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Washington state family child care licensing: Licensing process

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
Types of Licenses
Training Requirements
Home Requirements

One of the first steps in becoming an in-home child care provider is applying for a license to operate your family child care within your state. Once you have looked at the types of family home child care licenses in the Washington State, you are ready to get started on the licensing process. Here we break down what that process looks like so you can get started becoming an in-home preschool or child care provider.

Family Home Child Care licensing process

Step 1: Orientation

To become a licensed child care provider in Washington State, you must participate in a Department of Early Learning (DEL) licensing orientation. Family home child care licensing orientations occur in two phases:

Phase 1: Complete the online orientation

Those interested in becoming family home child care providers must view an hour-long online presentation about family home child care licensing in Washington state. At the end of the presentation, you will be instructed to complete and print a post-orientation questionnaire. You will also be given the next steps to prepare for Phase 2.

Phase 2: Appointment with DEL

After completing the online orientation, call your local Department of Early Learning (DEL) office to schedule your Phase Two appointment. You must bring the following documents with you (DO NOT MAIL THESE TO DEL):

  • Family Home Child Care License Application: Completed, signed and dated application
  • Post-Orientation Questionnaire: Completed, signed and dated Post-Orientation Questionnaire
  • License Fee: $30 non-refundable license fee (check or money order payable to DSHS)
  • Education Proof: Proof of high school diploma or equivalent
  • Picture Identification: Current government-issued picture identification
  • Social Security Card: Copy of Social Security card or sworn declaration stating you don’t have one
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN): if you plan to hire staff
  • Employment and education resume for applicant(s)
  • Family Home Child Care Standards: bring a copy of Licensed Family Home Child Care Standards (WAC 170-296A) available at this link.
  • Licensed Family Home Checklist: bring a copy of the Licensed Family Home Checklist

You will receive a license application, instructions about how to fill out the application and other related information. The licensor(s) who conduct the orientation will explain how to complete the application and what other information you must provide. DEL staff will talk with you about how you plan to offer child care and work closely with you throughout the licensing process.

Step 2: MERIT and Background Check requirements

Background Check: State law requires the Department of Early Learning (DEL) to conduct background checks on anyone who is authorized to care for or have unsupervised access to children in licensed child care facilities and ECEAP sites. DEL issues portable background checks, valid for three years, which can be submitted through the MERIT. The Portable Background Check process must be completed for the applicant(s), staff, and household members 13 years and older. This process begins by each person registering in MERIT using his or her own email address.

Step 3: Complete your application packet

It is extremely important that the application packet is complete. The following documents must be provided within 60 days of your Phase Two appointment:

  • Current CPR and Standard First Aid Cards
  • Current HIV/AIDS training certificates
  • Copy of TB skin test results
  • Copy of Washington State food handler permit
  • Parent, staff and operation policies (handbooks)
  • Floorplan
  • Sewage system inspection and maintenance records if applicable
  • Private water supply testing and system repair records if applicable
  • Lead or arsenic evaluation agreement if applicable (only if the home is located in the Tacoma smelter plume)
  • Any other documents requested

Step 4: License application processing

Once you send in your application, the department may take up to 90 days to process an initial license application. The 90 days begins when the license applicant’s signed and dated license application packet, fees, and background check forms have been received by the department.

If the application is incomplete, you will receive a written notice of what is missing. The written notice will include a timeline in which to submit the required information. If you do not respond with the requested information within the specified timeline, the department may “deny” the application. The department will call the applicant when the department is ready to schedule a licensing visit. All corrections will need to be made before an initial license is issued to you.

Step 5: DEL Inspections

Prior to the department issuing a license, a department licensor must inspect the proposed indoor and outdoor spaces to be used for child care to verify compliance with the requirements.

The licensee must grant reasonable access to the department licensor during the licensee’s hours of operation for the purpose of announced or unannounced monitoring visits to inspect the indoor or outdoor licensed space to verify compliance with the requirements.

