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Child Care Options to Consider

Selecting the right care for your child is one of the most important decisions you make as a parent or guardian. Knowing your options will help you make an informed decision about the best care options for your little one.

Ratio

Be informed about the ratio of each age group. A small number of children per adult is most important during a child’s early years. Infants need an adult-to-child ratio of no more than 1:4 (one adult for four infants), while 4 year olds do well with a ratio of 1:10 (one adult for ten children). Count the number of children in each age group. Research shows that the quality of care is better when the group size is small, meaning the children receive more attention.

Child Care Centers

Licensed child care centers might operate four types of licenses:
Infant Care: Licensed to care for children from newborn up to 2 years of age. Infant care sites must maintain a ratio of 1 adult to 4 infants
Preschool Care: Licensed to care for children from 2 years of age to kindergarten. Preschools must maintain a ratio of 1 adult to every 12 children
School Age Care: Licensed to care for children who are in kindergarten through 13 years of age. School age care must maintain a ratio of 1 adult to every 14 children
Mildly Ill Care: Licensed to provide non-medical care to mildly ill children of all ages. Level I programs operate as components of child care centers and may serve only those children who are in the regular program. Level II centers are may care for children with contagious conditions

Child Care Homes

Small Family Child Care Homes:

  • Licensed to care for up to eight children
  • Two of the children must be at least 6 years old
  • No more than 2 infants under 2 years of age are cared for when more than 6 children are present
    or
  • Six children are present with a limit of 3 infants under 2 years of age
    or
  • Only Four infants are cared for

This count includes the provider’s children under the age of 10.

Large Family Child Care Homes

  • Licensed to care for up to fourteen children
  • Two of the children must be at least 6 years old
  • No more than 2 infants are cared for when more than 6 children are present
    or
  • Twelve children with a limit of 4 infants under two years of age are cared for.
  • This count includes the provider’s children under the age of 10. A second caregiver must be present whenever more than 8 children are present.

Exempt Centers or Homes

License-Exempt Programs are exempt from licensing regulations for the following reasons:

  • Programs are operated on public school sites
  • Programs are located at a private elementary school that cares for more than 95 percent of their own children
  • Programs are operated on federal property
  • Exempt Provider is an individual who takes care of the children of only one family in addition to their own. If the family being cared for is receiving assistance with their child care costs, the provider must obtain a background check through the Trustline Program. The exceptions to this requirement are grandparents, aunts, and uncles

Family Involvement

Many child care programs encourage parents to stay involved by volunteering time when needed and joining in on special events, like field trips, or Career Day. Be sure to ask your provider how you can be involved in your child’s activities.

Accreditation

Any quality child care program can become accredited. Child care centers, family child care homes, and after school programs have different organizations that conduct the accreditation process. Family child care homes and child care centers must offer the kind of care, attention, and educational activities that satisfy parents’ needs for their children.