How to Set Up a Child Care Center in GSA-Managed Space

If you are a federal agency looking to set up a child care center in a GSA-managed building, you will need to work with GSA to meet federally mandated guidelines on creating and operating a center. GSA can provide technical assistance in the start-up process, and will oversee the management of the physical space in which your child care center is located.

See GSA's checklist of important first steps or download the Starting a Child Development Center [PDF - 2 MB], a manual what you need to know.

Setting Up a Child Care Center Checklist: 15 Important Steps

Step 1: Contact GSA

The primary mission of the Child Care Division is to ensure that federal and community families receive quality care for their young children in child care centers located in GSA-managed space. We assist with all areas of establishing a child development center. Child Care Program Managers can offer assistance regarding the formation of the organizing committee and eventual board, needs assessments and local child care market surveys, recommendations for center size and programs, selection of center management and technical assistance and coordination for the actual build out and equipping of the center.

Our nationwide network of Child Care Program Managers works in partnership with other federal agencies, advisory boards, providers, and center staff to establish and maintain high quality programs. What follows is a brief overview of the start up process. The appropriate Program Manager should be consulted for further guidance.

Step 2: Obtain Management Commitment

A commitment from the local federal agency’s top management is crucial to the development and operation of a child care center. It is the key to the release of funds to develop the center and to the agency’s continuing support.

Step 3: Form Organizing Committee

The committee should reflect the agencies that will utilize the center and should be comprised of individuals whose professional expertise or background will benefit the committee (e.g. accountant, attorney, educator, fundraiser, etc.) In many cases, some members of the organizing committee stay on as future board members. The permanent board is well served by maintaining this mix of individuals, as well as seeking upper management and community participation on the board.

When more than one sponsoring agency is involved, each should be proportionally represented on the committee according to their occupancy within the building.

Step 4: Establish Interagency Agreements

When more than one agency sponsors a center, an interagency agreement (IA) should be signed between the agencies involved. The IA establishes the framework within which the agencies will participate in the development and ongoing support of the center. The IA can establish board participation and enrollment priorities.

Step 5: Establish Feasibility

The organizing committee needs to have data that indicates a center is needed and will be used by employees at this site. A feasibility study includes:

Employee Needs Assessment Survey or focus groups, which will help determine:

  • the expected population, thus size of the center
  • the ages of children in need of care
  • desired hours of operation
  • the types of services to be provided

A market survey, which will help determine:

  • the availability of other existing child care services
  • tuition costs

The feasibility study needs to include the guidance from GSA on utilization rates and acceptable center size requirements. A center must be large enough to exist as a viable business.

Community partnerships with non-federal entities are permitted and encouraged. A partnership with a local business or government could make a center viable where your population alone will not support one. Any agreements made for sharing a center must be based on the authorities and requirements of federal law under the Trible Amendment [DOC - 28 KB].

* If your feasibility study proves positive and you are ready to move ahead with a center you should get a copy of the GSA Board of Directors Child Care Resource Book and the GSA Child Care Center Design Guide. Both guides are available from your Child Care Program Manager or in our Web Library.

Step 6: Evaluate Space Needs and Seek Space

The organizing committee should obtain copies of the applicable state and local regulations governing child care centers. In most instances child care centers are required to be on ground floor levels with access to outdoor play space. The GSA child care coordinator is available to help identify if appropriate space is available. The agency requests space from GSA. GSA is responsible for finding, designing and building out the space for the child care center under established policy. The agency pays rent to GSA for the space under established procedures for “common use space.”

Step 7: Equip Center

GSA or the sponsoring agency may purchase and own fundamental, permanent, and long-term furnishings and equipment such as kitchen appliances, playground and gross motor equipment, classroom equipment and furnishings. The Child Care Provider will provide all consumables, supplies, materials and provider curriculum choices for the child care facility.

Step 8: Seek Building Services

GSA is responsible for providing building services to the center, which include cleaning, utilities, and security systems. The centers are cleaned at standards for clinical space. Security is provided in accordance with a GSA security survey and analysis. Services considered above standard level are paid for by the requesting agency.

Step 9: Seek Program Oversight

GSA, using independent professionals, performs program and health reviews. GSA professionals perform periodic safety and security reviews.

Step 10: Designate Service Provider

Options for service provider and issuance of GSA License for Use of Space:

  1. GSA can issue a license directly to a service provider or board. An organizing committee or board of directors will issue a solicitation, with the guidance of GSA, to select a provider to deliver the service. The board will enter into a contract with the selected provider and sign a memorandum of understanding with GSA. GSA and the board are responsible for oversight of the center and ensuring license compliance.
  2. GSA can execute an agreement directly with an agency, which is then responsible for selecting a provider, issuing a license and ensuring license compliance.

Step 11: Secure Child Care License

The child care provider is responsible for obtaining and maintaining the appropriate state/ local licenses.

Step 12: Hire Staff

Staffing is the key to quality. The provider is responsible for hiring and training staff. Employee background checks are required. GSA will perform criminal history background checks.

Step 13: Market Program

The child care provider is primarily responsible for marketing the program initially and on an ongoing basis. The board of directors must help in these efforts by at a minimum easing access to employee newsletters, bulletin boards and activities.

Step 14: Obtain Liability Insurance

The provider must have liability insurance on the center. The necessity of insurance for the board of directors is determined locally and is sometimes carried as a rider on the center’s insurance.

Step 15: Open the Center

Parents typically make child care plans according to the academic year. All planning should be done to allow for a summer opening. The opening of a child care center is a time to build networks and to garner community support. A grand opening ceremony will provide agency employees and management an opportunity to see the center, meet the staff and to learn about the program.

Last Reviewed: 2019-07-01