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Child Care Glossary

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School readiness

The state of early development that enables a child to engage in and benefit from learning experiences. The five arenas of child development that indicate school readiness are: health and physical development; social and emotional development; approaches toward learning; language development and communication; and cognition and general knowledge.

School-age child care

Child care for children who are at least five years old. These programs complement the school day or the school year.

School-based child care

Child care programs that occur in school facilities.


A brief assessment designed to identify children who are at risk for health problems, developmental problems, and/or disabling conditions. These children may need to receive helpful intervention services as early as possible.


A developmental exploration by a child using their senses: touching, tasting, seeing, smelling, and hearing.

Separation anxiety

An excessive and persistent uneasiness, in young children, about being separated from one’s parents.

Sick child care

Child care services provided to a child who has a mild illness. Similar terms include "ill child care" and "mildly ill child care."

Sliding fee scale

A formula for determining the amount of child care fees or co-payments to be paid by parents or guardians, usually based on income.

Slot / Space

A place for a child in a child care program.

Social and emotional development

The progression of self awareness and regulation. This growth also allows a child to learn to interact with others.

Social Services Block Grant (SSBG)

A federal block grant for states to support a variety of preventative social service programs for adults and children. For more information, click here .


The process by which an individual becomes familiar with his/her culture, society, family, values and norms. Learning and adapting to what is accepted as appropriate behavior in a particular social setting.

Special education

Educational programs and services for special needs and/or gifted individuals who have intellectually, physically, emotionally, or socially different characteristics from those who can be taught through normal methods or materials.

Special health care needs

Any unique assistance, equipment, or services required to aid an individual with health concerns.

Special needs child

An individual under the age of 18 who has any condition that may require additional care or attention in areas of daily living skills, education, or behavioral concerns. Common conditions include attachment disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), developmental disabilities, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), learning disabilities, and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

Staff/child ratio (adult child ratio)

The number of qualified caregivers caring for a specified number of children in a child care program. Required ratios vary depending on the ages and abilities of the children in care.


The process of hiring and training employees needed to perform an agency function.

Stay-at-home (SAH)

Parent-provided care in the family home.

Subsidized child care

A child care service that is partially funded by public or charitable funds to decrease the cost to parents.

Subsidy/ financial assistance

A private or public assistance that reduces the cost of a service (such as child care).