License Declaration
When compliance with a requirement is being met in unlicensed space in the licensee’s home, the licensee must provide a signed and dated declaration, on a department-approved form for the purpose of verifying that the licensee is in compliance with the requirements regarding:

  • The furnace area safety;
  • Guns and weapons storage;
  • Smoke detector locations and working condition;
  • Medication storage


License fees
The annual family home child care license fee is $30, or as otherwise set by the Legislature. The license fee is nonrefundable and is due with the license applicant’s initial license application packet; and annually thereafter, 30 days prior to the anniversary date of the license. Payment must be in the form of a check or money order.

Background Check Fees
Each individual required to obtain a department background check must pay the fee established under chapter 170-06 WAC. The fee must be submitted with the individual’s completed and signed background check application form. Each individual applying for a first-time license application or each individual applying for the first time for a department background check clearance must be fingerprinted and pay the processing fee.

Family Home Child Care license application packet and inspection details

First Aid and CPR Certification
The licensee and each staff person must have a current first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification as established by the expiration date of the document.

  • Proof of certification may be a card, certificate or instructor letter.
  • The first aid and CPR training and certification must:
    • Be certified by the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, American Safety and Health Institute or other nationally recognized certification approved by the department;
    • Include infant, child, and adult CPR; and
    • Include a hands-on component.

HIV/AIDS training – Bloodborne Pathogens plan
The licensee, each staff, and each household member who is responsible for the care of children must complete one time the state Department of Health training on the prevention and transmission of HIV/AIDS.

The licensee must have a written bloodborne pathogens plan that includes:

  • A list of the staff, volunteers and household members providing child care who may be exposed to bloodborne pathogens; and
  • Procedures for cleaning up bodily fluid spills (blood, feces, nasal or eye discharge, saliva, urine or vomit), including the use of gloves, proper cleaning and disinfecting of contaminated items, disposal of waste materials, and handwashing.

The applicant, and each staff person fourteen years old and older, and each household member sixteen years old and older must provide documentation signed by a licensed health care professional of tuberculosis (TB) testing or treatment consisting of:

  • A negative Mantoux test (also known as a tuberculin skin test (TST)) or negative interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA) completed within twelve months before license application or employment; or
  • A previous or current positive TST or positive IGRA with documentation within the previous twelve months:
    • Of a chest X-ray with negative results; or
    • Showing that the individual is receiving or has received therapy for active or latent TB disease and is cleared to safely work in a child care setting. As used in this section, “latent TB” means when a person is infected with the TB germ but has not developed active TB disease.

Food Handler Permits

  • New license applicants must obtain a current state food handler permit prior to being licensed.
  • By March 31, 2013, every licensee must obtain and maintain a current state food handler permit.
  • When the licensee is not present, one staff person with a current state food handler permit must be present whenever food is prepared or served to children in care.
  • The licensee or staff person with a current state food handler permit must prepare or supervise preparation of all food served to children in care.
  • The licensee must keep a copy of each individual’s food handler permit on file.

Parent, staff and operation policies (handbooks). See

Floor plan, including proposed:

  • Licensed space;
  • Licensed space usage;
  • Evacuation routes and emergency exits;
  • Unlicensed space;
  • Licensed space used specifically for sleeping infants, if applicable; and
  • Licensed space used for sleeping children for overnight care, if applicable.

Private septic system – inspection and maintenance

  • If the licensed premises is served by a private septic system (not connected to a sewer system) the septic system must be maintained in a manner acceptable to the local health jurisdiction.
  • The licensee must follow the local health jurisdiction’s requirements for periodic septic system inspection and maintenance.
  • If there are no local health jurisdiction’s requirements for periodic septic system inspections the licensee must:
    • Have the system inspected by a septic system inspector certified by the local health jurisdiction:
      • Within 6 months prior to submitting a license application under Initial License application and
      • Every 3 years after an initial license is issued to the license applicant
    • Maintain the septic system as required by the inspection report.
  • Septic system inspection and maintenance records must be kept on the premises and made available to the department upon request.

