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Noodle Staff
Noodle Expert Member

December 18, 2019

A 3-minute guide to preschool and child care in Kentucky. Learn about licensing laws, instructor training, and enrollment requirements — everything you need to know to choose the right program for your child.

Takeaway: Compared to other states, Kentucky has relatively few requirements for a child care facility to be licensed; type 1 facilities are the only kind that require personnel to have higher degrees in education. The state’s online search tool includes provider inspection reports, but does not let a user search by specific location, a fact that can make the experience frustrating. While Kentucky received a generous federal grant to expand and improve its pre-K programming, the state now spends less on early childhood education than ever before. Children who come from low-income backgrounds or suffer from developmental disabilities may, however, be eligible for free pre-K.


Kentucky licenses and inspects center-based and certain home-based preschool programs, though its requirements are not as extensive as those specified for other states. Kentucky’s database search is simultaneously useful and frustrating. Searches can be filtered by county, provider type, and services offered, but a specific location-based search is not offered. Results display contact information, operating hours, services offered, and very detailed inspection reports. The search is helpful for a user who knows what she is searching for, but it provides little assistance to narrow results for those conducting more general searches.

Kentucky offers state pre-K to 4-year-olds from low-income backgrounds (family income cannot be more than 160 percent of poverty) and to 3- and 4-year-olds who have developmental disabilities. The state has done little to improve pre-K otherwise, and is a long way from developing a universal pre-K program. In 2013, Kentucky won a federal “Race to the Top" grant that devotes $44 million to the development of early learning programs, but a recent report{: target="_blank" rel="nofollow"} suggests that the state is spending less on early childhood education.

Center-Based Care

Kentucky has <a href="{: target="_blank" rel="nofollow"} of licensed programs: type 1 centers and type 2 centers. Type 1 facilities offer services to four or more children, if they are based in a nonresidential setting; or, for 13 or more children, if the facility is zoned as residential, but is a distinctly separate space from the primary residence of the licensee. Type 2 centers are part of the licensee’s primary residence, and can offer care for seven to 12 children, including those related to the licensee. While both types of programs require directors to have experience working with children, only type 1 facilities require{: target="_blank" rel="nofollow" } that personnel hold a degree in early childhood education. All licensed centers [should maintain](" target="_blank">two types procedures, plans, and organizational charts in writing.

Centers must also observe suitable teacher-to-child ratios{: target="_blank" rel="nofollow" }. These are 1:5 for infants, 1:6 for toddlers, 1:10 for 2- and 3-year-olds, 1:12 for 3- and 4-year-olds, and 1:14 for 4- and 5-year-olds. All licensed facilities are inspected by the state.

Home-Based Care

Kentucky offers licensing to certified family child care homes{: target="_blank" rel="nofollow" }. Certified family child care homes allow for a single provider to care for up to six unrelated children and four related children for a maximum of ten hours per day. Like center-based programs, licensed family child care homes are inspected by the state.

Unlicensed Care

Instead of licensing, Kentucky offers registration for private child care assistance programs. These are not regulated by the state, nor are they inspected. Registered programs may include license-exempt facilities such as summer camps, Department of Defense programs, programs where the parent is present, religious-affiliated programs, and programs that meet for fewer than ten hours a week. Other registered providers include any private individuals, such as relatives or neighbors, providing child care.

Discover Kentucky preschools near you using the free Noodle preschool search, the most comprehensive tool of its kind.