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:
As you prepare to open your own in-home preschool or child care with an Initial License or Full, Non-expiring License, your home will need to meet certain indoor and outdoor requirements. Here’s what you need to know about your home to get your license in the state of Washington:
What types of homes qualify for family child care?
Family Home Child Care Initial Licenses and Family Home Child Care Full, Non-expiring Licenses are only issued in the family home of the individual(s) applying. This means that the child care must occur in the home where you and your family live—not in any other location. You may not rent or buy another home or apartment or use an unattached garage, outbuilding, etc. If you wish to use space away from where you and your family live, you must seek licensure as a daycare center.
What are the requirements for the home?
Indoor licensed space
- The indoor licensed space must have thirty-five square feet per child for the maximum number of children stated on the license, measured to include only the space intended for use by children in care.
- The space under furniture used by the children is counted in square footage.
- Indoor space that is not counted in the minimum square footage requirement includes:
- Unlicensed space that is made inaccessible to children in care;
- Space under furniture not used by the children;
- Hallway space that leads to an exit;
- Bathrooms; and
- An office or kitchen that is made inaccessible to the children and is not intended for their use may be included as licensed space but is not counted as part of the minimum square footage.
Indoor temperature: the indoor temperature must be no less than:
- 60 Fahrenheit when children are sleeping or napping; and
- 65 degrees Fahrenheit when the majority of the children are awake.
Fans, air conditioning or cross ventilation: the licensee must use a fan, air conditioner or cross ventilation in licensed space when the inside temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Fans and air conditioners must be kept inaccessible to the children.
Window coverings: window coverings with pull cords or inner cords capable of forming a loop are prohibited:
- Minimum licensing requirements include a prohibition on the use of window blinds or other window coverings with pull cords or inner cords capable of forming a loop and posing a risk of strangulation to young children. Window blinds and other coverings that have been manufactured or properly retrofitted in a manner that eliminates the formation of loops posing a risk of strangulation are not prohibited under this section.
- When developing and periodically reviewing minimum licensing requirements related to the safety of the premises, the director shall consult and give serious consideration to publications of the United States consumer product safety commission.
- The department may provide information as available regarding reduced cost or no-cost options for retrofitting or replacing unsafe window blinds and window coverings.
- Window coverings may be allowed that have been manufactured or altered to eliminate the formation of a loop.
- A window covering may not be secured to the frame of a window or door used as an emergency exit in any way that would prevent the window or door from opening easily.
Stairs: if there are stairs in the licensed space, the licensee must:
- Keep the stairway well lit;
- Keep the stairway free of clutter; and
- Have a handrail not higher than thirty-eight inches high or sturdy slats on one side of the stairs.
- Provide a pressure gate, safety gate, or a door to keep the stairs inaccessible to infants and toddlers when not in use.
- Openings between slats or on pressure gates or safety gates must not be larger than three and one-half inches wide.
Electrical outlets, cords and power strips
- The licensee must provide tamper-resistant outlet covers or receptacles in areas accessible to children. As used in this section “tamper-resistant receptacle” also means tamper-resistant outlets or child safety outlets that have automatic shutters which allow insertion of electrical plugs but block insertion of other objects.
- Interior outlets near sinks, tubs or toilets must be:
- Tamper-resistant ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) type; or
- Made inaccessible to the children.
- Electrical cords must be:
- Secured to prevent a tripping hazard;
- In good working order, not torn or frayed and without any exposed wire; and
- Plugged directly into an outlet or a surge protector.
- Power strips with a surge protector may be used and must be made inaccessible to the children.
- Extension cords may be used only for a brief or temporary purpose and must be plugged directly into an outlet or into a surge protected power strip.
Area lighting: In the licensed space, lighting must be bright in the children’s activity areas, eating areas and the bathroom. All other areas in the licensed space must have lighting so children are safe.
Lighting and safety
- When ceiling-mounted light fixtures are in the licensed space accessible to children, the licensee must provide one or more of the following:
- Shatter-resistant covers;
- Shatter-resistant light bulbs; or
- Otherwise, make the light fixtures safe.
