Last month was the National Child Abuse Prevention Month, so it is an appropriate time to talk about child care: child care options, how to choose a child care facility, national and state regulations, abuse/neglect, and common injuries. Just like the elderly, children represent a vulnerable population, requiring special regulations, protections, and oversight. (See “Children in Day Care Are Susceptible to Many of the Same Problems Our Elderly Nursing Home Patients Encounter
Child Care Options
Child Care is the regular, supervised, and paid care of children. In the United States, there are over 335,000 licensed child care facilities (state comparison of type and number of licensed facilities). There are a variety of child care options available for families:
- Child Care Centers – These are nonresidential facilities that provide care to children typically in classrooms of children in different age groups. Some states have licensing requirements including minimum number of children and minimum number of hours the facility operates.
- Family Child Care or Day Care Home/Group Day Care Home – These are residential facilities where child care is usually provided in care provider’s residence. Typically, one child care provider cares for a small number of children. States have different definitions for this type of facility based on number of children.
- Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care – This is a situation where a relative, friend, neighbor, or other adult provides care in either the child’s home or their own home.
- Nanny/Au Pair – This is a setup where the family hires one person to either come to the child’s home or actually live in the child’s home.
Early education programs can also provide an alternative to traditional child care options. They focus on school readiness and work on developing a child’s social, emotional, physical, intellectual, speech and language development with a variety of activities. Early education programs include:
- Early Head Start(EHS) – This is a federally funded, community-based program for low-income families with infants and toddlers. It provides child development programs through EHS center-based programs, home-visit programs, or a combination of the two. (Head Start Locator)
- Head Start – This is the same as Early Head Start Programs, but is intended for children 3-5 years old. The focus of Head Start is school readiness of young children from low-income families (family income is at or below the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines).
- State-funded prekindergarten programs – Some States actually fund prekindergarten programs for children 3-4 years old in order to give them the experiences they need to be ready for kindergarten.
The Survey of Income and Program Participation collected information about child care arrangements for children younger than 15 years. The following table shows the percentage distribution of the primary child care arrangement.
|Sibling or other relative||
|Organized Care Facility||
|Day care center||
|Nursery or preschool||
|Other Nonrelative Care||
|In child’s home||
|In provider’s home||
|Family day care||
|No regular arrangement||
Choosing a Child Care Facility
Choosing a high-quality day care facility is very important because you are entrusting that facility with your child’s safety and well-being. It is important that you feel comfortable with your child’s day care facility. Otherwise, you will spend the time that day care frees up worrying about your child. (See “Trust Your Instinct When Placing a Child in Daycare with Potential Hazards.
There are specific qualities you should look for when choosing a day care facility:
- Adult caregivers with training or experience in child development
- A warm, nurturing, developmentally appropriate, and intellectually stimulating environment
- Small child to staff ratios with consistent, long-term adult caregivers
- Good parent-staff communication
Child Care Aware recommends five steps to choosing safe and healthy child care:
- Start Early – Start looking at child care options early, so you can do research and take your time in choosing an appropriate facility.
- Make a Call – You can call your local child care resource and referral (CCR&R) agency to learn information about the availability of child care in your area and help you choose a quality child care program that meets regulatory standards as well as your personal needs.
- You can also contact your State’s child care licensing agency to find out whether a complaint has been filed against a regulated child care program
- Visit and Ask Questions