Bureau of Child Care Licensing

Unlicensed Child Care Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This page contains frequently asked questions regarding unlicensed child care. The information is intended to help consumers make informed decisions regarding the type of child care they choose for their families.

  • Show All
  • Hide All
  • Print All
Click the question below to view the answer.

What does "unlicensed child care" mean?

The Arizona Department of Health Services has determined - based upon the laws of the State of Arizona (A.R.S. § 36-897.09 and A.R.S. § 36-886) - that the provider or resident is providing unlicensed (unlawful) child care services.

What determines if a child care provider is unlicensed?

By Arizona law, anyone providing regular care for children ages 0-14 in facilities and ages 0-12 in homes, for compensation, must be licensed if they are caring for more than 4 children at one time. If your child care provider is providing care for more than 4 children at one time, they should be licensed by this Department.

How does unlicensed child care affect you and your children?

The following chart can help you to understand the impact of unlicensed child care on your family's well-being:

Top Ten Reasons to Avoid Unlicensed Child Care
Reason Explanation
It is not lawful. Arizona's law specifies ratio limitations for child care.
No requirements for background checks or fingerprint clearance cards. Does the provider, or their staff, have a criminal history?
No requirements regarding qualifications to be a provider or staff member. Does the provider have some knowledge, education and experience in child care?
High child-to-staff ratios. Generally this means there are too many children per adult, which can affect the quality of supervision.
No requirements for First Aid or CPR training. Does the provider know what to do if there is an emergency?
No requirement for liability insurance. Is the provider protected by liability coverage in the case of an accident involving enrolled children?
No requirement for tuberculosis testing. Tuberculosis is highly contagious in a group care setting. Are your children exposed unnecessarily?
No requirements for current immunizations for children. If your children are not properly immunized, they are more vulnerable to disease exposure in a group setting and more likely to expose others to illnesses.
No standards for sanitation/cleanliness. Is your child care setting clean? The best way to avoid illness is to maintain basic sanitation practices.
No standards for ensuring the health, safety and welfare of children. Are basic health, safety and welfare practices maintained consistently in the child's child care setting? For example: Children's access to swimming pools or hot tubs—are there safety procedures and equipment in place? Consistent discipline practices? Pet's access to children? Fire safety procedures?

How do I check to see if my provider is licensed?

You can go to AZCareCheck.com and check to see if your child care provider is licensed with the Arizona Department of Health Services.

What types of programs are exempt from licensing?

Some types of child care programs are exempt from the requirement of being licensed by the Department of Health Services. They do not have to be licensed by the Department because their services fall into the following statutory exemption categories:

§ 36-884 Exemptions - The requirement for licensure does not apply to the care given to children by or in:

  1. The homes of parents or blood relatives.
  2. A religious institution conducting a nursery in conjunction with its religious services or conducting parent supervised occasional drop in care.
  3. A unit of the public school system, including specialized professional services provided by school districts for the sole purpose of meeting mandated requirements to address the physical and mental impairments prescribed in section 15 771. If a public school provides child care other than during the school's regular hours or for children who are not regularly enrolled in kindergarten programs or grades one through twelve, that portion of the school that provides child care is subject to standards of care prescribed pursuant to section 36 883.04.
  4. A regularly organized private school engaged in an educational program which may be attended in substitution for public school pursuant to section 15 802. If the school provides child care beyond regular public school hours or for children who are not regularly enrolled in kindergarten programs or grades one through twelve, that portion of the school providing such care shall be considered a child care facility and is subject to the provisions of this article.
  5. Any facility that provides training only in specific subjects, including dancing, drama, music, self defense or religion and tutoring provided by public schools solely to improve school performance.
  6. Any facility that provides only recreational or instructional activities to school age children who may enter and depart from the facility at their own volition. The facility may require the children to document their entrance and departure from the facility and this documentation does not affect the exemption under this paragraph. The facility shall post a notice stating it is not a licensed child care facility under section 36-882.
  7. Any of the Arizona state schools for the deaf and the blind.
  8. A facility that provides only educational instruction for children who are at least three and not older than six years of age if all the following are true:
    1. The facility instructs only in the core subjects of math, reading and science.\
    2. The facility does not accept state-subsidized tuition for the children.
    3. A child is present at the facility for not more than two and one-quarter hours a day and not more than three days a week.
    4. The instruction is not provided in place of care ordinarily provided by a parent or guardian.
    5. The facility posts a notice that the facility is not licensed under this article.
    6. The facility requires fingerprint cards of all personnel pursuant to section 36-883.02.
  9. A facility that operates a day camp that provides recreational programs to children if all of the following are true:
    1. The day camp is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting organization for day camps as approved by the department.
    2. The day camp operates for less than twenty-four hours a day and less than ten weeks each calendar year.
    3. The day camp posts a notice at the facility and on its website that it is not licensed under the laws of this state as a child care facility.
    4. The day camp provides programs only to children who are at least five years of age.
    5. The day camp requires fingerprint cards of all personnel pursuant to section 36-883.02.

If you have questions about the licensure eligibility of a program, please call the local licensing Bureau for more information.

What happens to a provider who is unlicensed?

Once a complaint relating to unlicensed child care is substantiated, it becomes an enforcement action. The Department allows providers to choose how to become compliant with Arizona law. The provider can limit how many children they care for at one time or they can apply for certification or licensure with the Department.

How do I know if the provider I am choosing is involved in an enforcement action related to unlicensed child care?

The following document is a list of addresses compiled by the Department of providers who are offering unlicensed care. This list is available to help facilitate and ensure the health, safety and welfare of the children of Arizona. This goal will be accomplished by allowing parents and caregivers the opportunity to make informed choices for our most vulnerable population—our children.

Substantiated Complaints of Unlicensed Child Care ReportPDF

Bureau of Child Care Licensing Disclaimer