Child Care Overview

Click Find Child Care to use an interactive tool to locate child care.  The three types of regulated child care in Iowa are Licensed Centers, Child Development Homes, and Child Care Homes. Those persons employed, residing in a Licensed Child Care center, Child Development Home, or Non-Registered Child Care Home that receives child care assistance funding must complete required background checks. Click provider record checks in a child care settings for additional information. 

All Child Care Providers must complete 1st Aid, CPR, and Mandatory Child Abuse Reporter Training.  Additionally, all child care providers receive training in the following content areas:

  • Prevention and control of infectious disease, including immunizations
  • Prevention of sudden infant death syndrome and use of safe sleep practices. 
  • Administration of medication, consistent with standards for parental consent. 
  • Prevention of and response to emergencies due to food and allergic reactions. 
  • Building and physical-premises safety, including identification of and protection from hazards that can cause bodily injury, such as electrical hazards, bodies of water, and vehicular traffic. 
  • Prevention of shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma. 
  • Emergency preparedness and response planning for emergencies resulting from a natural disaster or a human-caused event. 
  • Handling and storage of hazardous materials and the appropriate disposal of biocontaminants. 
  • Precautions in transporting children.

Licensed Centers 

These are businesses that typically care for dozens of children.
  1. Centers are required to follow a long list of requirements and they receive at least one unannounced monitoring visit annually from DHS consultants. 
  2. Each child care license must be renewed every 2 years.  
  3. Licensed Centers must meet requirements in the following areas (but are not limited to):
  • Adequate floor plan and fire marshal’s report
  • Policies for fees, enrollment, field trips, discipline, nutrition, and health and safety policies
  • Developmentally appropriate curriculum
  • Parental participation
  • Personnel
  • Professional growth and development 
  • Staff ratio requirements
  • Records
  • Health and safety policies
  • Physical facilities
  • Activity program requirements
  • Extended evening care (if applicable)
  • Get well center (if applicable)
  • Food services
 
A licensed child care center may also apply for a Child Care Assistance Provider Agreement with DHS.  This allows these programs to care for children that qualify for public assistance with child care costs.
 

Child Development Homes

Any person providing child care in their home can apply to be registered.  Those serving more than 5 children are required to register.  

  1. The Department must complete a preinspection and an unannounced annual inspection once per year. 
  2. There are 3 categories of child development homes, with an increase in requirements and allowances for numbers in care with each category.
  3. Child Development Homes must reapply for registration every two years.  Child Development Homes must meet requirements in the following areas (but are not limited to):
  • Number of children allowed in care
  • Health and Safety standards
  • Activity Program
  • Parental Access
  • Discipline
  • Meals
  • File Maintenance for children and staff
  • Professional Development
 
A child development home provider may also apply for a Child Care Assistance Provider Agreement with DHS.  This allows these programs to care for children that qualify for public assistance with child care costs. Visit the Child Care Assistance page for more information.
 

Child Care Homes

People who provide childcare in their own homes and who care for five or fewer children are not required to be registered but have the option to do so.  These people may apply for a Child Care Assistance Provider Agreement with DHS.  This allows non-registered programs to care for children that qualify for public assistance with child care costs.

Child Care Homes that have a Child Care Assistance Provider Agreement with DHS are also subject to annual inspections to assure compliance with health, safety, and fire standards.