Child Care Center Area

Family child care homes are known by many different names. Depending on where you live and the regulations in your state, you may see them called any the following names:

  • Licensed child care homes

  • Licensed group family child care homes

  • Legally exempt or license-exempt homes

  • Certified child care homes

  • Registered child care homes

  • Family, friend, and neighbor care

In this type of child care arrangement, providers care for small groups of children in a residential building—a house, apartment, or condo unit. Depending on the regulations in your state, this may or may not be the same home that the provider lives in.

A family child care home may be classified as large or small, depending on how many children are cared for. The number of infants and toddlers that can be cared for in a family child care home is often limited.

Depending on the rules in your state, family child care providers may or may not be required to be licensed. Licensed providers are required to follow a set of basic health and safety requirements. Licensing agency staff visit family child care homes regularly to make sure they are meeting these health and safety requirements. These licensing inspections are an important safety check.

Use the See Your State's Resources feature on the website to find the licensing agency and a provider inspection reports for your state. Select the state where you live and click the Submit button. You will have access to a wide variety of child care information for your specific state including “Inspection Reports” and “Child Care Licensing” under the Understanding and Finding Child Care section.

The question of whether a family child care provider is required to be licensed or is license exempt often depends on the number of children the provider cares for. For example, some states require family child care homes to be licensed if they care for more than one child who is not related to the provider. Some states don’t require any regulations unless the provider is caring for six or more children.

Some license-exempt providers must follow a set of health and safety requirements and be monitored regularly, though the requirements for license-exempt providers are usually less strict than those for licensed providers.

License-exempt family child care providers are often also called family, friend, and neighbor care. Family, friend, and neighbor care is provided in the caregiver’s home by a person who is a relative, friend, or neighbor.

You can search for detailed information about providers in your state and find more information about your state’s child care requirements by using the See Your State's Resources feature on this website, select your state under “Get Child Care Resources” which will give you access to a wide variety of child care information for your specific state. You will then have access the “Inspection Reports” and “Child Care Regulations” information for your state.

Tips for Choosing This Type of Care

Little Girl Playing in Kitchen

  • When visiting a family child care provider, ask to see a copy of the program’s license, registration or certification, and inspection history.

  • Most states post inspection reports online. Use the See Your State's Resources feature on this website to see inspection reports of child care providers you are considering. These reports provide valuable information about the quality of child care programs. Check them before you select a program and regularly while your child is enrolled.

  • Confirm that every adult living, working, or volunteering in the family child care home has had a comprehensive background check.

  • Family child care providers may or may not hire additional staff to work in the child care home. Ask your provider about the number of adults present while your child is there, and make sure that each staff person has received training on important health and safety topics such as first aid and CPR, safe sleep, giving children medication, and child development. Learn more about the 12 health and safety trainings that all adults caring for children should have.

  • Ask about information and activities provided for parents. Ask if the program provides opportunities for parents to learn about how their children are doing or talk about their children’s progress.

  • Many family child care providers offer rich learning environments. Ask your provider to explain the types of activities they have planned and how those activities support your child’s learning.

  • Make sure that the provider’s policies and opinions on discipline, supervision, safe sleep, nutrition, child development, and learning align with what you want for your child.

  • Get a copy of the provider’s policies and contract. These documents should cover important topics, including hours of operation, rates, fees, field trip permission slips, transportation agreements, and absence policies. Read more about recommended items that should be included in a child care contract.

  • Print a list of questions and things to look for that you can take with you when visiting a potential child care program.

Why Families Choose This Type of Care

Many families choose family child care homes because they like the family environment and the smaller number of children. Home-based programs provide a consistent caregiver for your child and may offer flexible hours if you need care in the evenings or weekends. Families with multiple children also like that siblings are cared for together rather than separated into different age groups. Family child care homes are often less expensive than center-based child care programs, but rates within your community may vary.


This text has been adapted from content originally created by Child Care Aware of America Grant #90LH002 for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Child Care (OCC).