How Preschool Works in Georgia

Takeaway: Georgia furnishes readily accessible information about enrollment and eligibility for pre-K, as well as a database for finding licensed child care providers. The state oversees licensed providers but does not have jurisdiction over programs that are exempt from licensing. Georgia also offers a lottery-funded universal pre-K, but spots are limited.


The Department of Early Care and Learning provides the rules and regulations for each of the three types of licensed care allowed in the state: child care learning centers, group day care homes, and family day care homes. Any provider receiving pay for the care of six or more children, related or unrelated, must be licensed. Georgia’s database provides clear distinctions concerning the different types of providers, and search results can be filtered by license type, county, and quality type. Results are extremely detailed, providing contact information, available services, capacities, and inspection histories.

Georgia has the oldest universal pre-K program in the country. This program is highly regarded for its availability to all children statewide as well as its unique source of funding — the Georgia Lottery. Georgia’s pre-K program has faced budget troubles in the past — as a result of its reliance on fluctuating lottery revenues — but has rejected targeted program cuts to maintain its universal status. Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) offers subsidies for families who need financial assistance, a support that enables them to select the care provider of their choice. Public and private schools are not required to offer pre-K programs, so space in existing programs may be limited.

Center-Based Care

Georgia defines center-based care as any person, corporation, or institution providing care for children for less than 24 hours per day. These centers serve 19 or more children at a time. The state provides the rules and regulations for licensing as well as a manual to facilitate center compliance. Georgia provides voluntary standards for care that address cognitive, social/emotional, communication, and physical development. The state also offers guidance on a wide range of topics, from diapering and discipline to medication and hygiene.

Group sizes are limited to double the number of children allowed per single provider. For example, infants who are under the age of 18 months and unable to walk require a ratio of 1:6, with a maximum group size of 12. Ratios for one-year-olds who are able to walk are 1:6; 1:8 for two-year-olds; 1:15 for three-year-olds; 1:18 for four-year-olds; 1:20 for five-year-olds; and 1:25 for six-year-olds. Mixed-age groups must maintain ratios established for the age of the youngest children in the group if more than 20 percent of the group are of the younger age. Children three years or younger must be in programs separate from older children.

Home-Based Care

There are two options for licensed home-based care in Georgia: group day care homes and family day care homes. Group day care homes are operated by a person, corporation, or institution and offer care for between seven and 18 children. For infants who are 1 year old, or who are younger than 18 months and unable to walk, the staff-to-child ratio is 1:6. For 1-year-olds who are able to walk, 1:8; two-year-olds, 1:10; three-year- olds, 1:15; and for children between the ages of 4 and 6, 1:18. In mixed-age groups, the age of the youngest child under three determines the staff-to-child ratio. Family day care homes are located in private residences and provide paid care for between three and six unrelated children. At least two caregivers must be present if more than three children under a year old are present, if more than six children under the age of 3 are present, or if more than eight children under the age of 5 are present.

Unlicensed Care

Georgia does not offer information about unlicensed programs, but the state does conduct formal inquiries of programs reported to be unlicensed. Exemptions are granted for certain operations, such as those affiliated with the government, accredited private schools, day camps, and half-day programs. Providers must inform parents of their exempt status, but are not regulated, as their licensed counterparts are. The state does not have jurisdiction over exempt programs.

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