• Family Child Care Homes

    In family child care homes, providers care for small groups of children in a residential building. Often this type of care has one or two caregivers and may offer non-traditional hours.

    About This Type of Care

    Not all family child care homes may be required to follow a set of minimum health and safety requirements. It is always important to ask your family child care provider or check with your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency to check to see if your provider is required to be licensed.

    Family child care homes may be referred to by different names depending on where you live and your state’s regulations. Here are some common names for family child care homes:

    • Licensed child care home
    • Licensed group family child care home
    • Legally or license-exempt home
    • Certified child care home
    • Registered child care home
    • Family, friend, and neighbor care

    Family child care homes also may be classified as a large or small family home, depending on the number of children in care.

    Families choose family child care providers for different reasons:

    • The home-like environment is appealing to many families.
    • Family child care providers care for fewer children at one time.
    • Siblings can be together because most family child care homes have different ages of children enrolled.
    • There are fewer adults that may care for your child on a daily basis.
    • Family child care homes may be more flexible with their hours of operation compared to other types of care.

    You may want to check to see if your family child care provider participates in your state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System.

    Tips for Choosing This Type of Care

    • Ask to see a copy of the program’s license and inspection history. These reports provide you valuable information about the provider’s health and safety compliance. Click on State by State Resources to find out more information on licensing and inspection reports in your state.
    • Confirm that every adult living, working, or volunteering in the child care home has had a comprehensive background check.
    • Ask the provider about the number of adults and children present (staff to child ratios).
    • If you are looking for infant care, make sure to ask your provider about their Safe Sleep policies. For more information on questions to ask your family child care provider, see our Family Child Care Home Checklist.
  • Child Care Centers

    Child care centers often group children by age and are generally operated out of non-residential, commercial buildings. Centers are larger and enroll more children with a dedicated director and numerous staff members.

    About This Type of Care

    Some child care centers operate as non-profit and may be owned by an individual, church, public school, or a government agency. Other child care centers may operate as a for-profit and may be owned by an individual or a chain.

    Not all child care centers may be required to be licensed. Some examples of center-based programs that may not be required to be licensed include:

    • Programs operated by a school
    • School-age before and after care programs
    • Summer camps
    • Faith-based programs, including Parent’s Day Out programs
    • Part-time programs, including some nursery schools, preschools, and pre-kindergarten programs

    It is always important to ask your child care center or check with your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency to check to see if your provider is required to be licensed. You may also want to check to see if your child care center participates in your state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System.

    Families choose child care centers for different reasons:

    • Child care centers have a classroom-like environment where children are cared for in groups of other children typically their same age.
    • Child care centers have more adults present in the building.
    • Child care centers offer a variety of activities and opportunities for children.
    • Child care centers often have the most regulations and inspections for health and safety standards.

    Tips for Choosing This Type of Care

    • Ask to see a copy of the program’s license and inspection history. These reports provide you valuable information about the provider’s health and safety compliance. Click on State by State Resources to find out more information on licensing and inspection reports in your state.
    • Confirm that every adult living, working, or volunteering in the child care center has had a comprehensive background check.
    • Ask the provider about the number of adults and children present (staff to child ratios).
    • If you are looking for infant care, make sure to ask your provider about their Safe Sleep policies. For more information on questions to ask your child care center provider, see our Child Care Center Checklist.
  • Preschool Programs

    Preschool programs are typically offered for children ages 3-5 years old. Preschool programs may be offered through a school, faith-based organizations, non-profit organizations, and child care centers.

    About This Type of Care

    Families choosing this type of care may not need a full-time program but may be looking for a program that focuses on school readiness. While some preschool programs may operate on a full-day, year round schedule, some may not.

    It is always important to ask your preschool provider or check with your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency to check to see if your provider is required to be licensed. You may also want to check to see if your preschool program participates in your state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System.

    Tips for Choosing This Type of Care

    • Ask to see a copy of the program’s license and inspection history. These reports provide you valuable information about the provider’s health and safety compliance. Click on State by State Resources to find out more information on licensing and inspection reports in your state.
    • Confirm that every adult working or volunteering in the preschool program has had a comprehensive background check.
    • Ask the provider about the number of adults and children present (staff to child ratios).
    • For more information on questions to ask your preschool provider, see our Preschool Program Checklist.
  • School-Age Programs

    School-age programs typically provide child care during the before- and after-school hours. They may also offer care during school holidays and summer break.

    About This Type of Care

    Different options for school-age care may exist in your community. Local schools may provide care during the before- and after-school hours and may contract with an outside provider such as the YMCA or Boys and Girls Club to offer this type of care.

    Some family child care providers and child care centers also offer school-age care. Other programs, such as parks and recreation departments, community-based programs, and churches may offer this type of care as well.

    It is always important to ask your school-age provider or check with your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency to check to see if your provider is required to be licensed. You may also want to check to see if your school-age provider participates in your state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System.

    Tips for Choosing This Type of Care

    • Ask to see a copy of the program’s license and inspection history. These reports provide you valuable information about the provider’s health and safety compliance. Click on State by State Resources to find out more information on licensing and inspection reports in your state.
    • Confirm that every adult working or volunteering in the program has had a comprehensive background check.
    • Ask the provider about the number of adults and children present (staff to child ratios).
    • Ask the provider if they offer care during times of school closures due to weather.
    • For more information on questions to ask your school-age provider, see our School-Age Program Checklist.

Additional Resource

If you’re considering asking a family member or friend to care for your child, or if you’re thinking about hiring a babysitter or a nanny, you can learn about Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care here.