Child care programs in North Carolina are regulated by the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education. The state regulates two types of child care programs: family child care homes and child care centers.

Types of Child Care

Family Child Care Homes are defined as a smaller program offered in a provider’s home where three to five preschool children are cared for. Three school-age children may also receive care.

Child Care Centers are defined as larger nonresidential programs providing care for three or more children. Child care center capacity is determined based on the size of the classrooms and the proper staffing, equipment, and materials.

License Exempt Programs are defined as recreational programs operated for less than four consecutive months per year, specialized activities or instruction (dance, sports, scouts, etc.), public schools, and drop-in or short-term care provided while parents participate in activities not employment-related and remain on the premises.

NC Five Star Rated License System

The North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education and the North Carolina Child Care Commission have created a Five Star Rated License System to assist families with finding high-quality child care. Programs are awarded a One Star License when a facility meets NC’s minimum standards. Facilities that have licenses with two to five stars have agreed to have their program evaluated and monitored using the state’s rating system for measuring quality. Stars are earned based on a facility’s staff education and program standards.

Early Care and Education Professionals with substantial early childhood education and experience will positively impact the quality of care, allowing for a higher star rating and children better prepared for school.

Starting the Licensing Process


Accreditation standards created by national groups. Accreditation standards are most often higher than licensing regulations. Child care programs can voluntarily become accredited; state law does not mandate accreditation.