How to Become a Licensed Child Care Provider

If you are interested in applying to operate a licensed child care agency, please click on the links below to review the different types of licensed child care and child care licensure rules.

Do You Need a Child Care License?

You are operating a child care agency and must obtain a license from the Department if you are providing care and supervision for five (5) or more unrelated children for three (3) or more hours per day. (Tennessee Code Annotated 71-3-501)

Program and Facilities Exempt from Licensing Requirements

Illegal Child Care Programs and Facilities

If you are providing care and supervision to five (5) or more unrelated children for three (3) or more hours per day without a license and you do not meet the criteria for license-exempt status, then you are operating illegally. Operating a child care agency without the required license is a Class A misdemeanor criminal offense. (T.C.A. 71-3-505)

Illegal operators will be investigated by Child Care Licensing staff via unannounced visit to the facility. The law gives Child Care Licensing the right to inspect all suspected child care agencies, and to petition the local Chancery Court for an order of inspection if they are refused access. (T.C.A. 71-3-508) Information on how to become licensed will be provided to the operator and illegal operations must cease immediately. 

If the operation is not in compliance on the unannounced follow-up visit, a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) will be requested from the local Chancery Court as well as a permanent injunction and the assessment of costs against the illegal operator. If the injunction is violated, Child Care Licensing will ask the court to find the operator in contempt, with fines and/or jail time imposed as punishment.

If you have knowledge of a potentially illegal operation, please contact the Child Care Hotline at 1-800-462-8261.