Group of Diverse Children in Front of Camera

You want the best for your child.

Children need care that keeps them safe, healthy, and learning.

And you need a child care provider that supports you as your child’s most important teacher and works with you to ensure your child’s healthy development and learning.

When you have peace of mind that your child is safe, happy, and learning, you can focus on your work and providing for your family.

There are many types of child care to choose from, and it is important to find a provider that fits the needs of your child and your family. When choosing a child care provider, there are many factors to consider.

This section provides important information about different kinds of child care programs, including how different types of programs are regulated.

You will also find some tips and tools to help make your child care choice easier.

If you have questions or want to talk with someone about the types of child care available in your community, there are state and local agencies that can help you. They can provide additional information to help you make the best choice for your child.

You can select any of the agency types below to find more information about these services in your state. Once you select one of the agencies below, select your state under the “Get Child Care Resources”. You will then see a variety of child care related resources including information about finding quality child care and financial assistance for families.

Child care resource and referral (CCR&R) agencies: CCR&R agencies can help you by phone, in person, online, or via email. Most of these agencies also have websites with child care information and resources.

Child care licensing agencies: Licensing agencies set basic rules that must be followed to legally run a child care program. The purpose of these basic licensing regulations is to help protect the health and safety of children in child care. When states set these rules, they include different rules for different kinds of child care programs, such as child care centers and family child care homes. Here are some examples of topics covered by basic licensing regulations:

  • Safety in the building and physical environment

  • The number of children and child care providers on site

  • Preventing the spread of infectious diseases

  • Staff qualifications and training

Not all child care providers are required to be licensed, so it is important to check to see if the child care program you are considering is licensed.

The requirements for licensing vary across states and there are many different kinds of programs that may not be required to be licensed. You may not be able to tell if a provider is licensed just by visiting or talking to with the provider. Ask to see a license and check with the agency that is responsible for child care licensing in your state.

Child care assistance agencies: If you need help paying for child care, assistance may be available. Each state has an agency that is responsible for a child care assistance program that helps low-income families pay for child care. Each state has its own guidelines for who is eligible for assistance. These agencies may also help you learn about child care options in your state and local area.

Young Children on the Floor Reading Requirements and quality standards for child care programs: Child care requirements can be very confusing, and there are many different types of requirements to consider.

  • First, States have several types of requirements that child care providers must meet in order to operate legally. These may be called licensing, certification, or registration requirements. These requirements outline what providers must do to operate legally and what types of basic requirements must be met.

  • In addition, there are often requirements that providers must meet in order to receive public funding. There are many sources of public funding, but two of the biggest are Head Start and the Child Care and Development Fund. If you need assistance with child care, these programs may be able to help you with free or low-cost care and early education. Even if you don’t need assistance, you may end up choosing a child care program that receives public funding, so your program may be required to follow these requirements. Click here to learn more about child care financial assistance.
  • Finally, many states have additional child care quality standards. These types of quality standards are often part of a state or community quality rating and improvement system (QRIS). These quality rating and improvement systems award child care programs with stars or other symbols for rating levels to indicate higher quality. Looking for a higher rating is a great way to find high quality care. Check to see if your state operates a quality rating and improvement system and if the providers you are considering are part of it. Click here to learn more about what is available in your state.

Quality standards such as those included in licensing and QRIS reflect what child care programs should be doing to provide safe, legal, and effective care and early learning services for your family. To learn more about what you should look for and questions you should ask when you are looking for a high-quality program use this tool.

In this section you will find the following pages: