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Noodle Staff
Noodle Expert Member

December 18, 2019

A 4-minute guide to preschool and child care in Michigan. Learn about licensing laws, instructor training, and enrollment requirements — everything you need to know to choose the right program for your child.

Takeaway: Licensing regulations, which apply to center-based care and group child care homes, are thorough and accessible to parents. Family child care homes are registered rather than licensed and undergo less oversight than licensed options. Several databases are available for families to search for child care programs that meet their needs. One of these even includes licensing histories and reports of violations. Though Michigan primarily focuses on addressing the needs of at-risk children in providing public pre-K options, the state is making strides to increase overall access to high-quality pre-K.


Michigan has thorough guidelines for licensed care, which is overseen by the Department of Human Resources. Licenses are required for child care centers and group child care homes, while family child care homes require registration rather than licensure. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has a <a href="{: target="_blank" rel="nofollow" } that allows families to search licensing and inspection histories; this includes records of violations. Not all providers are listed in the database, however. Great Start to Quality allows families to search for licensed centers and group homes as well as registered family homes, with filters for location, child age, special needs, funding sources, and schedule. Families may also search by [program type](" target="_blank">database, such as faith-based, Head Start, Reggio Emilia–inspired, or Montessori — or by a specific provider’s name.

Michigan does not offer universal pre-K, though the state is making a significant effort to expand access and increase enrollment with more dedicated financial resources per student. Michigan meets eight of the ten benchmarks for state pre-K standards established by the National Institute for Early Education Research. High-quality programs are available for children 4 years of age from low-income families through the federally-funded Head Start and state-funded Great Start Readiness programs. Between the two programs, 26 percent of 4-year-olds in the state were enrolled in preschool in 2014. Michigan’s Early Childhood Standards of Quality for Kindergarten provide guidance for children 3 and 4 years of age. This document recognizes the diversity of children’s and providers’ needs, and covers approaches to learning, creative arts, language and early literacy development, dual-language learning, technology literacy; social, emotional, and physical development; mathematics; science; and social studies. The standards are designed to complement Head Start performance standards, early learning expectations, and the licensing rules for child care centers in the state.

Center-Based Care

Facilities other than private residences that offer care for at least one child for less than 24 hours require a license, and are referred to as child care centers, day care, nursery school, preschool, parent cooperatives, play groups, and drop-in centers. Upon applying for licensure, centers are inspected and issued a provisional license, after which a new application must be filed and another inspection conducted. Once a regular license has been granted, it is valid for two years, during which time another inspection occurs. Licensing rules must be posted so that parents can view them, and parents must also be given written documentation outlining a center’s policies. Michigan’s licensing rules address staff qualifications and responsibilities, professional development requirements, hygiene, discipline, registration and recordkeeping, medicine administration, emergency procedures, environmental and equipment standards, guidelines for sleep accommodation, health and sanitation provisions, fire safety, and the particulars concerning swimming and activities that require transport to and from a center. According to the licensing rules, the required caregiver-to-child ratios are as follows: 1:4 for children from birth to 30 months; 1:8 for children ages 30 months to 3 years; 1:10 for children ages 3 to 4 years; 1:12 for children ages 4 years to school age; and 1:15 for school-aged children. Maximum group sizes vary with age.

Home-Based Care

Family child care homes may be responsible for between one and six unrelated children. These homes must be registered. Providers must attend an orientation, after which an onsite inspection is conducted. Registration is valid for three years. Only about ten percent of registered family child care homes in each county are inspected as part of registration renewal. Group child care homes are responsible for between seven and 12 unrelated children and must be licensed. The licensing requirements for group child care homes are similar to those for center-based care. After attending an orientation, providers are granted a provisional license once they pass a scheduled inspection. After six months, providers must reapply for a license and undergo an unscheduled inspection, and upon passing that, they are granted a regular license that is valid for two years. During that two-year period, a third inspection is conducted.

The rules for family and group child care homes outline caregiver qualifications and responsibilities, training requirements, recordkeeping, infant supervision and sleeping, discipline, programs for daily activity, environmental and equipment standards, medicine administration, information on communicable diseases, standards for outdoor play and equipment, utilities and maintenance, firearm safety, animals and pets, emergency prevention and management, and transportation. Parents must be provided with written documentation of family and group child care home discipline policies and rules. A single caregiver may supervise no more than six children at any time. No more than four children may be under the age of 30 months, with no more than two of those four children younger than 18 months. An appendix to the rules provides guidance concerning the specific age combinations that a single caregiver may supervise.

Unlicensed Care

Michigan does allow certain forms of unlicensed care, which may in fact be subsidized by the state if providers meet eligibility requirements determined by the Michigan Department of Education and complete the Great Start to Quality orientation, for no more than four children at a time if the caregiver is related to the children, or if the caregiver is unrelated to the children and supervises them in their own home. Unlicensed providers are referred to the Child Development and Care Handbook. They are required to complete a one-time course that covers first aid and CPR, nutrition, health and safety, shaken baby syndrome, safe sleep practices, and age-appropriate child development. Unlicensed providers may take an optional training course that would allow them to earn higher rates for child care. Licenses are not required for certain community programs, recreational activities that provide child care while parents are on site and readily available, child care services provided on site by parents’ employers, and programs based in educational settings where parents are also on site.

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