Q. How can I find a child care provider in my area that meets my needs?
A. There are several resources to help you find quality child care:
- Use the Child Care Locator at http://childcarefind.okdhs.org/childcarefind (Link opens in new window)
- Call your regional Child Care Resources and Referral Agency at 1-888-962-2772 or go to www.oklahomachildcare.org (Link opens in new window). They will help you select programs that match your needs.
- Call your county OKDHS office for names of licensed child care homes and centers in your area.
Call the programs you’re interested in to find out if they have an opening for your child, then schedule a visit to see the child care program and meet the caregiver.
Q: What things should I look for to select quality child care?
A. Choosing child care that is right for your child is very important and can have long-lasting results. The following are some questions you should consider:
- How many children are there for each adult? Fewer children per adult is better, as they will receive more attention.
- How many children are in the group? A small group is usually safer and calmer. The State of Oklahoma regulates the size of groups in licensed child care.
- What are the caregivers’ training and education? Do they attend classes and workshops to improve their skills? The State of Oklahoma requires caregivers to attend training each year in order to be licensed.
- How long have the current caregivers been there? Getting used to new caregivers takes a child’s time and energy that could be used to learn new things.
- Is the program licensed? Does the facility look clean and safe? Are plans in place in case of emergency or disaster? A licensed program is inspected at least three times a year by OKDHS for basic health and safety requirements.
- What is the facility’s star rating? Licensed centers and homes are rated from one to three stars. Two- and three-star programs have met voluntary standards for child care that are higher than basic licensing requirements. Three-star programs are nationally accredited.
- Does the caregiver attend to children’s needs and give them lots of attention and encouragement?
- Is there a daily schedule with planned activities for children as well as plenty of time for free play? Do caregivers read to children? Good child care programs offer active play and learning activities to help children enter school with the skills they need to succeed.
- How will caregivers let you know what went on during your child’s day? Good child care programs welcome drop in visits and parent ideas.
Contact the Child Care Licensing Specialist in your local county OKDHS office for more information.
Q. What do the stars mean?
A. In Oklahoma, a variety of initiatives are in place to improve the quality of child care. A tiered system of quality and reimbursement known as “Reaching for the Stars” provides incentives for programs that meet the “star” criteria. Star ratings are based on compliance with licensing regulations, continuing caregiver education, parent involvement, learning environment for children and participation in national accreditation organizations. The Reaching for the Stars Program has four rating levels with specified criteria:
- One-star programs meet minimum licensing requirements.
- One-star plus programs meet additional quality criteria.
- Two-star programs meet additional quality criteria or are nationally accredited.
- Three-star programs meet additional quality criteria and are nationally accredited.
Q. What are some of the quality criteria that must be met by one-star plus, two- and three-star programs?
A. Some of the criteria are:
- Program assessment.
- Center directors, teachers and family child care home providers must receive additional, annual training in child development.
- Family child care home providers and master teachers in centers must have an early childhood credential or degree with hours in child development.
- Centers must have weekly lesson plans and interest areas to facilitate a variety of activities.
- Family child care homes and centers must involve parents in a variety of ways.
- Center teachers and family child care home providers read to children daily.
- Contact the child care licensing specialist at your local OKDHS Human Services Center for more information.
Q. How can I find out if a child care facility has had any complaints or violations?
A. The files of child care centers and family child care homes are open to the public. A summary of facility monitoring can be viewed on the Internet at http://childcarefind.okdhs.org/childcarefind (Link opens in new window). Search for the center or home and click on the name of an individual child care program. You may also ask to see the program’s compliance file. Appointments may be made to view these files in your local OKDHS office. A child care licensing specialist will be available to discuss the file with you and answer any questions you may have about the contents.
