For Parents and Guardians

Types of Care

How do you know what type of care is best for your child? A good experience can be found in all types of care, but you will find there are some advantages and disadvantages to each type.

Listed below are the most common types of care. These statements are generalizations, and there will always be exceptions. Use your knowledge of your child and family's needs to guide you.

Licensed Family Child Care Home

Family child care is in the home of the family child care professional and has met the requirements for a license to care for children. There are seven different types of home licenses and it is helpful to ask about the type of license.

  • The Children: Most programs provide care for infants through school-age children. Within licensing rules, the early childhood professional can decide on their total group size and the ages they serve. 
  • Training: Minimal training in child development is required by licensing. CPR, First Aid, Car Seat Safety, Shaken Baby, and SIDS training are required.
  • Strengths: This type of care may be appealing due to the smaller number of children in the group and an opportunity for your child to develop a long-term relationship with the adult and other children. This care is often more affordable than a center or care provided by a nanny.
  • Concerns: The family child care professional often works alone, thus there are fewer adults to monitor care and provide support. If the program is closed due to illness or vacation, you will need to arrange your own back-up care.

Child Care Center

Child care centers are licensed by the State to care for larger groups of children in their own buildings, community centers, places of worship or in other facilities.

  • The Children: Most centers provide care for infants through school-age children to age twelve. Children are usually separated according to age with an infant room, toddler room, etc. The number of children allowed in a group varies by age. Click here for adult to child ratio information.
  • Training: Training in child development is required. Many teachers have degrees.
  • Strengths: Many centers have a variety of toys and planned activities for each age group. There are more adults to supervise and monitor. Back-up care is available when staff is out.
  • Concerns: High staff turnover can be a problem for centers; this can affect the quality and consistency of care. More children may mean more illness.

Family, Friend, or Neighbor Care

This type of care is unlicensed and usually provided by a relative, friend, or someone in the community. It can take place in the caregiver's home or your home.

  • The Children: The caregiver can provide care for their own children, related children, and children from one unrelated family. A license is required if the caregiver cares for more than one unrelated family.
  • Training: None. Training is required if a caregiver receives money from the child care assistance program.
  • Strengths: Many parents feel more comfortable already knowing the caregiver and believe they will provide warmer, more loving care for their child. Often there is more flexibility with scheduling and cost of care.
  • Concerns:  The caregiver may not be knowledgeable about child development. The environment may lack in a variety of toys and planned activities.

Other Types of Care:

In-Home Care or Nanny Care: This type of care is in your home. Most in-home caregivers are friends, family members, or nannies. Nannies often have professional training and experience but are not licensed by the State. As an employer, you may be responsible for contributing to Social Security, taxes, workers' compensation costs, insurance, and vacation time.

Preschool Programs: Preschool programs usually offer a part-time program. These programs are not used primarily for child care but instead offer children an opportunity to interact with other children and prepare for school. Enrollment is usually limited to children three to five years old.

Early Head Start/Head Start: This type of care promotes the growth and development of children from low-income families. Parent involvement, a health program, and family support are included. Early Head Start serves children from birth to three years old and Head Start serves children from three to five years old.

School-Age Child Care: Programs for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. They usually operate in schools, community centers, YMCAs/YWCAs or park and recreation programs. Programs operated by school districts usually do not need a license.