What Is the Difference Between Being a Certified Day Care Versus Being a Licensed Day Care?

In some jurisdictions, establishments that provide childcare to minors on a professional basis are required to obtain state-level licensing, while providers who are exempt from this requirement may be required to seek certification from a lower level of government, such as the county or Native American tribal authority, according to the State of Wisconsin. Requirements vary, and each area has its own standards for licensing versus certification.

According to the State of Washington, obtaining a license demonstrates that the provider is able to meet state-level requirements for safety, hygiene and environmental health prior to accepting responsibility for the care of minors. Licensing rules apply primarily to non-commercial childcare providers, such as friends, family, informal parent groups, and co-ops and neighbors who occasionally look after children. State licensing entails a requirement that certain minimum training obligations must be met. It also calls for periodic reevaluation to ensure consistently high standards.

Generally, the licensed establishment is required to pay an annual licensing fee to handle the costs associated with monitoring conditions at participating facilities. A thorough background check is also part of the process. The State of Washington reports that, as of 2014, as many as 7,400 facilities are carried on state rolls as licensed daycare providers.