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Requirements to Open a Day Care Center in South Carolina

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Day care homes and day care centers are regulated in every state for the health and safety of children. Each state has created agencies that train, license and inspect day care centers. They also must have the capacity to investigate complaints immediately. In South Carolina, day care businesses are regulated by a division of the South Carolina Department of Social Services, the Division of Child Care Services, through the Child Care Licensing Program.

Categories of Child Care in South Carolina

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South Carolina registers or licenses four categories of child care: Family Child Care Home (FCCH), up to six children; Group Child Care Home (GCCH), 7 to12 children; Child Care Center (CCC), 13 or more children; and child care centers operated by religious groups. Licensing for child care centers involve a number of requirements.

License Requirments

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If the program runs less than four hours per day plus school vacations and holidays, licensing is not required. A religious entity can choose to be exempt from licensing, but must become a registered day care center. Registered centers have fewer requirements. The religious entity can also choose to become licensed.

Education and Experience Required

South Carolina requires that the operator of a center have education and experience that is equivalent to approximately four years or more. For example, a bachelor's degree in a field other than early childhood plus six months documented experience in child care, a bachelor's degree in early childhood education with no experience required or an associate degree in early childhood with one year of documented experience in child care. South Carolina guidelines provide details on all possible work and education requirements, including non-degree options.

Staff Requirements

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South Carolina requires for all center staff background checks that include state and federal fingerprint checks. A center operator must provide three letters of personal reference to the state. Enough staff member must be certified in CPR and first aid to ensure that there is certified staff present during all hours of operation. All staff must complete OSHA-required training in blood-borne pathogens.

Facility Requirements

All day care centers in South Carolina must have local zoning approval and must submit approval to the Department of Social Services. The particular zoning regulations will vary by locality, but must be met before all other requirements.

To be licensed, the center must pass a fire inspection, a health and sanitation inspection and a child care licensing inspection. In South Carolina, a health and sanitation inspection will cost the center $60, as of 2010. In addition, South Carolina requires a center to provide architectural plans to the Department of Social Services. The state requires an initial child care licensing inspection.

Religious Entity Requirements

If a religious entity decides to become licensed, the same requirements as day care centers will apply. Registered day care centers have fewer requirements, especially regarding operators of the center. Requirements include zoning approval, a fire inspection, health and sanitation inspection and state and federal fingerprint checks.

Inspections and Other Requirements

The State of South Carolina inspects licensed child care centers twice a year and in response to complaints. These visits are unannounced. In addition, scheduled inspections are completed prior to re-licensing every two years.


Christiane Marshall has been a freelance journalist since the '80s. Her articles have appeared in The Meriden Record-Journal, Marietta Times and Suite101. She earned a B.A. in writing from Norwich University, an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from UIU, and an M.Ed. in special education from GCU.