The three types of regulated child care in Iowa are Licensed Centers, Child Development Homes, and Child Care Homes. All licensed providers are able to participate in a quality rating program to increase their program's quality and receive a quality score based on their training level.
Those providing care to children in the family home who receive child care assistance funding are also subject to background checks and must complete the below minimum health and safety training. Because these providers are serving families in their own home, the parent is responsible for maintaining safe and adequate housing for the children. The Department may follow up on complaints of health and safety concerns identified in the household.
All Child Care Providers must complete First Aid, CPR, Mandatory Child Abuse Reporter Training and other important trainings.
These are businesses that typically care for dozens of children.
Centers are required to follow a long list of requirements and they receive at least one unannounced monitoring visit annually from HHS consultants.
Each child care license must be renewed every 2 years.
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
Professional growth and development
Staff ratio requirements
Health and safety policies
Activity program requirements
Extended evening care (if applicable)
Get well center (if applicable)
A licensed child care centers may also apply for a Child Care Assistance Provider Agreement with HHS. This allows these programs to care for children that qualify for public assistance with child care costs.
Any person providing child care in their home can apply to be a registered Child Development Home. Those serving more than the following number of children are required to register:
- Six or more children less than school-age
- Seven or more children if at least one is school-age
There are 3 categories of child development homes, with an increase in requirements and allowances for numbers in care with each category.
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 programs- Parental access- Discipline- Meals- File maintenance for children and staff- Professional development
The Department must complete a pre-inspection and an unannounced annual inspection once per year.
Child Development Homes must reapply for registration every two years.
A Child Development Home provider may also apply for a Child Care Assistance Provider Agreement with HHS. This allows these programs to care for children that qualify for public assistance with child care costs.
People who provide childcare in their own homes are not required by Iowa Code 237A.3 to be registered if they provide care to:
- Five or fewer children
- Six or fewer children, if at least one of the children is school-aged
These individuals may apply for a Child Care Assistance Provider Agreement with HHS. This allows non-registered programs to care for children that qualify for public assistance with child care costs.
2. Child Care Homes with a Child Care Assistance Provider Agreement must meet requirements in the following areas (but are not limited to):
- Number of children allowed in care- Health and safety standards- Parental access- Discipline- Meals- File maintenance for children- Professional development
The Department must complete an unannounced annual inspection once per year to assure compliance with health, safety, and fire standards.
Child Care Homes with a Child Care Assistance Provider Agreement must reapply every two years.
Visit the Child Care Provider Portal for additional information.
Learn more about the licensing process on the Child Care Licensing page.
Those employed or living in a licensed child care center, child development home, or non-registered child care home that receives child care assistance funding must complete required record checks.
The Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) staff is able to assist with your fingerprinting needs as a child care provider free of charge. To learn more, please contact a CCR&R staff nearest you by viewing the contact information at https://iowaccrr.org/staff/.
Visit the Iowa Child Abuse Registry webpage for additional information for State Agencies or those contracted with the State Agency to provide this service requesting registry checks of child care providers.
HHS covers record check fees for all Child Development Homes and child care homes with a Child Care Assistance Provider Agreement.
In November 2020, HHS began covering the cost of national record checks completed by the FBI via fingerprints for licensed child care center employees (and volunteers, as applicable) hired on or after March 16, 2020. Any rolling fees that may be associated by a local agency providing this service will not be the responsibility of HHS.
Appropriate record check guides for licensed child care centers have been updated and are located here: http://ccmis.dhs.state.ia.us/providerportal/LicensedProviderDocuments.aspx
This Child Care Map shows child care providers by their location on the map.
The Child Care Provider Search is an interactive tool to help find child care providers.
We encourage those who have children with special needs to call a Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) Parent Specialist and discuss child care options in your area. The Parent Specialist can talk with you about your child’s special needs and search their database to see if there are child care programs in your area that have indicated they are able to meet special needs. The CCR&R parent referral number is 1-855-CHILD-01 (1-855-244-5301).
Child Care Quality Ratings show quality rating scores for all licensed providers in Iowa. This tool can help you find child care in your community.
The Child Care Assistance Program supports low income families with parents, who are looking for work, employed or attending school to pursue vocational or educational training.
Providers may serve child care assistance families as a licensed center, registered child development home or child care home provider.
Visit the Child Care Assistance webpage for more information.
The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services maintains data in the following categories:
Substantiated child abuse in a child care setting by provider type
Substantiated child abuse in a child care setting by abuse type
Child deaths that occurred in a child care setting
Serious injuries that occurred in a child care setting
Child care capacity statistics
Healthy Child Care Iowa (HCCI) works to improve the quality of health and safety in Early Care and Education (ECE) programs serving infants, toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children and their families. HCCI provides structure and fidelity for Child Care Nurse Consultants (CCNCs) at the local level.
CCNCs are Registered Nurses who incorporate principles of health equity when working with ECE programs providing on-site consultation, training, and technical assistance, information and referral as well as care planning for children with special health needs. CCNC services are free and available in all 99 counties.
Visit the Healthy Child Care Iowa webpage for more information.
All Child Care Providers must complete First Aid, CPR, and Mandatory Child Abuse Reporter Training.
Additional information for providers is listed on the Child Care Providers webpage.
The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) was originally signed into law in 1990, was reauthorized in 1996 and again most recently in 2014. The law establishes the funding and federal policy direction for child care. These requirements are outlined in federal rules under the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), the name given to the federal child care program. The most recent rules were published in September 2016 and can be found at www.ecfr.gov.
Information on the requirements of the CCDBG, including links to federal program guidance, webinars, and technical assistance resources is available on the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Care website.
Quality Progress Report (QPR): The QPR collects information about the State’s investments to improve the quality of child care available for children from birth to age 13. This report is submitted to the Federal Office of Child Care on an annual basis and is required as part of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act.
Market Rate Survey (MRS) Report: The MRS report contains information about the market rates being charged for child care services in the state as well as an estimate of the costs required to provide child care services. It is required to be completed every three years in alignment with the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) State Plan.
The Iowa Child Care Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan provides a framework for preparedness and recovery activities for child care regulatory and child care subsidy in the event of a significant emergency or disaster in Iowa.Iowa Child Care Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan
Childcare Compliance and Complaint Reports: Search a listing of all licensed child care centers and homes to view their annual compliance evaluations and any complaint reports that have been filed.
Shared Services is a nationally recognized strategy in which small, independent programs share the cost of administrative services, in order to reduce overhead and improve financial performance.
Governor's Child Care Task Force Report (November 2021)
Re-invent vs Re-build: Let's Fix the Child Care System (January 5, 2022), Opportunities Exchange Presentation
Understanding the Business Environment for Iowa Providers (March 4, 2022), Opportunities Exchange Presentation