- The licensee must not:
- Allow bare light bulbs in any play space;
- Use lights or light fixtures indoors that are intended or recommended for outdoor use; or
- Use halogen lamps in any area accessible to children during operating hours.
- “Exit door” means any door in the licensed space that opens to the exterior of the home.
- The licensee must have a method on exit doors to alert the licensee or staff when an exit door is opened. The licensee may use a chime, bell, alarm, or another device as an alert method.
- An exit door that is not designated as an emergency exit door may be locked during operating hours. The doorknob or handle must be of the type that can be opened from the inside without the use of a key, tools, or special knowledge, and must automatically unlock when the door knob or handle is turned.
- At least one exit door must be of the pivoted or side-hinged swinging type. Other exit doors may be sliding glass doors.
Night latches, deadbolts, and security chains: When overnight care is provided, the licensee must have a department approved safety plan in place before using any of the following on an exit door that is not used as an emergency exit:
- Night latches;
- Deadbolts; or
- Security chains.
Interior door and locks: An interior door is any door that does not exit to the exterior of the home. Any interior door in the licensed space that locks must be able to be unlocked from either side. An unlocking device must be readily available for staff to unlock any interior door when a child is locked in.
Emergency exit pathways: The licensee must keep pathways to all emergency exits free from clutter and obstructions. Emergency exits and pathways to emergency exits are licensed space.
- Each level of the home (floor) used for licensed child care space must have at least two emergency exits that open directly to the exterior of the home.
- The emergency exits on each floor must be remotely located from each other, at opposite ends of the building or as widely spaced as possible.
- One exit must be an emergency exit door and the other exit may be a door or an emergency window.
- Every room used for child care, except bathrooms, must have two separate ways to exit that must be:
- An emergency exit door and emergency exit window leading directly to the exterior of the building;
- An emergency exit door or emergency exit window and an interior door or doorway leading to an emergency exit pathway; or
- Two separate doors or doorways leading to two separate emergency exit pathways.
- If childcare is provided in a basement or level of the home accessed by an interior stairway, the stairway must have a self-closing door at the top or bottom. As used in this section “basement” means the portion of the home that is partly or completely below grade.
- Any basement approved for licensed child care must have two means of emergency exit, which may be one of the following:
- Two emergency exit doors that exit directly to the exterior of the home without entering the first floor; or
- One of the two emergency exits is an emergency exit window or emergency exit door, and the other exit is an interior stairway that leads to an emergency exit.
Emergency exit doors
- An emergency exit door must open to the exterior of the home.
- Any door used as an emergency exit door must
- Remain unlocked from the inside during operating hours; and
- Be easy to open to the full open position.
If the emergency exit door opens to a landing that is four feet (forty-eight inches) or more above grade, the landing must lead to a stairway or ramp to get to ground level
Emergency exit window
- Any window used as an emergency exit window must:
- Remain unlocked during operating hours, except a manufacturer-installed latch may be latched;
- Be designed to open from the inside of the room without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge; and
- Be easy to open to the full open position.
- An emergency exit window must be at least five point seven square feet of opened area, except emergency exit windows on the ground floor may be five square feet of opened area. When open, the window opening must be at least:
- Twenty inches wide; and
- Twenty-four inches tall.
- An emergency exit window must have an interior sill height of forty-four inches or less above the interior floor. If the interior sill height is more than forty-four inches above the interior floor, a sturdy platform (which may be a table or other device) may be used to make the distance forty-four inches or less to the interior window sill. The platform must be in place below the window sill at all times during operating hours.
- An emergency exit window must have a place to land outside that is forty-eight inches or less below the window which may be either:
- The ground; or
- A deck, landing or platform constructed to meet current building codes.
Emergency exits from areas used only for sleeping/napping areas:
Each room used for sleeping or napping must have two ways to exit:
- One exit must be an emergency exit door or emergency exit window leading directly to the exterior of the building;
- The other exit may be an interior door leading to an emergency exit pathway.
