Child care is a vital and important component of Arlington County’s success as a community. While child care centers and family day care homes are licensed by the Office of Child Care Services, there can be several other permits, licenses, and inspections that are needed before a child care facility can open.
Opening a Child Care Facility
There are several steps to successfully starting a child care business.
STEP 1: Office of Child Care Services
Arlington County Child Care Services (Department of Human Services (DHS): Child and Family Services) is responsible for protecting the health, safety, and well-being of children who attend licensed childcare programs in Arlington County. Learn more about Arlington County Child Care Services and the licensing process.
STEP 2: Special Exception Use Permit
- Child Care Centers – ALL
- Family Day Care Homes – CAPACITY OF 6 OR MORE CHILDREN
Child care centers and larger family day care homes (i.e. those with 6 or more children) require County Board approval of a special exception use permit, which addresses and mitigates any potential land use impacts related to parking or pick-up and drop-off. Use permits are approved by the County Board at their monthly public hearing. Typically, it takes approximately 60 days for a use permit application to be heard by the Board once it has been accepted as complete by Zoning Administration.
STEP 3: Business License
The Commissioner of Revenue assesses a business privilege tax on all business conducted in Arlington County, including home-based businesses. It is illegal to engage in any business without first obtaining a business license.
New businesses need to register their trade name; obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN); register with the State Corporation Commission (for corporations or limited partnerships); and meet the other requirements of Ch. 11. Licenses of the Arlington County Code.
Business license applications can be filed online or in-person at the with the Business Tax Division.
STEP 4: Certificate of Occupancy (CO)
Every child care center and family day care home is required to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) before opening.
NOTE: Certificates of occupancy are not transferable, and are only valid for the child care provider listed on the certificate at the address listed on the certificate. A certificate of occupancy will also list the maximum number of children permitted (which may be less than the maximum number allowed under a County Board approved use permit or your child care license).
All certificate of occupancy applications must be filed at least two weeks before occupying and opening a child care facility. Once an application has been reviewed and approved, a Zoning inspector will contact the applicant to schedule an inspection (family day care homes with 5 or less children do not require an inspection). After the inspection is complete and approved, applicant can contact the Permitting Offices and Inspection Services to determine the status of the application. Any outstanding building or trades permits (i.e. electrical, plumbing, etc.) must be closed and final before a certificate of occupancy is issued.
CO applications are available to view and print online. Completed application must be filed in-person with Zoning Administration.
Learn more, read the Child Care Centers and Family Day Care Homes FAQs.
Regulations & Standards
Child care providers are responsible for being compliant with several codes and ordinances.
- County Code, Ch. 52 Child Care Centers, Preschools, Nursery Schools, Parent’s Day-Out Programs, and Cooperative Playground Programs
- County Code, Ch. 59 Family Day Care Homes
- Zoning Ordinance
Submission & Process
Use Permits: Child care centers and family day care homes with 6 or more children require a County Board approved use permit.
- IN-PERSON: Use Permit Application
Certificate of Occupancy (CO): All child care providers require a certificate of occupancy.
Register Your Business: All child care providers will need to register with the Commissioner of Revenue.