General Education

How Preschool Works in Nevada

How Preschool Works in Nevada
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Noodle Staff September 2, 2015

A 6-minute guide to preschool and child care in Nevada. Learn about licensing laws, instructor training, and enrollment requirements — everything you need to know to choose the right program for your child.

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Takeaway: Despite funding and accessibility problems throughout the state, Nevada places rather strict regulations on both center-based and home-based care. The state’s online resources are not very user-friendly for families, as these lack a search feature (and the website instead hosts a very long PDF document listing licensed care options). Individual jurisdictions may prescribe different rules as long as they meet statewide minimum requirements, but the recent development of the Nevada Registry{: target="blank" rel="nofollow" } has further centralized and standardized care in the state.


Licensing is overseen by the Division of Public and Behavioral Health, part of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Other jurisdictions, among them Washoe County, draw up their own rules, but these must either be equivalent to or exceed the strictness of standards set forth by the state. As part of an additional measure toward centralize child care, all employees of licensed care facilities must be fingerprinted, and they must register with the Nevada Registry{: target="blank" }.

Nevada generally provides license exemptions to very few programs and has a unique licensing program{: target="blank" rel="nofollow" } that can differ on a location-by-location basis. Though it features a state database{: target="blank" rel="nofollow" } with a comprehensive list of all licensed facilities, Nevada lacks a search feature that families may use to find suitable providers. Each listing within the database displays contact information, age range, capacity, and, if available, state-assigned quality rankings.

In terms of public early education offerings, Nevada is currently failing{: target="blank" rel="nofollow" } to keep up with the national push for high-quality pre-K. The state is falling behind both in spending on a per-student basis and in percentage of children enrolled. It is considered one of the worst states{: target="blank" rel="nofollow" } in terms of accessibility: As of May 2015, only 3.8 percent of 4-year-olds were enrolled — and the state does not provide services for 3-year-olds. Nevada spends just north of $2,300 per child, which is about $2,000 less than it spent in 2004. The state recently received federal funds that will provide $6.4 million — an amount that may grow to $43 million over four years — as part of a federal Department of Education initiative to expand 4-year-olds’ access to preschool across five school districts.

Center-Based Care

Nevada draws a distinction between child care centers and child care facilities{: target="blank" rel="nofollow" }. Centers are licensed facilities in which an individual or staff member cares for more than 12 kids in a developmentally appropriate way during the day or night. They must be standalone businesses (in a non-residential setting) and must also provide curriculum-based care to kids.

Child care facilities, too, must be licensed, but they may provide day or overnight care on a temporary or permanent basis to more than four kids (under the age of 18) at any given time, provided they accept payment. This also includes “on-site child care facilities," which care for the children of employees at a given business, and “outdoor youth programs," which care for children under 18 with mental health, behavioral, or substance abuse problems.

The law also lays out several things that are not child care facilities. These include foster homes, maternity homes, and the homes of natural parents or guardians. Other examples are homes in which the children who are cared for are related “within the third degree" by “blood, adoption, or marriage to the person operating the facility," the homes of friends or neighbors who care for kids for fewer than four weeks, out-of-school-time programs that operate continuously for ten hours a week or more (before or after school, or seasonally), out-of-school recreation programs run by local governments, and seasonal or temporary recreation programs (like camps, clinics, workshops, or sports leagues).

Every child care center or child care facility must have a director who is responsible for its daily operation. This person must be at least 21, must have earned either a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree, and must have completed at least 12 semester hours in subjects related to education. Six or more of these hours must have been in child development, and six must have been in child psychology or children’s health education. The director must also have two years of “verifiable, satisfactory experience" in a child education, child care, or early childhood development program. The director must also hold a Child Development Associate credential from the Council of Early Childhood Professional Recognition. It is worth noting that these requirements may be waived if an individual is approved by the administrator of the Division of Public and Behavioral Health due to a combination of relevant experience and education.

Directors are required to be accessible to parents at all times and should demonstrate administrative aptitude and leadership. They must allocate space for keeping records (which include kids’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and any special instructions) and holding meetings with families, and they must ensure the training of caregivers and support staff (including in health and safety, proper nutrition, and sanitation). They must also plan for emergencies (and review those plans with staff on a quarterly basis), conduct monthly fire drills, maintain daily sign-in sheets, and allow fire inspections on a yearly basis.

Child care centers have specific caregiver-to-child ratios in place. For centers operating from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., one caregiver must be present for every four kids under the age of 9 months. For kids between 9 months and 18 months, this ratio drops to one caregiver for every six kids. One caregiver can tend to up to eight children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. On top of these restrictions, groups of more than six children require at least two caregivers. In situations in which all kids in a center are older than 2 years old but younger than 3 years old, one caregiver can be responsible for up to 10 children. The caregiver-to-child ratios{: target="blank" } for kids older than 2 years are as follows: one caregiver for one to six children; two caregivers for seven to 20 children; three caregivers for 21 to 35 children; four caregivers for 36 to 50 children; five caregivers for 51 to 65 children; six caregivers for 66 to 80 children; and seven caregivers for 81 to 93 children. Once the numbers climb above 93 children, every additional 13 necessitates an additional caretaker.

In centers that operate from 9:00 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., ages do not matter, and caregiver-to-child ratios are as follows: one caregiver for one to 15 children; two caregivers for 16 to 31 children; three caregivers for 32 to 46 children; and four caregivers for 47 to 61 children. For every additional group of 15, a center must add one caregiver.

Home-Based Care

Both family care and group care programs must follow the same standards for personnel and child development as center-based care programs. Family child care programs are based within an individual provider’s home, and care for up to six children, so long as the provider obtains a license and plans a state-approved curriculum. Group care programs are also located within an individual’s home, and such providers are permitted to take on seven to 12 kids. These programs, too, require a state-approved curriculum, and they may also employ one additional caregiver.

Rather than ratios, family care homes have maximum numbers of kids to care for: a licensee may care for two children from birth to 1 year of age, four kids from birth to 2 years, or six kids of any ages. With written permission from the Division of Public and Behavioral Health, these homes may care for three more kids between 6 and 16 before and after school.

Group care homes with one caregiver must not exceed two kids from birth to 1 year of age, four kids from birth to 2 years, or six kids of all ages. Such programs with two caregivers may take on up to four children from birth to 1 year, eight children up to 2 years, or up to 12 children of all ages. Just like in family care homes, group care homes may care for up to three kids between 6 and 16 before and after school with permission.

Unlicensed Care

As a state, Nevada does not require an individual to have a license to care for four unrelated kids and/or for payment. While individual municipalities may have stricter restrictions, caregivers must at least clear this statewide bar. Some jurisdictions may require individuals to secure a special-use permit to utilize a given space for child care. “Accommodation facilities" like gyms may care for children without obtaining a license, permitted they do not collect payment for it. The state guidelines emphasize that fire code limits may preclude individuals or facilities from caring for great numbers of children; they also advise parents that unlicensed programs are not held to the same standards as their licensed counterparts.

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