Commercial use areas—Fire wall
- The licensed space must have a fire resistant wall separating the child care space from any space used as a commercial:
- Maintenance shop;
- Woodworking shop;
- Storage where flammable or combustible materials are stored;
- Painting operation;
- Automobile or boat building or repair;
- Parking garage; or
- Other similar commercial operation.
- Emergency exits pathways must not exit to or go through the commercial space.
- The licensee must provide at least one indoor bathroom in the licensed space with:
- A working flush-type toilet;
- Privacy for toileting for children of the opposite sex who are four years of age or older and for other children demonstrating a need for privacy;
- A mounted toilet paper dispenser and toilet paper for each toilet; and
- A toilet of an appropriate height and size for children, or have a platform for the children to use that is safe, easily cleanable and resistant to moisture.
- Bathroom and toileting areas must be ventilated by the use of a window that can be opened or an exhaust fan.
- Bathroom floors: floors in a bathroom or toileting area must have a washable surface and be resistant to moisture. The floor must be cleaned and disinfected daily or more often if needed. Removable rugs may be used in the bathroom. The rugs must be laundered and sanitized at least weekly or more often if needed.
- Bathroom sinks: a sink used for handwashing must be located in or next to bathrooms. The sink must have warm running water; and be of appropriate height and size for children, or have a platform for the children to use that is safe, easily cleanable and resistant to moisture.
Water temperature: hot water must be kept at a temperature not less than eighty degrees and not more than one hundred twenty degrees Fahrenheit.
Guns and other weapons: 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.
Storage for each child’s belongings: The licensee must provide separate storage for each child’s belongings. Belongings of children from the same family may be stored together.
Licensed outdoor space
- The licensee must provide a safe outdoor play area on the premises.
- The outdoor play space must contain seventy-five square feet of usable space per child for the number of children stated on the license
- If the premises do not have seventy-five square feet of available outdoor space per child, the licensee may provide an alternative plan, approved by the department, to meet the requirement for all children in care to have daily opportunities for active outdoor play.
- The licensed outdoor play space must be securely enclosed with a fence of a minimum height of four feet. When a fence has slats, openings between the slats must be no wider than three and one-half inches.
- When the licensed outdoor play space is not adjacent to the home the licensee must:
- Identify and use a safe route to and from the licensed outdoor space that is approved by the department; and
- Supervise the children at all times when passing between the licensed outdoor space and the home.
- The licensee must provide a written plan, approved by the department, to make roadways and other dangers adjacent to the licensed outdoor play space inaccessible to children.
Rails on platforms, decks, and stairs
- Platforms or decks (not including play equipment) used at any time for child care activities with a drop zone of more than eighteen inches must have guardrails in any area where there are no steps.
- Outdoor stairs with four or more steps must have slats (balusters) or a handrail not higher than thirty-eight inches high on at least one side. Openings between the slats must be no wider than three and one-half inches. This requirement does not apply to outdoor play equipment with stairs.
- The licensee must have play equipment that is developmentally appropriate and maintained in a safe working condition. The licensee must inspect play equipment at least weekly for injury hazards, broken parts, or damage. Unsafe equipment must be repaired immediately or must be made inaccessible to children until repairs are made.
- Play equipment must be arranged so that it does not interfere with other play equipment when in use.
- The licensee must install or assemble new play equipment acquired after March 31, 2012, according to manufacturer specifications, and keep specifications on file for review by the licensor.
- For used or “hand-made” play equipment, or for play equipment acquired and installed prior to March 31, 2012, the licensee must assemble the equipment in a manner that provides a safe play experience for the children.
Outdoor physical activities: The licensee must have an outdoor play area that promotes a variety of age and developmentally appropriate active play for the children in care.
Bouncing equipment prohibited: The licensee must not use or allow the use of bouncing equipment including, but not limited to, trampolines, rebounders, and inflatable equipment. This requirement does not apply to bounce balls with or without handles for use by individual children.
Playground equipment—Ground cover—Fall zones
- The licensee must not place climbing play equipment on concrete, asphalt, packed soil, lumber, or similar hard surfaces when being used by children.
