Quality Child Care Counts - Tips for Parents & Caregivers

Finding Quality Child Care

Selecting a child care provider is one of the most important decisions you may have to make during your child's early years. After all, your child may spend a considerable amount of his or her time in child care. Before making a decision, it is important to find out as much as possible about all the different child care options available to you.

At First 5 California our goal is to make sure that parents have the information they need to make the right child care choice for their children and families. In this site you will find:

  1. A description of the different types of child care options available
  2. Tips on what to look for in a child care center or provider
  3. Resources available to help you make an informed decision

Licensed Child Care

Family Child Care Homes This type of care takes place in the caregiver's home, and:

  • Requires that the caregiver be licensed by the state
  • Often has flexible hours of operation
  • Must know CPR and enroll in health and safety classes
  • Has children of different ages

Child Care Centers More like a preschool, these facilities are usually bigger in space and may be more structured than family child care homes. This type of care:

  • Requires that the center be licensed by the state
  • Teachers must meet certain qualifications
  • Can be operated by a school, individual, business, church or private agency
  • Has certain hours of operation
  • May group children according to their ages

Unlicensed Child Care:

In-Home Care This type of care takes place in your home when a friend, relative, babysitter or nanny looks after your child.

Exempt Care The provider may only care for children from one family. Once a provider cares for children from more than one family they must be licensed.

What to Look For In a Child Care Center

If you decide that a Child Care Center or Family Child Care Home will best suit your needs, here are some things to consider when making your decision:

  • Referrals: Get a list of other parents that use a specific type of care and call them to ask their opinion.
  • Research: Ask for DMV records if they are going to be driving your children.
  • Instincts: Hire someone you and your child both like.

Before making a decision, plan to visit any site while children are there. A few things to look for include:

  • How does the staff interact with the children?
  • Is there plenty of playtime and interesting activities for children to participate in?
  • How clean and safe are the facilities?
  • Does the facility have the right equipment? There should be places for your child to have quiet time, read, build with blocks, do puzzles, put on dress up clothes, play outside, etc.

When talking with the staff, you should ask these questions:

  • Is the center/provider licensed by the state?
  • How many children is each caregiver responsible for?
  • How do they discipline the children? Hitting, yelling or shaking babies and children is unacceptable at all times.
  • Do the teachers have training in early learning or child development, including college courses or degrees?
  • How do they cope with emergencies?
    • Is the staff trained in CPR?
    • How do they deal with ill children?
  • How experienced is the staff?
    • How long have they been working with children?
    • Find out what they like about working with children.
  • Can you visit anytime?
  • Once you make a decision, communicate with your provider about your child and his or her daily activities EVERYDAY.


Regardless of the type of care you decide is best suited for your child, you should find out everything you can about the person(s) providing the care. A good way to do this is to contact their references to get an honest opinion about these individuals.

You can also do a "background check" on child care providers by calling TrustLine at 1-800-822-8490. Trustline is a place where child care providers can register. When they do this, it helps you to know that they can be trusted. Providers who register with TrustLine must provide their fingerprints, must not have any problems with crime and may be checked by the FBI. For providers who are licensed and licensed centers, you can call Community Care Licensing to find out if any complaints have been made about the provider. The state number is (916) 324-4031 and they can refer you to your local agency.

To get referrals for quality child care centers in your area (both centers and family-based) call the California Resource and Referral Network at 1-800-543-7793 or visit www.rrnetwork.org.