The Division of Early Childhood at the Maryland State Department of Education is responsible for early care and education in Maryland. The main mission of the Division is to improve early education in Maryland so that young children are well prepared for school. The Division is composed of the Office of Child Care, the Office of Early Learning and Instruction, and the Office of Family Support Services and Head Start Collaboration.

Office of Child Care

The Office of Child Care (OCC) works to support and guide early education and child care so that every young child in Maryland has a strong foundation and will be ready for kindergarten. The OCC is responsible for licensing and inspecting all child care centers and family child care providers in Maryland and evaluating and approving applications for Maryland State Department of Education Child Care Trainers/Training Proposal Approval Program.  The OCC also administers Maryland's subsidized child care program for working families and the state’s Child Care Credentialing System.

The Office of Child Care's Licensing Branch inspects and licenses all child care centers and family child care providers in the state and oversees Maryland’s subsidized child care program, the state’s Child Care Credentialing System, and Maryland EXCELS – the state’s quality rating and improvement system. The OCC maintains Regional Licensing Offices around Maryland, which are responsible for all child care licensing activities in their geographical areas.


The OCC is responsible for the regulation of child care, facilitating the development of new child care resources, promoting the use of regulated care, monitoring caregiver compliance with child care licensing requirements, encouraging the growth of caregiver professionalism, and providing technical assistance to caregivers and parents. Within OCC, the Licensing Branch is specifically responsible for all child care licensing activities. These activities include:

  • Licensure or re-licensure of new or existing child care facilities
  • Monitoring program compliance with child care regulations
  • Investigating complaints of improper or illegal child care
  • Taking enforcement action against the license of programs found to be in serious violation of child care regulations
  • Helping child care programs achieve and maintain regulatory compliance

In addition, the Licensing Branch works closely with elected officials, other state and local government agencies, the caregiver community, child advocacy organizations, and child care consumers on issues related to protecting the health and safety of children in care.


The Workforce Advancement Branch is responsible for the Maryland Child Care Credential Program, Training Vouchers/ Reimbursement, Child Care Career and Professional Development Fund, and Provider Grants.

The Workforce Advancement Branch's goals are to ensure that:

  • Child care providers have access to quality training opportunities
  • Child care providers and facilities are recognized for achieving quality improvements.


The purpose of the Child Care Scholarship Program (CCS) is to provide financial assistance with child care costs to eligible working families in the form of scholarships through the Child Care Scholarship Center (CCS Central). The CCS Program issues vouchers to eligible families in need of help with the cost of child care. To receive this assistance, families must meet certain requirements. In addition to helping with the cost of child care, families can receive assistance with locating a licensed child care provider.

Quality Improvement Initiatives (MARYLAND EXCELS - marylandexcels.org)

Based on nationally recognized quality standards and best practices, Maryland EXCELS equips providers with an understanding of how far they’ve come in providing quality care – and how they can continue to deliver quality care.

Maryland EXCELS promotes quality by awarding ratings to Child Care Centers, School-Age Child Care Programs, Family Child Care Homes and Public Prekindergarten programs. These ratings are available to families as a way to help them make informed choices in the care of their children.

The system is simple: programs earn ratings on five progressive check levels that form a pathway to excellence. A rating of ‘1’ is awarded to providers and programs that successfully meet initial requirements, while a rating of ‘5’ is awarded to those that have achieved the highest level of quality.

The Maryland EXCELS framework is based on five core disciplines:

  • Compliance
  • Professional Development
  • Accreditation
  • Developmentally Appropriate Activities
  • Administrative Practices

Each of these disciplines represents a critical building block to achieving quality in early childhood and school-age programs. Financial incentives and technical assistance are available to programs electing to participate in Maryland EXCELS, and any licensed child care or public prekindergarten program is eligible to apply. Parents and community members are given easy access to a listing of providers in their area through the Maryland EXCELS website and mobile app.

In addition, Maryland EXCELS oversees the Maryland Accreditation process and Accreditation Support Fund.


The OCC evaluates, reviews, and approves applications for MSDE Child Care Trainers/Training Proposal Approval Program and evaluates early childhood trainings for credentialing and licensing. Within the training program, the OCC also conducts trainer orientation, meetings, peer review sessions and workshops.

Office of Early Learning and Instruction

The Office of Early Learning and Instruction is responsible for pre-k and kindergarten policy and programs. This branch also oversees the Ready for Kindergarten Early Childhood Comprehensive Assessment System, Developmental Screening, Early Childhood Curriculum, and the Maryland Approved Alternative Program Preparation.