- The ground under swings and play equipment intended to be climbed must be covered by a shock absorbing the material. Grass alone is not an acceptable ground cover material under swings or play equipment intended to be climbed. The acceptable ground cover includes:
- Pea gravel – At least nine inches deep;
- Playground wood chips – At least nine inches deep;
- Shredded recycled rubber – At least six inches deep; or
- Other department approved material.
- A six-foot fall zone must surround all equipment that has a platform over forty-eight inches tall that is intended to be climbed.
- The fall zone area must extend at least six feet beyond the perimeter of the play equipment. For swings, the fall zone must be the distance to the front and rear of the swing set equal to or greater than twice the height of the top bar from which the swing is suspended.
- Swing sets must be positioned further away from structures to the front and rear of the swing set. The distance to the front and rear of the swing set from any playground equipment or other structure must be the distance equal to or greater than twice the height of the top bar from which the swing is suspended.
Daily outdoor activity: The licensee or staff must provide outdoor activities at least thirty minutes each day unless conditions pose a health and safety risk to the children. Conditions that may pose a health and safety risk include, but are not limited to:
- Heat in excess of one hundred degrees Fahrenheit;
- Cold less than twenty degrees Fahrenheit;
- Lightning storm, tornado, hurricane, or flooding, if there is immediate or likely danger to the children;
- Air quality emergency ordered by a local or state air quality authority or public health authority;
- Lockdown order by a public safety authority; or
- Other similar incidents.
Fire and emergency preparedness
Building Codes: a single-family residence used for licensed family home child care is considered a group R (residential), division 3 occupancy structure by the state building code adoption of the international residential code.
Requesting local fire department visit
- The licensee must request the local fire department to visit the home to become familiar with the facility and to assist in planning evacuation or emergency procedures.
- If the local fire department does not provide this service, the licensee must have written documentation on file that the request was made.
Combustible and flammable materials
- The licensee must not allow combustible materials (including, but not limited to, lint, or rags soaked in grease, oils, or solvent) to accumulate; those items must be removed from the building or stored in a closed metal container.
- The licensee must store items labeled “flammable,” in areas that are inaccessible to children and away from exits.
Furnaces and other heating devices
- 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.
Electrical motors: the licensee must keep electrical motors on appliances free of accumulated dust or lint.
Inspection of fireplaces, wood stoves, or similar wood-burning heating devices: Any chimney, fireplace, wood stove or similar wood-burning device in use in the licensed home must be inspected yearly unless the licensee provides a written statement that the chimney, fireplace, wood stove or similar wood-burning device will not be used at any time.
Open flame devices, candles, matches, and lighters
- Except kitchen ranges using natural gas or propane, the licensee must not use or allow the use of open flame devices in the licensed space or any space accessible to the children during operating hours.
- The licensee must not use or allow the use of candles during operating hours.
- The licensee must keep matches and lighters inaccessible to children.
Emergency flashlight: The licensee must have a working flashlight available for use as an emergency light source and extra batteries if the flashlight is powered by batteries.
Portable heaters and generators
- The licensee must not use or allow the use of portable heaters or fuel powered generators in any area inside of the family home child care or building during operating hours.
- When a portable fuel-powered generator is in use:
- The generator must be placed at least fifteen feet from buildings, windows, doors, ventilation intakes, or other places where exhaust fumes may be vented into the home; and
- Appliances must be plugged directly into the generator or to a heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cord that is plugged into the generator.
House numbers: The licensee must place house numbers or address where the numbers are legible and plainly visible from the street or road in front of the premises.
Telephone: The licensee must have a working telephone in the licensed space. The licensee must have a telephone readily available with sufficient backup power to function
Access for emergency vehicles: the licensed family home child care must be accessible to emergency vehicles.
Fire evacuation plan
- If there is a fire in the home during child care operating hours, the licensee’s and staff’s first responsibility is to evacuate the children in care to a safe place outside the home.
- The licensee must develop a written fire evacuation plan and post it at a place that is clearly visible to the staff, parents, and guardians. The evacuation plan must be evaluated annually and updated as needed.
