Stay up-to-date on the latest parent and child care provider recommendations regarding COVID-19. View Announcements

SC Child Care Services | Happy. Healthy. Safe.

Search Child Care Providers


What do we mean by child care?

There are many ways to describe child care: day care, nursery school, and preschool are just a few examples of how parents refer to it. But child care is simply the term we use when we talk about someone who provides care for a child outside of that child’s home. This can be in the home of a caregiver, or in a center or a church. 

At DSS, we primarily work with providers who care for small or large groups of children. Some child care providers are licensed or registered by DSS - but, others are not. To operate legally in South Carolina, all child care programs must be licensed, registered, or approved by DSS, or be exempt from licensing requirements altogether. Child Care licensing staff license and monitor providers, and it is crucial for parents to understand the differences between these provider types.

Licensed, Registered, and Approved Centers

If a center caring for 13 or more children is licensed, registered (churches), or approved (school programs) they are meeting the basic health and safety requirements established by the state. Licensing staff, including Fire and Health Safety Inspectors, visit these providers on a regular basis to enforce these standards.

Group Homes

Group home providers keep between 7 and 12 children in their homes and are required to be licensed. Like centers, they meet health and safety requirements and are inspected by licensing staff annually.

Family Homes

When the provider is a registered family home provider caring for up to 6 children in their home, they have far fewer requirements to meet. In fact, these providers are only required by law to register with DSS by mail.  In 2014, legislation was passed that allows Child Care Licensing to make one unannounced visit to these homes each year.  Unannounced visits are also made in response to a complaint.

Non-regulated, exempt Providers

If a provider is exempt from licensing requirements, they are not regulated by Child Care Licensing. Exempt providers are those that operate less than 4-hours a day or only provide care during school holidays or summer vacations. This does not mean that they are not providing good care, but it does mean that DSS is not licensing or inspecting them.

With so many things to consider, there is no wonder choosing a provider can be confusing. DSS Early Care and Education wants parents to “Know Before They Go!”