The Day Care Guide: Day Care Options

Finding the right day care for you

Finding great day care is a task most parents find overwhelming. Day care can be provided by public or private institutions or by a single caregiver. They can be run out of centers or private homes. There are a wide variety of programs available, so narrowing down your choice (and finding one that has space for your child) can take some time. Taking a moment to assess the type of day care you need is the first step.

Day Care Center -- A day care center is defined as a facility, other than a private residence, receiving one or more preschool or school-aged children for care for periods of less than 24 hours a day and where the parents or guardians are not immediately available to the child. Usually a child can attend either full- or part-time, with extra hours sometimes available for parents who need to get to work early or leave work late. Centers must have a state health and safety license in order to operate. Many states also require other types of training, certifications, and licensing, such as background checks and CORI checks.

Family Child Care -- A family child care program is a private home in which fewer than seven minor children are received for care and supervision for periods of less than 24 hours a day. They are required to have a state health and safety license, but not all of them are in compliance. Be sure to ask about their license, background checks and CORI checks. Learn more about family child care.

Group Day Care Home -- A group day care home is a private home in which more than six, but not more than 12, minor children are given care and supervision for periods of less than 24 hours a day. Generally speaking, this is a type of home day care which accommodates more children than an average home day care. The number of staff should be higher, too. Home or family day cares are required to have a state health and safety license but not all of them are in compliance. Be sure to ask about their license, background checks, and CORI checks.

Co-op Day Care -- In a co-op, parents take turns participating in the various child care activities offered. Participation options (and obligations) can differ widely from one program to another. Be sure to ask the director exactly what's expected of you, should you enroll your child. In some case, parents may be required to simply accompany their child twice per year to lend the main teacher a hand. In others, the requirements may be much more demanding, such as monthly or weekly participation in class or regular help with special projects. Just be sure you're available to participate in the way the co-op requires. The advantages of co-ops are that required parent participation can help bring the cost of the day care down.

For help finding a day care center near you, use the Day Care Directory to search by ZIP code. 

Lisa Tabachnick Hotta writes about parenting and other issues for A freelance writer, editor and researcher, she has two young children.

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Comments (5)
Photo of Karen L.
Karen L.
In ohio a family child care home does not have to be licensed by anyone!
Posted: May 13, 2014 at 7:37 AM
Photo of Cathy R.
Cathy R.
Perhaps you could make a statement that says "the number of children in care varies by state". As it is now it is incorrect for Martland also.
Posted: May 13, 2014 at 7:36 AM
Posted: January 05, 2012 at 4:15 PM
kim huynh
how much does it cost and where is it located?
Posted: April 28, 2011 at 12:11 PM
Photo of Mrs L.
Mrs L.
The information here is incorrect (at least it is in California). A family/home day care is run in a private home, is still considered a "facility" and is licensed to provide care for 2-14 minor children. A group home is a live-in care facility.
-Cynthia (a San Bernardino Family Day Care Owner)
Posted: March 22, 2011 at 11:50 PM
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