Licensed Childcare Options
Finding the best kind of care for your child can be a challenge. Your choice will depend on your needs and the needs of your child. There are a variety of licensed childcare options available depending on the age of your child and whether he or she is special needs. Here's an overview of the most common options. Keep in mind, regardless of whether a daycare is licensed or unlicensed, it's important to look for the experience of the caregivers, their education and the group size of the daycare.
Find a Licensed Daycare
Some daycares prominently advertise that they're licensed. Others don't. If you're unsure, ask the supervisor for proof of licensing. Every daycare in good standing will be happy to provide you with this information.
You can also find licensed daycares from the regulating agency in your state or country. In the United States this is usually the Department of Social Services or the Department of Family and Protective Services. Some agencies have information about which daycares are licensed on their website. If this information isn't available online, you can phone the regulatory agency and ask about a particular daycare you're considering sending your child to. Or you can simply ask for the names of licensed daycares in your area and if any are accepting applications. The regulatory agency might be able to provide you with information about the length of the waiting list and your chances of getting a space.
Infant and Toddler Daycare
Licensed infant and toddler daycare requires that the provider (home-based or otherwise) meets a specific set of regulations. The caregivers are also required to undergo training and home inspections. Standards that must be met by licensed infant and toddler daycares include discipline regulations, outdoor and indoor play spaces, home safety regulations, CORI check, nutritional meals, and a limited number of infants and toddlers per caregiver. Caregivers are required to have a physical examination, background check and a mandatory number of hours in early child care training.
This is different from preschool. In a daycare setting, children are cared for four or more hours consequently, while in a preschool children are usually in the establishment for two to three hours. Regulations for a licensed preschool daycare are similar to those of a licensed infant and toddler daycare.
School Age Childcare
Guidelines vary from state to state. Some general guidelines most states follow are that all caregivers need to be at least 18-years-old and have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate. Licensed school age childcare often requires caregivers to have a specific amount of documented hours (for example 540 hours) working with a specific age group.