Choosing Child Care Options
There are many types of child care programs in New York State. Quality programs provide care in a warm, safe and friendly setting. Quality programs provide activities that help children learn and develop. No one type of program is necessarily better that any other type of program. You are the best judge of which program will meet your needs and your child's needs.
Local Agencies That Can Help
The State Office of Children and Family Services funds Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (CCRR). These agencies help parents find quality day care programs. CCRR's serve almost every county in the state. Consult our CCRR Directory to find the number of a CCRR in your area.
Programs You Can Choose From
Listed below are brief descriptions of common types of child care programs in New York State. Each program is regulated by the state Office of Children and Family Services, except New York City-based day care centers, which are regulated by the New York City Department of Health.
Day Care Centers - provide care for more than six children at a time, not in a personal residence.
Small Day Care Centers - provide care for up to six children, not in a personal residence.
Family Day Care Homes - provide care for three to six children at a time in a residence; may add one or two school-age children. The maximum allowable number of children will depend on whether there are and how many infants are in care.
Group Family Day Care Homes - provide care for seven to twelve children at a time in a residence; may add one or two school-age children. The maximum allowable number of children will depend on whether there are and how many infants are in care. A provider must use an assistant when more than six children are present.
*Each of the programs listed above can serve children ages six weeks through twelve years and operate for more than three hours a day.
School-Age Child Care Programs - provide care for more than six children from kindergarten through age twelve. Care for children during non-school hours; also may provide care during school vacation periods and holidays.
Other forms of legal child care include:
Nursery Schools - provide care for three hours a day or less. In New York City, the City Department of Health regulates these programs. A nursery school may voluntarily register with the State Education Department (SED).
Pre-Kindergartens - usually located in public schools, but can also be found in private schools or day care centers; supervised by the SED.
Head Start Centers - targeted for preschool-age children from low income families; federally funded and usually licensed as Day Care Centers.
Non-regulated/Informal Care – is home-based care for one to two children at a time in addition to the provider's children; are not required to register.
There is no absolute guarantee of quality in child care programs. However, several factors help to assure high quality care in regulated programs:
Parent Involvement - As a parent, you are a key to quality child care. You have the right to drop in at any time to observe the program or to see your child. You will probably see the provider often and have a good idea of how things are going in the program.
Adult-Child Ratios - Regulated programs must limit the number of children each adult cares for based on standards set in the regulations. These standards help to ensure that children are properly supervised and get all the attention they need.
Training and Experience - Regulated child care providers must have prior experience caring for children and must receive ongoing training in areas such as safety, nutrition, and child abuse prevention.
Regulation and Oversight - Programs regulated by the State Office of Children and Family Services must be licensed or registered. With only a few exceptions, every program that cares for more than two children three hours or more per day must have a license or registration certificate. When you visit a regulated child care facility, ask to see the license or registration certificate.
Inspections - Every licensed child care program must be inspected at least once before each license renewal. At least 50% of all registered providers are inspected annually.
Complaints - The state Office of Children & Family Services (OCFS) maintains a statewide, toll-free Child Care Complaint Line at 1-800-732-5207. Anyone can file a complaint of a possible regulatory violation in a day care program by calling this number or the nearest regional OCFS office. Residents in New York City can make a complaint by calling 311 or (646) 632-6101.
If you would like more information about selecting quality child care, CALL 1-800-345-KIDS to order a copy of As you think about child care... / Cuando piense en los servicios de cuidado infantil... or if you have additional questions about day care, consult our CCRR Directory to find the number of a CCRR in your area.
As you think about child care... / Cuando piense en los servicios de cuidado infantil... - If you're thinking about putting your child in day care, this brochure will help you ask the right questions.
Kieran's Law Brochure - English / La Ley de Kieran - Español (PDF) - On October 27, 1998, Kieran's Law took effect, allowing parents and guardians of children to access New York State criminal history information about potential in-house caregivers - sometimes referred to as nannies - they are considering hiring. Kieran's Law applies only to caregivers who provide child care in the child's home for 15 hours or more per week.
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