Types of Care

Four parents holding up their infants all in a row

No two families are the same, so early care and education needs must be more than “one-size-fits-all”. 

Different types of early care and education provide a wide range of options to meet the individual goals and requirements of every family. Understanding the different types of programs available will help you make the best choice for your children.

Child Care Center and Programs

Child Care Centers care for larger numbers of children at a time in a non-residential setting. Centers usually group children by age and offer developmentally appropriate care and education for each age range. Licensed Child Care Centers meet state-mandated health and safety standards, staffing ratios, and staff education and training levels. Find child care and early learning programs near you. License-Exempt Child Care Centers include those operated by public or private schools, faith-based organizations, and colleges or universities. Since these settings are not licensed, they are not held to the same standards for health and safety, staff to child ratios, or group sizes as licensed centers.

Early Head Start and Head Start

Early Head Start and Head Start programs support the early care and education needs of families facing hardship during their children’s early years. These programs respond to each child and family’s unique ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage. Early Head Start and Head Start programs address issues of poverty and promote school readiness with resources to meet the family’s educational, health, nutritional, and social service needs. Early Head Start and Head Start programs have eligibility requirements and offer a low-cost option for early learning. To locate a program in your area, search this national list.

Family Child Care

Family Child Care programs are hosted in an early care and education provider’s home. This option creates a warm, home-like experience for children. The programs serve fewer children at a time, and often offer flexible hours. Licensed Family Child Care providers meet state requirements for health and safety which increase the number of children they can have in care. Find child care and early learning programs near you. License-Exempt Family Child Care providers care for even fewer children at once, and they are usually family, friends, or neighbors of the family. 

In Home Care

Some families may choose to hire someone to provide child care in the home. Examples of in-home care providers include nannies, relatives, or au pairs. This type of care is not regulated by state licensing standards.