Child Care OptionsThere are many different types of child care and early education programs.•Family Child Care means children are cared for in the home of the provider. Families choose this type of care because of the home setting, flexible hours, mix of ages and small group size. Providers may care for up to 10 children, depending on their ages.•Group Family Child Care offers the home setting of family child care for up to 14 children. With more than 12 children, two adults must be present.•Employer-Sponsored Family Child Care allows employers to offer child care under the licensing requirements of family child care. This type of program offers child care to 14 or fewer children at a location other than the provider's home.•Child Care Centers provide care for larger numbers of children for part or full day programs. Centers are organized to meet the needs of children and working families. They are usually open year round. Child Care Centers offer programs to a variety of age groups and vary in terms of educational philosophy, curriculum, costs and services.•Nursery School or Preschool Programs offer only part-time care, usually for children one to five years of age. The children have an opportunity to socialize with other children their own age and engage in a variety of organized activities.•Head Start is a child development program designed to promote the growth and development of children from low-income families. Children ages three to five years attend. Early Head Start provides learning and development services for families with children up to three. Both Head Start and Early Head Start may be provided in a center or home-based setting.•Drop-in Care programs provide short-term, back-up or immediate care for children.•Before & After School (School Age Care - SAC) Programs are usually located in schools, child care centers, family child care homes, churches or other settings that offer child care. These programs may or may not be licensed depending on their location. SAC programs usually provide child care to kindergarten through sixth grade children before and after school, during school vacations and summer breaks.•Sick Child Care services vary from a provider coming into the family’s home to care for a sick child, to a program within a hospital staffed by health care professionals. A few child care centers have “get well” rooms. Here children can rest and recover from a minor illness. Some child care homes will also care for sick children.•Special Needs arrangements can be found in all types of child care. Contact your local CCR&R agency for information about Early Childhood Special Education programs and services for your child.Licensed Child CareThe State of Minnesota licenses some types of child care to protect the health, safety and well being of children. There is one set of licensing rules for family child care homes and another set for child care centers.Child Care Licensing:Performs criminal background checks on family child care providers and anyone in their homes 13 years of age or older, and center staffInspects home and centers to identify and correct health and safety hazards Requires programs to serve well-balanced meals and snacks Requires children’s activities that are suitable for the age of the childRequires child care providers to take training classes to improve their knowledge and skillsSets minimum standards for the number of adults who must be present with groups of children.A license does not assure quality. A licensed child care provider is required to meet minimum standards. The quality of licensed programs can vary greatly. You should carefully screen all programs, whether licensed or not, to be sure it is the best one for your child.How to determine quality of care...Human Relationships: The Heart and Soul of QualityPositive relationships among the children, the child care teachers, the child care administrators and the parents are critical for children’s healthy development and education. In a quality program, teachers enjoy the children and will be responsive to a wide range of children’s needs, feelings, cultures and abilities. Teachers and caregivers in a quality program will serve as role models for the children in their care, and will also spend time developing positive relationships with the families, making it possible for busy parents to become engaged in their child’s program experience.Environment: Quality Happens HereThe environment of a quality program is spacious enough for the children to work and play without crowding, and is well organized with plenty of inviting areas to stimulate children’s exploration and involvement. Ask yourself the following:• Is the space arranged to allow a variety of age-appropriate activities to be going on at the same time without much disruption?• Does the space include adequate room for games and activities, creative arts, socializing, and for older school-age children, homework?• Are there displays of the children’s artwork and other pictures that are of interest to them?Since outdoor play and exploration time are also critical components of a quality program, be sure that outdoor areas are spacious, safe and adequate for all ages.Activities: Quality in ActionThe activities in a quality child care program are all about development, learning and fun. A quality program keeps thechildren engaged in activities that are reflective of the children’s interests and cultures, and will reflect the children’s developmental stages. For older youth who are coming from a very full and structured day of school, the time they spend in an after school program is very likely the least stressful part of their entire day. For this reason, the focus of quality school-age programs is on more relaxed recreational activities, where children can continue to learn in a more informal way, exploring their interests at their own pace. Ask yourself the following:• Are there activities designed to develop children’s social skills, as well as physical games and other activities that help develop physical coordination and growth?• And for older youth, are there informal activities designed to build their knowledge and understanding of the world around them?Safety and Health: Will My Child be Okay While I’m at Work?The safety and health of the children are top concerns of any quality program and can serve as an indicator for the general quality of the overall program. Ask yourself the following:• Are there obvious safety hazards in or around the area?• Is the equipment used by the children safe, clean and appropriate for the ages and abilities of the children using it?• Is a staff member who is trained in CPR and first aid always available? Is a basic first aid kit nearby at all times?• Are all emergency plans and procedures in place and is staff trained to respond appropriately to any possible emergencies?• Is there an appropriate number of staff for the number of children in the program?• Are procedures in place to screen visitors and to ensure that no one leaves with a child other than an approved adult?• Are snacks and other food served to the children nutritious and plentiful?To choose a quality child care ask the following questions...Are there opportunities . . .•To play quietly and actively, indoors and out?•To follow a schedule that meets young children's need for routine, but that is flexible enough to meet the needs of each child?•That help children learn new physical skills and control and exercise their muscles?•To learn to get along, and to share and respect themselves and others?•To crawl and explore safely?•To play with objects and toys that help infants to develop their senses of touch, sight, and hearing?•To take part in a variety of activities that are suited to toddlers' short attention span?•To play alone at times and with friends at other times?•To provide activities that encourage children to think things through?•What to ask . . .•What are your hours?•How long have you been providing child care?•Are you licensed/certified/registered?•How many children do you care for? What are their ages?•What is your vacation and illness policy?•What are your fees?•Do you participate in a food program?•What kinds of training or experience do you have?•What is your policy for giving medicine?•Do you smoke?•Do you have pets?•What are your discipline policies?•Please tell me what a typical day might be like for my child?•How do you handle emergencies?•Do you carry liability insurance?•Are children ever transported in a vehicle while in your care? If so, do you have a valid driver's license and how is your driving record?•Do you transport children in car seats?•Can parents "drop by" for a visit anytime?•What kind of feedback will you provide about my child at the end of each day?•What do you what to know about me and/or my partner and child?•Can you provide me with a list of references?Does the Child Care Provider . . .•Appear warm and friendly?•Seem calm and gentle?•Seems to feel good about herself and her job?•Have child-rearing attitudes and methods that are similar to yours?•Understand what children can and what to do at different stages of growth?•Encourage children to express themselves in creative ways?•Encourage good health habits?•Spend time holding, playing with, and talking to the babies?•Provide stimulation by pointing out things to look at, touch, and listen to?•Seem to have enough time to look after all the children under her care?•Provide care you can count on?Does the Setting have . . .•An up-to-date license?•A clean and comfortable look?•Enough space indoors and out, so all the children can move freely and safely?•Enough care providers for the number of children?•Furniture, equipment, and materials that are suitable for the ages of the children? Are they safe and in good repair?•An outdoor play area that is safe, fenced, and free of litter?•Nutritious meals and snacks with the kinds of food you want your child to eat?•A clean and safe place to change diapers?•Separate cribs and sheets for each baby in care?•Gates at the tops and bottoms of stairs?•A potty chair or special toilet seat in the bathroom?