffs and their development
  • nutrition, health, and safety
  • physical facilities
  • equipment and materials
  • program
  • parent-center relations
  • administration


It is required that the program is appropriate to the age to the children to be admitted. It must have enough staff to ensure the provision of adequate attention to every child to promote his development in physical, emotional, cognitive, and social aspects.

Age of child to be admitted – the center, who caters infants, must admit at least six weeks old baby. The age of infant is between six to eight weeks. For the toddler program, the age of toddler to be admitted must be at least eighteen months. A toddler’s age, by definition, is between eighteen months to three years old. And for the preschool program, the age of children must be at least three years old.

Age integration – the center, who plans to cater a combination of different ages of children where there is age integration, must meet the stringent regulations for the licensure.

Child to staff ratio – the center must follow to the following required ratio:

Age Child/Staff Ratio Maximum Group Size
6 weeks to 18 months 4 : 1 8
18 months to 3 years 6 : 1 12
3 years 9 : 1 18
4 years 10 : 1 20
5 years 12 : 1 24

There is exemption to the requirement if the duration does not exceed to one hour such as arrival and departure, nap time, or some special activities. But for those serving mix-aged group, they must meet the requirements on group size especially if the younger ones are more than twenty percent of the population.

Supervision – The children must be under direct supervision of the staffs in child care all the time. Different aspects in the program must be well supervised by the assigned staff like during toileting, sleeping, resting, eating, or playing outdoor.

The following are the required staffs available in the center:

  • Full-time Staff
  • Director
  • Head Teacher
  • Staff Person In-charge (if the director and the head teacher are absent)
  • Group Staffing
  • Nurse
  • Consultative Medical Services
  • Auxiliary Staff
  • Food Service Worker
  • Volunteers
  • Staff Coverage
  • Substitutes

Children with special needs – the size of the group, ratio of staff, and the provision of services must meet the requirements of Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) and Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) of the children who have special needs and it must conform to the regulations of PL 94-142 or PL 99-457.

Discipline – Staff should use constructive methods in guiding the children and encouraging appropriate behavior. They must set limits and rules which are clear to the children. Staff’s expectations must match to the developing capabilities and abilities of the children. They must praise the accomplishments of the children and also their attempts to do certain tasks. But, the staff must use firm limit with positive reinforcement in case the child’s safety is in danger.

Corporal punishment – the staff must NEVER hit the children nor engage to any type of corporal punishment. The children MUST NOT be exposed to severe or cruel or punishment, verbal abuse or humiliation. They must not be deprived with meals or snacks as punishment. Likewise, they must not hit or punish them when they get soiled, wet or refuse to use the toilet.


The center must be staffed with adults who understand the development of a child and who recognizes / provides his individual needs.


The center must reflect its concern with the nutrition, health, and safety of children. They must protect the children from neglect and abuse and they have to educate the staff and children on matters about practices on nutrition, health, and safety.

Tuberculin and rubella tests – These tests must be done before hiring the potential employees.

Immunization records – Each child must have its updated immunization record as basis for future shots. A child is not admitted if he did not receive the initial doses of the required vaccines. The center is responsible to document the schedule of immunization.

Health examination – There must be preadmission health examination to determine the special needs of children. In case there are developmental concerns, they must be referred to the Regulations of Board of Regents Governing the Special Education of Handicapped Children (for the children ages 3 years and above) or in the Early Intervention Regulations (for below 3 years old). If necessary, there must be additional health examinations to determine the current information of the child’s situation.

Preadmission conference – A conference with parents and other appropriate specialists must be done to evaluate and identify the extent of needs of the child.

Communicable disease – Any child or staff who suffers from a reported communicable disease must be under the direction of the office of Rhode Island Department of Health, Division of Disease Control.

Regular health assessment – Regular health assessment of the child must be done daily. The child must be excluded anytime he shows any suspicious symptoms.

Child abuse – In case there is any suspected child abuse case or negligence, it must be reported to Department of Children, Youth and Families (1-800-RICHILD).

First Aid – All the staff must have general knowledge of first aid procedures. There must be at least one who knows and trained with administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and he must completed the basic first aid course by Red Cross.

Choke-saving poster – Every center must have the choke-saving poster, located in the eating areas, which outlines the Heimlich Maneuver. There must be one staff in the center who is trained to use Heimlich Maneuver especially for those serving infant and toddlers.

Report of injury – There must be written report to the parent in case of injury of the child. This report must also reflect to the record of the child together with the nature of injury and first aid done.

