How to Choose Childcare

Family Child Care

If you like the sound of a small group of children with one regular caregiver, then family child care could be for you. Care is provided at the caregiver’s residence and may include between two and ten kids, depending on their ages and state laws. Some parents believe kids feel more secure in a homey environment. With fewer children, your toddler will have less exposure to viruses. However, unless the caregiver has an assistant or lines up a replacement, you’ll be stuck when she takes a sick day or goes on vacation. Since family care providers typically work unsupervised, there is no system of checks and balances. And many states don’t require as much training for caregivers working in this scenario as they do for those in day care centers.

Safety check
Most states require family care providers supervising four or more non-relative children to be registered or licensed. But only half of all states inspect them annually, 27 states require comprehensive background checks, 17 states require a check on the sex offender registry and 40 states insist on formal training. For family providers with fewer than four kids, the regulation process is often voluntary. Bottom line: Don’t assume that that a care provider has had a full background check, fingerprinting, special training or inspections, even if they’re licensed.

What to look for
*A warm, kind and patient caregiver who has childrearing views similar to yours
*A bright, clean, safe environment with lots of toys, books and art supplies
*A safe, fenced-in area for outdoor play
*A current registration or license, inspection report and background checks for all adults who would be in contact with your child
*Accreditation by the National Family Child Care Association (

Red flags
*A caregiver without special training in early childhood education or current first aid and CPR certifications
*No written policies and procedures for emergencies, illnesses and discipline
*A “no drop-ins” policy for parents