- The evacuation plan must include:
- An evacuation floor plan that identifies emergency exit pathways, emergency exit doors, and emergency exit windows;
- Method(s) to be used for sounding an alarm;
- Actions to be taken by the person discovering the fire;
- How the licensee and staff will evacuate all children, especially children who cannot walk;
- Calling 911 after evacuating the children;
- How the licensee and staff will account for all of the children in attendance;
- Where children and staff will gather away from the building pending arrival of the fire department or emergency response; and
- How the licensee will inform parents or guardians and arrange to pick up of children if needed.
- The licensee must have a written disaster plan for emergencies other than fire. The plan must be reviewed annually and updated as needed.
- The written disaster plan must cover at minimum the following:
- For disasters that may require evacuation:
- How the licensee and staff will evacuate all children, especially those who cannot walk.
- What to take when evacuating the children, including
- First aid kit;
- Child medication records; and
- If applicable, individual children’s medication;
- Where to go; and
- How the licensee and staff will account for all of the children in attendance.
- Earthquake procedures including:
- What the licensee and staff will do during an earthquake;
- How the licensee and staff will account for all of the children in attendance; and
- After an earthquake, how the licensee will assess whether the licensed space is safe for the children;
- Lockdown of the facility or shelter-in-place, including:
- How doors and windows will be secured if needed; and
- Where children will stay safely inside the facility; and
- How parents and guardians will be contacted after the emergency situation is over.
- For disasters that may require evacuation:
- The licensee must keep on the premises a three-day supply of food, water, and medications required by individual children for use in a disaster, lockdown, or shelter-in-place incident.
- As used in this section, “lockdown” or “shelter-in-place” means to remain inside the family home child care when police or an official emergency response agency notifies the licensee or primary staff person in charge that it is unsafe to leave the facility or be outdoors during an emergency situation.
- The written disaster plan must cover at minimum the following:
Fire, disaster training for staff and volunteers: The licensee must provide fire, evacuation and disaster training for all staff and volunteers when the individual is first employed and at least once each calendar year. The training must include:
- All elements of the fire, evacuation and disaster plans;
- Operation of the fire extinguishers;
- How to test the smoke detectors and, if required, test carbon monoxide detectors and replace detector batteries; and
- Staff responsibilities in the event of a fire or disaster.
The training must be documented in the staff’s or volunteer’s personnel file.
Emergency drills: The licensee and staff must practice emergency drills with the children as follows:
- Fire/evacuation drill: Once each calendar month;
- Earthquake drill: Once every three calendar months; and
- Lockdown/shelter-in-place drill: Once annually.
Record of emergency drills: the licensee must keep records of emergency drills performed, and post the records as required. Records must include:
- The date and time the drill took place;
- Staff who participated;
- Number of children who participated;
- Length of drill; and
- Notes about how the drill went and improvements, if any, that need to be made.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
- 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.
The additional method to sound an alarm: In addition to working smoke detectors, the licensee must have an additional method to sound an alarm that is used only in a fire, emergency situation or drill.
- The licensee must have working fire extinguishers, minimum 2 A: 10BC, readily available. A fire extinguisher must be located on each level of the home used for child care; and mounted within seventy-five feet of an exit; and along the path of an exit.
- A fire extinguisher may be mounted in a closed unlocked closet. There must be a sign on the closet door to indicate that a fire extinguisher is mounted inside, and no obstructions blocking access to the closet.
- The licensee must have documentation on file of annual fire extinguisher maintenance; or proof of purchasing new extinguishers.
Fire extinguisher, smoke/carbon monoxide detector use and testing: The licensee and staff must demonstrate to the licensor how to:
- Use fire extinguishers;
- Test and operate the smoke detectors;
- Test and operate carbon monoxide detectors if required; and
- Test alternate alarm device(s).
Monthly fire inspection: the licensee must inspect the home once each calendar month to identify possible fire hazards and take action to eliminate any hazards found. If the licensee employs a primary staff person, the primary staff person must participate in monthly fire hazard inspections. The licensee must keep records of monthly inspections.
Additional guidelines are provided on health, pets and other animals, and water safety.