Storage of potentially dangerous items – All the potentially dangerous items such as cleaning supplies, plastic bags, paints, aerosols, medical supplies, toxic substances must be properly labeled and stocked in places that are not accessible to children.

Fire drills – The child center must conduct fifteen fire drills every year. There must be drills for both the obstructed and unobstructed.

Evacuation plan – There must be graphic evacuation plan on alternative escape routes and these must be posted in classrooms. This must be in conformity with State Fire Code. The plan must be written and it must include the details of evacuation of different child group such as infants, toddler, preschool, and those with special needs. The plan must be reviewed every year.

Smoking – Smoking is not allowed in any child care facility.

Hand washing – The staff and children must wash their hands with warm water and liquid soap as often as needed. The sinks used in the preparation of food or clean-up must not be used for hand washing.

Meals and snacks – The center must serve meals with suitable intervals. The food must be nutritionally balanced and parents must be provided with nutrition guidelines during enrolment. The center must provide food with nutritional value.

Menus – Written menus either for meals or snacks must be planned with five-week rotating basis. The parents must be informed with this.

Feeding plan of infant / toddlers – Feeding plan for each child must be established before admission. This must be developed based from the parents and health provider of the child. This must be reviewed every six months.

Feeding on infant / toddlers – The feeding program on toddlers must be a pleasant experience for them. Children must be fed in one-on-one in case they are not yet ready for eating alone although self-feeding is encouraged. There must be enough finger foods provided to practice self-feeding. The food to be served must be in accordance to the recommendation of the child’s parent or physician. A training cup must be provided to the child to train him to drink.

Daily log of infant – Each child below eighteen months must have its daily record on the information regarding his behavior and also on his eating, drinking, napping, and changing activities for the parent’s awareness.

Formula – The center must follow the correct formulation on the commercial formula they will serve. It must be properly labeled with the name of the child and time of preparation. Breast milk or commercial formula must be stored in refrigerator and any left over after feeding must be thrown away. The feeding bottles must be cleaned and sanitized.

Commercial baby food – The commercial baby food must be unopened from its original container before serving. Any left over after feeding must be disposed.

Changing diapers – The children must be regularly diapered, changed, and must be washed and dried with disposable towels. The diaper changing area must be well sanitized and cleaned by disinfectant solution every after use. The staff must thoroughly wash his hands, including the hands of the child, after every diaper change. Soiled disposable diapers must be placed in covered container and properly disposed.

Toilet training – Toilet training a child must be based on his readiness and it must be with the help of the parents to maintain consistency of training even the child is at home. Do not attempt toilet training to a child below 2 years old.

Potty chairs – There should be no child to be left unattended while he is using the potty chair. The potty chairs must be regularly washed and sanitized every after use.

Pets – All the pets in the center must be kept in sanitary and safe manner and have to be in conformity with the requirements of the state and local government. The children must be free from potentially dangerous pets.


The indoor and outdoor environment and facilities enhance or improve the child’s growth and development through safe exploration and learning.

Inspection – The physical facilities of the day care should follow and comply with the local Rhode Island ordinance that includes state building, fire, health and sanitation codes. Before they will give the license or permit to operate in your building or establishment, they will inspect the lead content in the water supply and it should meet the standard for drinking water.

Plan reviews – The Department of Reviews will check your plans either if you will build new structure or renovate an existing building therefore before the start of construction you need to submit the documents to them.

Room location – For infants and toddlers, their rooms should be located on the first floor, ground level where there is easy access to the outside facilities without using stairs. For the preschool children ages, 3 to 5 years old, their rooms is permitted on the second floor, the children are old and responsible enough to use the staircase. All the facilities needed by the children like classrooms, activity rooms, wash rooms, should be located on the same floor level for their convenience and safety. The day care facilities should follow regulation of the designation of the floor level as long as they operate.

Stairways – The day care stairways should have second railings for the children’s use, it should be appropriate to their average height.

Lighting and ventilation – Throughout the facility, there should be adequate ventilation and artificial lighting. The classrooms and activity rooms should have provision for natural lightings and windows should be open for ventilation, moreover, the doors and windows should be securely screened. The temperature in day care facilities varies according to the needs of the children. For the children, the temperature should be maintained within the range of 65° to 74°F at the level of the their average height, and for the infant’s room should maintain a temperature at 68°F at the average crib’s height. And also, the average minimum space for each child should be 300 cubic feet.