Office of Family Support Services and the Head Start Collaboration

The Office of Family Support Services, formally known as the Collaboration and Program Improvement Branch, manages early childhood initiatives and administers early care contracts and grants. It encompasses The Judith P. Hoyer Center Early Learning Hubs, also known as “Judy Centers”, and the Head Start Collaboration Project:

The Judith P. Hoyer Early Learning Hubs provide a central location for early childhood education programs and comprehensive support services for children birth through kindergarten and their families who reside in specific Title I school districts across the state. The goal is school readiness. There are currently 52 Judy Centers with approximately 15,000 children in 60 Title I attendance areas. Each Judy Center has a guiding Partnership of community agencies, organizations and businesses that are critical to the delivery of programs and services that lead to school readiness. The Judy Center Partnerships play critical roles in determining annual goals and objectives and programming decisions. Judy Centers must meet 12 Component Standards including (1) full day/full year services, (2) provision of meals, (3) service coordination and family support, (4) integration of early education services across the various early childhood programs, (5) family involvement, (6) early identification of children and provision of interventions, as appropriate, (7) inclusion of young children with disabilities, (8) health care services, (9) professional development of early childhood teachers, (10) adult education, (11) Maryland EXCELS/accreditation/validation of all early childhood programs and (12) effectiveness of the Judy Center Partnership and leadership.

Head Start State Collaboration Project coordinates early learning and comprehensive services between local Head Start programs and local, state, federal government agencies that are informed by the current Head Start Assessment Report and Strategic Plan. Direct services, including eligibility enrollment and classroom instruction, are delivered by local Head Start programs. A Memorandum of Understanding exists with the Maryland Head Start Association to assure communication and collaboration in school readiness areas that will benefit low income families and children. Since July 2003, the state's Head Start Collaboration Office has been housed at MSDE/DECD and can be reached at 410-767- 8959.

Important Resources

A list of links to early care and education-related Internet sites is available here.

A list of Early Head Start or Head Start programs is available here(XLS).

The latest Maryland Head Start Collaboration Office Needs Assessment(PDF) is also available.

  • The Early Childhood Mental Health Project assists early care and education programs in identifying and addressing child behavioral issues in early learning environments. Trainings on the Social and Emotional Foundation of Early Learning are offered through on-line courses at the Innovation and Implementation Institute, University of Maryland School of Social Work, and in-person training has been offered through the Maryland Child Care Resource Network. A brochure is available here(PDF). The Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMHC) Project: Standards for the State of Maryland, and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMHC) Guide: Standards, Rational and Guidance for the State of Maryland are available here.
  • The Maryland Family Network Family Support Centers provide free, comprehensive services, either on-site or through referral, to families, targeting parents and their children from birth through age three. The Centers promote the optimal development of young children through the provision of parent/child activities and a wide range of child development services; assist parents to develop more effective parenting skills and fulfill their aims related to school, employment and family life; provide supportive networks among parents in local communities; and connect parents and their children to public and private agencies and informal community resources. Visit the Maryland Family Network for additional information.
  • The Maryland Family Network Child Care Resource and Referral Centers is an innovative public-private partnership is administered by Maryland Family Network under a contract with the Maryland State Department of Education. Every community in Maryland is served by one of twelve regional child care resource and referral centers (CCR&Rs). Together, these CCR&Rs make up the Maryland Child Care Resource Network, which provides leadership and services designed to help parents find quality child care that meets their family’s needs; improve the skills of early childhood professionals and their programs; and help programs, communities and individuals develop or expand high quality programs for children. Visit the Maryland Family Network for additional information.
  • State Advisory Council and Local Councils include the State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care and 24 Local Early Childhood Advisory Councils. Together, they build and support a comprehensive early childhood infrastructure to overcome local school readiness achievement gaps for children with high needs and maximize federal, state and local resources for early childhood through collaborations and consistent coordination.
  • Family Engagement Initiatives include the implementation of a Maryland Framework for Family Engagement and the creation of family councils in Title I area public libraries. Another initiative offers parent forums to sponsor guided conversations designed to share the collective knowledge of families and build a network of community support. A $494,370 grant was awarded for 2015-16 to MSDE by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to improve and expand on early childhood family engagement initiatives.

Best Practices to Engage Parents and Guardians in Early Education Programs and Services(PDF) is a report developed under the Pre-K Expansion Act of 2014 to identify best practices to promote family engagement in early education programs and services.

A list of Family Engagement Coalition members is available here(PDF).