Private well and water system

  • If the licensed family home child care gets water from a private well on the premises, the licensee must follow the local health jurisdiction’s requirements for periodic water testing.
  • If there are no local health jurisdiction requirements for periodic water testing, the licensee must have the water tested for coliform bacteria and nitrates by the local public health authority or a private testing laboratory certified to analyze drinking water samples under chapter 173-50 WAC:
    • Within 6 months prior to submitting an initial license application and
    • Every 3 years after the first initial license is issued to the license applicant under this chapter. The test results must indicate no presence of coliform bacteria, and must not exceed ten parts per million (ppm) for nitrate.
  • If test results indicate the presence of coliform bacteria or nitrate greater than ten ppm the licensee must:
    • Immediately retest the water;
    • If the retest indicates the presence of coliform bacteria or nitrate greater than ten ppm, immediately stop using the well water in the child care and inform the local health jurisdiction and the department;
    • Take steps required by the local health jurisdiction to repair the well or water system; and
    • Test the water as often as required by the local health jurisdiction until tests indicate no presence of coliform bacteria and nitrate levels not exceeding ten ppm.
  • If directed by the local health jurisdiction or the department, the licensee must suspend child care operations until repairs are made; or if the local health jurisdiction and the department determine that child care operations may continue with an alternate source of safe water, provide the alternate safe water as directed.
  • Water testing and system repair records must be kept on the premises and made available to the department upon request.

The furnace area safety

  • The licensee must keep paper, rubbish, or combustible materials at least three feet away from any furnace, fireplace, or other heating devices.
  • A furnace must be inaccessible to the children, isolated, enclosed or protected.
  • Any appliance or heating device that has a hot surface capable of burning a child must be made inaccessible to the children in care during operating hours when the appliance or device is in use or is still hot after use.

Guns and weapons storage

  • The licensee must store guns, ammunition and other weapons inaccessible to children in a locked gun safe or locked room
  • If stored in a locked room, each gun must be stored unloaded and with a trigger lock or other disabling feature.

Smoke detector locations and working condition

  • The licensee must have and maintain working smoke detectors in the home. At least one smoke detector must be located in each licensed sleeping area and on each level of the home. Smoke detectors must be placed on the ceiling or wall, but not on the wall above any door.
  • The licensee must have and maintain working carbon monoxide detectors in the home
  • One extra battery for each smoke detector and each carbon monoxide detector must be kept on the premises.

Medication storage
The licensee must store all medications, as well as vitamins, herbal remedies, dietary supplements and pet medications as described in the following table in a locked container or cabinet until used or inaccessible to children. The licensee must keep emergency rescue medications listed in subsection (1)(a)(i) through (vi) inaccessible but available for emergency use to meet the individual’s emergency medical needs:

Medication Storage Table

This list is not inclusive of all possible items in each category. Medications must be maintained as directed on the medication label, including refrigeration if applicable.
(1) If the medication is a (an): The medication must be stored in a locked container or cabinet. The medication must be stored inaccessible to children.
(a) Individual’s emergency rescue medications:
(i) Any medication used to treat an allergic reaction; X
(ii) Nebulizer medication; X
(iii) Inhaler; X
(iv) Bee sting kit; X
(v) Seizure medication; X
(vi) Other medication needed for emergencies. X
(b) Nonprescription medications, including herbal or natural:
(i) Pain reliever, cough syrup, cold or flu medication; X
(ii) Vitamins, all types including natural; X
(iii) Topical nonprescription medication; X
(iv) Hand sanitizer, when not in use. X
(c) Prescription medication:
(i) Intended use – Topical; X
(ii) Intended use – Ingestible, inhaled or by injection. X
(d) Pet medications (all types). X



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.