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Noodle Staff
Noodle Expert Member

December 18, 2019

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

Takeaway: Oregon’s preschool program meets eight of ten national benchmarks, making it one of the best states for quality care. Enrollment and access are low, however, though there are hopes that twice the number of children will enroll for pre-K by the fall of 2016. Oregon makes the licensing standards for preschool facilities clear and easy to find, outlining requirements for group size and facility type. Parents are able to search for centers by location and can read any associated facility complaints. All providers are required to be listed with the Central Background Registry, which is searchable.


Oregon has licensed center-based care, licensed as well as registered home-based care, and license-exempt care. The state’s <a href="{: target="blank" rel="nofollow" } is somewhat limited; it provides filters for zip code, city, and county, and results display contact information and [complaint histories](" target="_blank">database.

Oregon’s state pre-K program works in collaboration with the federal Head Start program to provide care to about 14,000 children across the state. While the pre-K program is <a href="{: target="blank" rel="nofollow" }, thanks to a $20 million well-funded federal grant, it ranks very low in terms of Race to the Top{: target="blank" rel="nofollow" }. It is steadily improving, however. In the fall of 2016, twice as many children [will qualify](" target="_blank">enrollment and access for publicly-funded preschool as have this year. Oregon’s pre-K program, which impressively meets eight of ten national benchmarks for quality, is considered to be of particularly high quality.

Center-Based Care

Certified child care centers{: target="blank" rel="nofollow" } take place in commercial buildings that have met zoning, occupancy, and building code requirements. Maximum group size is dependent on the size of the facility, child age, and the number of qualified staff, but group sizes generally do not exceed{: target="blank" rel="nofollow" } 20 children. Child care centers usually have multiple providers. Certified child care centers are required to meet inspection requirements prior to licensure and are subject to annual inspections from the Department of Human Services and the Office of Child Care. All personnel, including people who frequent the facility, are required to pass a background check.

All facilities must observe appropriate caregiver-to-child ratios. These are: 1:4 for children ages 6 weeks to 24 months, and 1:10 for children ages 24 months to first-grade elibility.

Home-Based Care

There are <a href="{: target="blank" rel="nofollow" } of family care programs: registered family child care homes and certified child care homes. Registered programs are still required to meet licensing standards but are not as strictly regulated as their licensed/certified counterparts; registered programs face fewer inspections. Registered programs take place in the provider’s home, with a single provider caring for a maximum of ten children, of which only six may be of preschool age or younger. Certified child care homes, which have the same licensing standards as licensed centers, usually take place in the provider’s home, but any single-family home may qualify. While there is typically a single provider, providers are permitted to hire additional staff members. Certified child care homes have a standard maximum group size of 12, but with special permission from the state, may sometimes operate with 16 children. Certified homes are subject to inspection prior to licensure and face annual inspections, as well. All personnel, in both types of home-based care, two types a background check and be listed in the [Central Background Registry](" target="_blank">must pass{: target="_blank" rel="nofollow" }.

Unlicensed Care

Legally unlicensed{: target="_blank" rel="nofollow" } programs are given special permission from the state to provide care to children without a license. Despite this permission, however, unlicensed programs are unregulated by the state. License-exempt programs in Oregon include: programs that provide care to three or fewer children; programs that take place in a child’s home; care provided by a facility that teaches to a specific subject, such as music, theater, or religion; and care provided in school district–operated facilities.

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