Child Welfare Licensing (CWL) 


Agencies providing any of the following services or programs are required to be licensed by DES as a Child Welfare Residential Agency:  

  • Group homes and shelter-care facilities that provide 24-hour care to children on a year-round basis  
  • Outdoor experience programs  

Agencies that recruit and provide training for foster parents are required to be licensed by DES as a Child Placing Agency.  

Agencies providing private adoption services are required to have a license for an Adoption Agency.  

All child welfare, child placing, and adoption agencies must apply for a license directly with OLCR. OLCR currently licenses approximately 50 child welfare residential agencies, operating more than 190 group homes, emergency shelters, and outdoor experience programs for children in Arizona. In addition, OLCR licenses approximately 30 child-placing agencies and 30 adoption agencies.  

Individuals designated to render services within CWL licensed facilities must maintain a valid Arizona Level-1 Fingerprint Clearance Card, issued by the Department of Public Safety (DPS). For more information, interested applicants should review the DPS'  Notice to Fingerprint Clearance Card Applicant External Link Icon (48 KB PDF). 

 OLCR does not regulate government owned institutions or health care facilities licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services. 

up arrow


How does a child welfare group home differ from a foster group home?
A foster group home is licensed as a foster home but authorized to accept between 6-10 minor children, with the foster parents as the care providers.  A child welfare group home is operated as a business with paid staff members as the care providers.

Does OLCR license all group homes in Arizona?
No. The Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) licenses Group Homes for the Developmentally DisabledExternal Link Icon and Behavioral Health Group HomesExternal Link Icon.

How do I know whether my group home should be licensed through OLCR or through another government agency?
Homes licensed by OLCR are designated as Child Welfare Agencies, and their primary purpose is to provide a safe and healthy living environment.  The primary population served is described as behavior disordered, delinquent, dependent, neglected or under-socialized.  The primary sources of referrals are DES, juvenile courts, juvenile corrections, Native American Tribes, or private placements.  If you wish to provide more intensive behavioral or mental health treatment services or services for individuals with developmental disabilities, you should contact DHSExternal Link Icon or the DES Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) for more information.

How long does the licensing process take?
For residential programs, usually 3 to 6 months. Child Placing and Adoption Agencies usually much less time.  These are all dependent on how quickly you are able to submit the required information.

up arrow

Once I receive my license, will I automatically begin to receive children placed into my care?
No.  In order to receive children for placement, you must go through an entirely separate process to obtain a contract either through DES, juvenile courts, juvenile corrections or Native American Tribes.  You may also create your own program to market directly to the public and accept payment directly from the parents or other placing parties.  This requirement holds true for Child Welfare Placing Agencies as well. 

Are there any fees involved with licensure through OLCR?
An adoption license requires an initial application fee of $400, and an annual renewal fee of $225, but there are no fees associated with licensure as a Child Welfare Residential Agency or a Child Placing Agency.

If all I want to do is write adoptive home studies, do I need to hold an adoption license?
No.  An adoption license is required only if your agency wishes to 1) Recruit a birth parent to place a child through a particular agency; 2) Take a birth parent’s relinquishment and consent to adoption; 3) Take physical custody of a child for placement into an adoptive home; 4) Place a child in an adoptive home; 5) Monitor, supervise, or finalize adoptive placements; and 6) Provide networking or matching services for a birth parent, an adoptive parent or an adoptive child.

How long is a license good for?
Each license must be renewed on an annual basis.

What do I need to do to receive an application packet for licensure?
If you would like to receive an application packet for initial licensure, please send a request via email to In your email, be sure to identify whether you want an application for a Child Welfare Residential Agency (group homes, shelters, outdoor experience programs); a Child Placing Agency (recruits and licenses foster homes) or as an Adoption Agency.


The CWL Unit is supervised by Steve Holstad, who can be contacted at (602) 255-2809 or 


up arrow  



Large textLarge Font Small textSmall Font   PrintPrint EmailEmail  Average3out of 5
LEP Flags