Q. How do I make a complaint on a child care center or home?
A. If you have concerns about an incident or situation in your child’s child care program that may violate licensing requirements, call the OKDHS child care licensing specialist for your local county. The licensing specialist will investigate the allegation(s) and determine a finding. You may request a follow-up contact after the investigation is completed. To find your local child care licensing specialist, go to: http://www.okdhs.org/divisionsoffices/visd/dcc/ccl/docs/regioninformation.htm
Q. What kind of background checks are required for employees who live and work in child care centers and homes?
A. The Oklahoma Child Care Facilities Licensing Act requires a facility's owner, director or primary caregiver to submit to the Oklahoma Child Care Services Licensing Records Office a criminal background review request, along with documentation of a search of the Child Care Restricted Registry and a completed criminal history investigation conducted within the last 12 months. Staff will conduct a search of the Oklahoma State Courts Network. These background checks are required for any person making application to establish or operate a child care center, as well as all caregivers, substitutes, auxiliary staff prior to employment. It also includes any other person employed by the child care facility or program, adults who live in the child care facility (including providers’ spouses or adult children), and persons age 18 years or older prior to their residence in a facility. Contact the child care licensing specialist at your local OKDHS Human Services Center for more information.
Q. What is the Child Care Restricted Registry?
A. The Child Care Restricted Registry is an online database that identifies individuals who are prohibited from licensure, ownership, employment and/or residence in a licensed child care facility.
Individuals may be recorded on the Child Care Restricted Registry for three reasons:
- If the person has a confirmed/substantiated finding of abuse or neglect of children for an incident that occurred on or after July 1, 2010, while in the care of a child care facility.
- If the person has had a child care facility license that was denied or revoked for incidents that occurred on or after July 1, 2010.
- If the person has a criminal conviction for certain violent crimes or crimes against children.
Q. How many children can I care for without being licensed?
A. Generally, anyone who provides child care on a regular basis must be licensed by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Child Care Services Division. Certain informal or occasional child care arrangements may be exempt from licensing. Contact the child care licensing specialist at your local OKDHS Human Services Center for more information.
Q. How do I open a family child care home?
A. Contact the child care licensing specialist in your local OKDHS Human Cervices Center for an inquiry packet. This packet will contain the licensing requirements for family child care and large child care homes along with other information you will need to get started. Some of the items required are a completed request for license, proof of business entity ownership, and documentation showing that several different background checks have been completed.
The licensing specialist will visit your home to check that you have adequate space and equipment, and that health and safety requirements are met. Once all requirements are met, you will receive a six-month permit to operate. The permit carries an automatic one-star rating; however, you must be a one-star plus or higher to be eligible to contract with OKDHS to be paid for child care services. Your licensing specialist will guide you through these additional processes.
Q. How do I open a child care center?
A. Contact the child care licensing specialist in your local OKDHS Human Services Center. The licensing specialist will send you the information you need and guide you through the process. Some of the items you need to provide are:
- Completed request for license
- Proof of business entity ownership
- Information about the child care staff
- Documentation the director has a Bronze Credential or higher
- Documentation that several different background checks have been completed
- Documentation of adequate equipment for capacity
- Documentation of a licensing monitoring visit that shows the facility meets all requirements
- Documentation of fire and health approval within 12 months
Once all requirements are met, you will receive a six-month permit to operate. The permit carries an automatic one-star rating; however, you must be a one-star plus or higher to be eligible to contract with OKDHS to be paid for child care services. Your licensing specialist will guide you through these additional processes.
Q. What requirements are child care facilities supposed to follow?
A. The Child Care Facilities Licensing Act defines the types of child care programs that must be licensed and sets minimum requirements for each type. These rules are for the care and protection of children's health, safety and well-being outside their own homes. Requirements vary depending upon the child care program. For a complete list of requirements, please go to http://www.okdhs.org/programsandservices/cc/prvdrs/lic/docs/requirements.htm and click on the type of child care program that interests you. You will find links to each set of licensing requirements below the definitions. It is the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ intent that licensing requirements are clear, reasonable, fair and enforceable. Please contact the child care licensing specialist at your local OKDHS Human Services Center for more information.
Q. How is a residential facility different from a child care home or center?
A. A residential child care facility is a 24-hour facility where children live together with, or are supervised by, adults other than their parents or relatives. Types of residential programs include:
- children’s shelters
- treatment facilities
- secure care facilities
- regimented programs
Q. What is a child placing agency?
A. A child placing agency is a private agency that provides social services to children and their families that supplement, support or substitute parental care and supervision for the purpose of safeguarding and promoting children’s welfare in adoptive homes, foster family homes and independent living programs. Contact the residential program field representative at your local OKDHS Human Services Center for more information.