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Washington state family child care licensing: Types of licenses

This post is part of our series on the Washington State family child care licensing. For more on licensing in Washington, see the following posts:

Washington State Family Child Care Licensing: An Overview
The Licensing Process
Training Requirements
Home Requirements

To become an in-home preschool or child care provider in Washington State, you must get a Family Home Child Care Initial License. Then you can get a Family Home Child Care Full, Non-expiring License.

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the two types of licenses in Washington State.

Family Home Child Care Initial License

An Initial License is a 6-month license that allows a provider to offer care while the Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) decides whether the provider can meet the state licensing rules over time. A provider may have up to four 6-month initial licenses if progress is being made. An applicant who demonstrates compliance with health and safety requirements but may not be in full compliance with all requirements may be issued an initial license.

  • An initial license is valid for 6 months from the date issued.
  • At the department’s discretion, an initial license may be extended for up to 3 additional 6-month periods not to exceed a total of 2 years.
  • The department may limit the number of children or ages of children that the licensee may care for (capacity) under an initial license based on the licensee’s child care experience.
  • The department must evaluate the licensee’s ability to follow all of the rules during the initial license period.
  • The department may issue a Non-expiring Full License to a licensee operating under an Initial License who:
    • Demonstrates full compliance with the health and safety requirements at any time during the period of initial licensure;
    • Demonstrates substantial compliance with other requirements at any time; and
    • Meets the requirements for a Non-expiring Full License
  • The department must deny a Non-expiring Full License to a licensee operating under an Initial License who does not demonstrate the ability to comply with all the rules during the period of initial licensure.

Family Home Child Care Full, Non-expiring License

A Full, Non-expiring License may be issued when DEL decides a provider meets state licensing rules. Licenses do not expire as long as the license is in good standing and providers submit fees and forms on time.

  • Subsection 1: To qualify for a Non-expiring Full License, a licensee must submit the following to the department on an annual basis, at least 30 calendar days prior to the anniversary date of the license. The anniversary date is the date the licensee’s first initial license is issued:
    • The annual nonrefundable license fee;
    • A declaration to the department on a department-approved form indicating:
      • The licensee’s intent to continue operating a licensed family home child care; or
      • The licensee’s intent to cease operation on a date certain.
    • A declaration on a department-approved form that the licensee is in compliance with all department licensing rules; and
    • Documentation of completed background check applications. The department shall issue a background check clearance card or certificate to the applicant if after the completion of a background check the department concludes the applicant is qualified for unsupervised access to children in care. The background check clearance card or certificate is valid for 3 years from the date of issuance. A valid card or certificate must be accepted by a potential employer as proof that the applicant has successfully completed a background check as required. For each individual required to have a background check clearance, the licensee must verify a current background check clearance or submit a background check application at least 30 days prior to the license anniversary date.
  • The requirements of Subsection 1 must be met before a licensee operating under an Initial License is issued a Non-expiring Full License and  every twelve months after issuance of a Non-expiring Full License.
  • If the licensee fails to meet the requirements of subsection (1) for the continuation of a Non-expiring Full License, the license expires and the licensee must submit a new application for licensure.
  • Nothing about the Non-expiring Full License process in this section may interfere with the department’s established monitoring practice.
  • A licensee has no right to an adjudicated proceeding (hearing) to appeal the expiration, non-renewal, or non-continuation of a Non-expiring Full License as a result of the licensee’s failure to comply with the requirements of this section.

Family Home Child Care ratios for children by age

  • The number of children allowed: the department issues an Initial License or Non-expiring Full License for the licensee to care for not more than 12 children birth through 12 years of age.
  • Indoor and outdoor space: the department may issue an Initial License or Non-expiring Full License for fewer than 12 children if the total square footage of licensed indoor or outdoor space is less than the minimum square footage required to care for 12 children.
  • Child care experience: if the licensee has less than 1 year of child care experience, the department may issue an initial license limited to:
    • Caring for not more than 6 children; or
    • Caring for children older than 18 months of age and walking independently.
  • Offsite trips and water activities: Qualified staff must be present at all times during all operating hours, including off-site trips or when transporting children in care. The licensee must provide additional staff as described below when children are participating in water activities or activities near water.

See the table below for the number and ages of children a licensee may care for and the staff-to-child ratios required based on the licensee’s experience and staffing levels:



Wonderschool is a network of quality in-home early childhood programs. Our mission is to ensure that every child has access to a home away from home that helps them realize their full potential. We work with experienced educators and child care providers to help them start their own child care or preschool out of their homes, whether they live in apartments, condos, or homes that they rent or own.