What Child Care Options are
Best for You and Your Child?

When looking at your child care options, you’ll want to make sure you take into consideration how well the provider or program fits your schedule, location, language and cultural needs, etc., but you also want to make sure that you ask any of the providers you’re considering some or all of these questions. You will probably have some of your own not on the list. Ask them.

Here are the different child care options you will find:

Child Care Centers are facilities that provide care for infants,, toddlers, preschoolers, or school-age children for all or part of the day. Some care for only one age group while others have classes with different age groups. Centers may be large or small and can be operated privately, by a church or other organization, or publicly funded. Centers are usually licensed or regulated by the state.

Family Child Care providers care for children in the providers' own home. They often care for mixed ages and the adult to child ratios are generally low. Family child care providers often offer more flexible hours including evening, overnight or weekend care. Family child care rates are, on average, lower than that of a center. Family child care homes are licensed or regulated by the state.

Head Start or Early Head Start provides comprehensive early education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. Families, for the most part, must meet federal poverty levels to participate. Early Head Start serves children 0 -3 and Head Start serves preschoolers.

Nannies care for children in the child's home. The cost is usually higher than that charged by the centers or family child care providers. Though they may be fingerprinted and have background checks, nannies are often not. Nannies sometimes live in the family's home.

Family, Friend and Neighbor providers include grandparents, aunts and uncles, elders, older siblings, friends, neighbors, and others who help families take care of their children on an informal basis. Family, friend and neighbor care is not licensed or regulated.

Drop-in/short-term child care is provided while parents participate in activities that are not employment related, and where the parents are on the premises or otherwise easily accessible. Drop-in care may be available in places like health clubs, shopping malls, resort hotels, and court houses or other government buildings.

Co-ops are formed when a group of parents, families, educators and community members come together providing Child care services. Parents and other caregivers are involved in the provision of the co-op’s services, and in thegovernance and decision making of childcare co-ops by being elected to the board of directors. Co-ops are generally not licensed or regulated.

Sick Child Care programs, sometimes called Back-Up Child Care, care for mildly ill children while their parents work, attend school, or training.

24 Hour Child Care, can be licensed or not. These programs are open 24 hours and serve parents working all shifts. While there are a few 24 hour child care centers, most 24 hour care is provided by family child care providers, family, friend and neighbors, or nannies.

Programs often serve specific age groups, so you may see programs listed by the terms below. For example, a child care center may serve only preschool age children, and Early Head Start serves only infants and toddlers, while you may visit a family child care program that cares for mixed ages.

Infant Care

Toddler Program


School-Age Care

Consider all your child care options carefully. This is one of the most important decisions you will make as a parent. Remember to trust your instincts and remember that you are the expert on your child. Only you know what is best for your family.

Return from Child Care Options to Choosing Child Care
Return from Child Care Options to Home