Choosing Quality Child Care

Choosing care for your child is one of the hardest decisions you will make as a parent. Research now shows that the “quality” of the program you select can affect your child’s future success in school. Thus, when making choices about child care, it is important to fully understand your options, as well as the indicators of a successful experience for both you and your child.

Factors such as affordability and accessibility, as well as quality, will usually influence your final decision. Remember that the choice is yours. Trust your instincts and look for a program which offers the best “fit” or “match” with the needs of your family.


Regulated Care

Child Care Centers

  • Preschools
  • Nursery Schools
  • Before and After School Programs

Licensed Family Child Care Homes

  • Small Homes (up to six children)
  • Large Homes (up to twelve children with a helper)
  • School-Age Option (with special conditions, allows for a reduction of the number of infants served to accommodate more school-age children.)

Non-Regulated Care

“Trustline” is the California Registry of in-home child care providers who have passed a background check screening. All providers listed with Trustline have been cleared through a fingerprint check of records at the California Department of Justice. This means that they have no disqualifying criminal convictions or substantiated child-abuse reports in California. For more information about “Trustline”, call 1-800-822-8490 or go to

  • Nannies/Au Pairs:
    They are usually hired through “agencies” listed in the phone book and in parenting magazines. Nannies and Au Pairs work in the home of the children. Arrangements are made to meet your scheduling needs.
  • Babysitters:
    They are usually hired on an hourly basis to care for children in your home. In most cases, earnings from baby sitting are not the person’s primary source of support. Remember, employment law determines your responsibility as an employer.
  • One Family Child Care Providers:
    Regulations allow that a child care provider may care for the children from one family in the home of the provider without a license. As soon as a child from a second family is added, the facility must be licensed. This is a status often used by a child care provider who is in the process of applying for a license.
  • Kith and Kin Care:
    By far the most popular form of child care is when friends, family and /or relatives offer to help care for young children, especially when they are infants and toddlers. Kith and Kin care works best when you both share a similar parenting style and are comfortable talking about issues which may arise such as discipline, nutrition and attachment. Some parents find it difficult to talk about money with their friends and relatives, and run the risk of this form of care becoming unreliable and creating tensions in your relationship.
  • Play Groups:
    In California, the law allows parents to hire a babysitter or teacher to care for a group of children in the home(s) of the children in the group. Parents are responsible for meeting the minimum wage salary requirements, as well as providing for all legal benefits due an employee working in the home.
  • Recreation Programs:
    Summer programs and programs on elementary school sites some times are exempt from Licensing Regulations. In these cases, programs must meet specific guidelines, such as operating short term activity programs in which parents register their children for a specific period of time.


Taking the First Steps:

  • Always contact several child care providers.
  • Arrange an interview and visit preferably when the children are there.
  • If you make an appointment keep it. Child care providers have busy schedules and their time is valuable. If you find child care elsewhere, take a moment to phone and say, “I would like to cancel my appointment”.
  • Take your child with you to the interview.
  • Remember caring for your child will be a partnership. Let the provider know about your family, your concerns and expectations.
  • Ask questions. Find out how the provider feels about things that are important to you.
  • Ask for the names and phone numbers of other parents who have children in care. Recommendations from other parents are a good basis on which to make your decision.
  • Read and review the contract carefully with your provider, before you sign it.
  • Use our checklist to find and monitor the quality of the child care program.

Evaluating Your Visit:

  • Do you feel comfortable with the child care provider?
  • Do you and the provider agree on the general philosophy of raising children?
  • Were the provider’s rules and expectations clear? Are they compatible with your schedule and finances?
  • Did your child feel comfortable?
  • Did he/she like the other children?
  • Does he/she think it would be fun to go there?
  • Listen to your child’s opinion and feelings. Combine them with your feelings and then make your decision.

Choosing Care for Infants

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