Space footage – For each infant or toddler, they should have a minimum usable floor space of 45 square feet in activity rooms or classrooms. And for preschool children, with ages 3 to 5 years old, they should have a minimum usable floor of 35 square feet each child.

Infant and toddler space – Children ages between 33 to 39 months are permitted to have transition rooms. There should be a separate room for 3 year old children and children above 3 years old.

Areas – Indoor activity is sometimes defined by spatial arrangement. Space should be divided into areas according to their activity, the space should have clear pathways to go to one area to another. There should be a separate area for loud and strenuous activity from quiet and less strenuous ones. Close supervision is needed for whatever activity and area the children are to ensure safety and if furniture is needed to ease supervision, then add that to the space.

Storage – There should have enough space for storage for individual clothing with hooks within the child’s reach or level, as well as space for other equipment like materials, supplies, toys, pillows, blankets, etc.

Isolation room – The isolation room is needed to accommodate children who become ill, it should have equipped with cot, bed and beddings and located near the lavatory that is visible for employee’s or staff’s supervision.

Toilet facilities – Your day care should follow the required ratio of children and toilet:

20 children ages 2 years and below should have 1 toilet and 1 sink with hot and cold running water
10 children ages 2 years old and above should have 1 toilet and 1 sink with hot and cold running water
20 children under 3 years old should have diaper changing area with hot and cold running water adjacent to adult washing sink.
Pottery chairs should not replace the required toilet facilities. The adult sink for diaper changing area should be separated from food preparation area and child care staff and employees should have their own separate toilets too.

Drinking water – There should be readily available drinking water, disposable drinking cups (single-use) while they are in your care. Make sure that the water source from the lavatory and drinking water is separate.

Area for food preparation – The food preparation area or the kitchen should have a center table where meals are handled. If the food is not prepared at the center, there should have appropriate or exclusive place for preparation, distribution, snack preparation, etc. The kitchen should be clean, sanitized, well lighted, and organized with adequate cold storage for perishable goods, and dry storage for other supplies. The eating utensils like forks, spoon, cups, plates, etc should be sterilized or rather use disposables.

Utility room – There should be a separate room from the kitchen where storage of cleaning equipment and supplies should be stored. Utility room is also equipped with hot and cold water supply.

Cleanliness – Cleanliness in your day care center should be observed at all times. The place should be well maintained, clean and sanitized, organized and free from hazards so maintenance of the facility should be done after all the children is not within the vicinity.

Outdoor area – For the development of motor activity of a child, out door play is needed that is why your day care should have at least 75 square feet space per child. The outside area of your center should be fenced at least 4 feet in height, well drained, safe from any hazards, and equipped with large pieces of play equipment, climbing toys, swings, etc that are securely anchored. If you are going to add cushioning materials in slides, swings, climbers, make sure that it is at least 6 inches in depth for the wood chips and or sands, rubber matt should be thick enough to serve its cushioning purpose. Make sure that the outdoor play area for infants and toddlers should be different and separated by the older kids.

Telephone – Telephone is very important to keep in working order or condition to be readily available for emergency purposes. Important emergency contact numbers like 911, fire department, police department, physician or nurse, poison department, should be posted adjacent to the phone. This is also very important not only in case of emergency but also it is a good means of communication for parents to check on their kids, or inform the center that their child is sick and cannot attend their classes.

Office space – There should be an area provided for clerical and administrative jobs.

Shared use of premises – As much as possible, sharing of premises is not advisable but if cleanliness and sanitation is maintained, dual occupancy is permitted. This shared use of premises should be mentioned and included in the formal request of approval of operation.


The number of equipment and materials should cater the number of children in the day care who are enrolled so that it will effectively enhance developmental growth of the child.

Furniture – There should be enough number of furniture in your day care center that can accommodate all your enrollees, seating should be provided for every child. The furniture that you are going to use should conform to the standard and safety regulations of Rhode Island. It should be safe, easily cleaned, and child-sized.

Cots and cribs – A cot or a full sized crib shall be assigned for each preschool or toddler and a crib is provided in each infant. The regulation ratio should have 1 crib with wheels for every 5 children below two years of age. This will be used for emergency evacuation purposes. Cribs and cots should be washed, cleaned and sanitized if you are going to assign to another child. During nap time, there should be at east 2 feet spacing between cots or cribs.

Materials and equipment – Equipment and materials of your day care should be enough to cater each child, it should provide appropriate materials for each child’s unique need for growth and development, and it should be safe and durable.

