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Quality child care that offers safe and positive experiences can help support your child’s development and school readiness. Choosing the right child care for your family can be one of the hardest decisions your family will make.
Your local child care resource & referral agency (CCR&R) can help you with your child care search. They can refer you to programs that meet your family’s needs. Your local CCR&R can also assist you if you need help paying for your child care.
Finding the right child care takes time and effort. You will want to think about your child’s changing needs as he or she grows and develops. Take time to look around and be prepared to ask questions. Start early! The more time you have the better.
7 Steps in your child care search
1. The first steps of your child care search
- Learn about the types of child care that are available to you.
- Do you want a center-based setting or a home-based setting?
- Do you want care that is licensed or license exempt?
- Figure out how much you can afford to pay for child care.
- Do you need help paying for your child care?
- Do you qualify for child care assistance?
- Think about:
- What is the best location for you? Is it near your home, your child’s school, or your work or school?
- What hours of operation do you need? Don’t forget your travel time.
- Do you want your child to be with lots of children or a few children?
- What activities for children and services for parents would you like the provider to offer?
2. Contact your local child care resource and referral agency (CCR&R)
- You can talk with your CCR&R about the questions listed above.
- The CCR&R will ask questions about you and your child’s needs and refer you to child care providers based on your needs.
- You can ask your CCR&R questions about these providers, such as do they offer meals or transportation, are they involved in quality improvement and professional development, how do you find out about their licensing reports.
- CCR&Rs will assist you if you need help paying for your child care.
- People you know and trust might also give you recommendations for child care providers.
3. Search for child care online using My Child Care Plan
- Use My Child Care Plan if you prefer to search online or if you are only able to search for child care at night or on the weekend.
- You can always talk with your CCR&R before or after your online search.
4. Call the providers to see if they might be a match for your family
Here are some questions to ask them. The CCR&R might have already answered some of these questions for you.
- Do you have space for my child?
- What are your hours of operation?
- Where are you located?
- What do you charge?
- Are there any discounts or scholarships available?
- Can you provide parent references?
- Do you provide meals?
- Do you provide transportation?
- What are the activities for the children?
- What services do you offer families?
5. Check the licensing records for complaints and citations for the providers who might be a match
You can check their licensing records in different ways:
- Call Community Care Licensing (CCL) at 1-844-LET-US-NO to review the records over the phone.
- You can make an appointment to look at the licensing information at your local Regional Office.
- You can use the on-line CCL Facility Search to review the records.
- You can also ask the family child care home provider or the center director to see their licensing records if you visit the provider. By law, they must show you all their licensing information for the past three years.
6. Visit the providers who might be a match. Look around and talk with the provider/center staff.
Here are some things to observe and think about:
- Does the home or center look healthy and safe? Is it clean? How does it smell?
- Do you like the environment such as the toys, equipment, and books? Are there enough materials for all of the children?
- Do you like the meals and snacks? If you do not see a meal served, ask about the menu and how the food is stored and prepared.
- Do the children look happy? Are they playing and talking with each other?
- Do you like the way the provider/teachers are talking and acting with the children? Do you see a lot of child and adult interaction?
- Do you like the program and services it offers your child and your family?
- Do you like their policies, such as how you pay, how much notice time you must give if you want to change your child care, and what happens if you are late picking up your child?
- Do you like and feel comfortable with the provider/teachers?
7. Visit the provider with your child:
Before you make your final decision and sign a contract, make an appointment to come by for a meet and greet with your child. Observe your child’s reactions to the child care provider/teachers and setting.
Resources to help you with your child care search
- For a list of questions to consider at each stage of your child care search, visit our Child Care Interview Questions article.
- We encourage you to contact your local child care resource and referral agency. Your CCR&R knows about the child care in your community. They can give you more information than you get on-line. They can also assist you if you need help paying for your child care.
- The Community Care Licensing website has a lot of information for parents about choosing child care.
- Watch this great video from Community Care Licensing on choosing child care.
- Child Care Aware, a national organization focusing on child care, has helpful information on choosing child care.
Child Care Aware has helpful information on budgeting for your child care, such a Family Monthly Budget Template and links to other sites that can assist with financial education.