Toddler and preschool materials – The toddler and preschool materials should provide enhancement or improvement in the following areas of the child:

  • Arts – paints, crayons, papers
  • Social skills – dramatic play
  • Science – books
  • Math – blocks
  • Music

Audio-visual equipment – Audio-visual equipment should be appropriate to the age and developmental need of the child.

Infant equipment and materials – The infant area of your day care should have a comfortable chair or seating for your employee or staff that will supervise the room. At least one rocking chair is needed in the infant area, bath tub or plastic basin for bathing, bed linens and clothing changes, adequate supply of diapers, etc. The day care center should also have choke prevention gauge which will be used in determining the correct size of the food or material that a child can swallow.

These are play materials an infant need to stimulate their development: blocks, busy boards, balls, cuddly toys, pull toys, sorting toys, kitchen toys, musical or auditory stimulation toys, nesting and stacking toys, rattles and squeeze toys, mirrors, books, mobile and cradle gyms, riding toys, climbing equipment, etc.

Safety – All the equipment and materials in your day care center should be cleaned and sanitized, and kept in good condition to ensure safe, healthy, sickness free environment.


The curriculum caters all areas of the child’s development including physical, emotional, social and cognitive development.

Curriculum – The curriculum of your child care should understand and fill the needs of each child, it provides enriching growth and stimulating experiences suited in the child’s age bracket and development.

Daily preschool schedule – The daily schedule should provide a balance activity that will cover all of these dimensions:

  • indoor and outdoor activities
  • quiet and active moments
  • individual, small and large group activities
  • small and large muscle development activities
  • child or staff initiated activities

Developmental activities – The program should include different developmental activities for experiential learning. It should also meet the following goals:

  • enhance the child’s unique learning potential
  • enhance child’s language and communication skills and also support the emergence literacy
  • enhance physical and motor development
  • promote through directed play activities
  • encourage trusting relationship with adults
  • enhance appropriate emotional and social skills
  • encourage positive self-image or self esteem
  • enhance the development of sense of autonomy or independence
  • encourage interest and curiosity about the world
  • enhance child’s independent thinking, and problem solving
  • encourage safety and nutritional practices

Components of toddler and preschool program – The program encourage individual and small group activities that include block building, art, music, science, math, book reading, socio-dramatic plays, and writings.

Part of the parents – The program should offer opportunities for parents to have their part to share the children’s learning experiences and struggles. It will give opportunity to check if the program is effective and also parents can learn experiences from each other.

Flexible program – The program schedules should be followed daily but it should also be flexible enough for some changes. The planned activities sometimes change to cope with the child’s needs and interests, and some activities need to be postponed due to bad weather conditions.

Resting or quiet activities – The program should include regular quiet, resting or sleeping activities to cope up the child’s needs and development. Infants and toddlers should be in cribs when resting with no toys, or any restraining devices of any kind unless prescribed by a physician or any licensed professional.

Program planning – The program planning should be documented in details and written in a book a month advance. The head teacher should be responsible in doing the program planning. He will meet the staff and other teachers and employees at least once a month to consult and plan the program. Moreover, classroom staff should discuss this in a weekly basis of each child’s special developmental needs.

Infant and toddler program – The program for infant and toddlers should have understanding on the developmental needs of a young child by giving experiences in a safe environment with intense care and supervision. The toddler program should give experiences that will enhance the development of trusting relationship to adults. The infant program also should maintain the warm trusting relationship between the child and adult. In the program, it also develops respect for individual feeding, sleeping and changing of diapers. Their physical needs should be the first in the list. Feeding and changing will also provide them opportunity to learn and communicate with adults. The program provides daily and various activities to enhance the development of the following:

  • develop communication skills, language acquisition through statement of happening, stories, songs, poems, and finger plays
  • sensory learning through stimulation of the different senses like sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch
  • gross and fine motor skills

Infant and toddler environment – The environment of the child care, indoor or outdoor, should be organized, safe, clean or free from clutter, which will give opportunity for the children to explore and to have freedom to move without any danger. For non-mobile infants, they should be placed in an area with wide range of visual stimulus to keep the baby busy and entertained but they should be moved throughout the day. For those kids who are old enough to stand, move, and walk, they should be given a large environment to explore, and to enhance their locomotive skill like crawling, standing up, climbing, and walking.


There must be interaction between the parents and the center to address all the needs of the children. Concerns about the child can also be solved easily with this. Parents must support the activities of the center to avoid confusion to the child.


The center must be administered in such a way that it would address the needs of the children and at the same time support the efforts of the staff.

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