The Landscape:
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 and activities that help children learn and develop. No one type of program is necessarily better than any other type of program. You are the best judge of which program will meet your family's and child's needs.

Families have options for choosing regulated early care and education programs. Regulated programs and providers exist in many forms, giving families the choice to decide which type offers the best fit.

Click on the program options below to learn more about each

Regulated Care
 
Unregulated Care
 
Why choose a regulated program?
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The Benefits of Regulated Programs

QUALITYstarsNY urges families to choose licensed and regulated programs before any other considerations.

While licensed care does not guarantee quality, it does provide a basic level of protection for all children.

Regulated programs and providers:

  • Are inspected regularly
  • Meet ongoing professional development requirements
  • Have first aid and CPR training
  • Undergo criminal background checks for all program staff
  • Follow city and state guidelines about:
    • staff-to-child ratios;
    • safe indoor and outdoor play areas;
    • food preparation/handling;
    • and storing medicine, cleaning supplies and other toxins.

Not Eligible to Participate in QUALITYstarsNY

Centers &
Public Schools


  • Child Care Centers
  • Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK)
  • Programs
  • Head Start/Early Head Start
  • Registered Nursery School
  • Special education preschool
  • Early Intervention Programs

Family
Child Care Homes


  • Family Day Care Home
  • Group Family Day Care Home

Unregulated or
"Informal" Child Care


  • "Legally Exempt" Child Care: Relatives, Friends, neighbors
  • In-home caregivers: Nannies, Baby sitters and Au Pairs

Key Differences in Child Care Options

  • Regulated/Licensed vs. Unregulated
  • *
  • Number of adults per child (ratio)
  • *
  • Required teacher qualifications & experience
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  • Background checks
  • *
  • Setting
  • *
  • Cost
  • *
  • Age of children served
  • *
  • Financial Eligibility
  • *

Click on each child care option below for more details.

Center-based Child Care

Center-based child care is referred to by several names, including day care center, child care center, and early childhood program. Center-based child care programs often provide a full day of care, generally from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Age Eligibility

Birth - 6 years

Financial Eligibility

Varies

Cost

Varies


Regulatory Information: NYS Child Care Center Regulations | NYC Child Care Center Regulations


School-age Child Care

Provides care for children in Kindergarten and beyond, typically in a school or commercial facility

Age Eligibility

Kindergarten - 12 years

Financial Eligibility

Varies

Cost

Varies


Regulatory Information: NYS School-age Child Care Regulations


Registered Nursery School

Provides care for children in a center-based program for part of the day, typically less than 3 hours.

Age Eligibility

Birth - 6 years

Financial Eligibility

Varies

Cost

Varies


Regulatory Information: NYSED Registered Nursery School Regulations


Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK)

UPK programs provide developmentally appropriate activities to 4-year-olds during the school year to help prepare them for Kindergarten and first grade. UPK programs are offered primarily in public schools and community based organizations (CBOs). Some offer part day care (2.5 hours), while others offer full day care

Age Eligibility

4 year olds

Financial Eligibility

Varies

Cost

Free


Regulatory Information: NY Universal Pre-K Regulations


Head Start

Head Start programs promote school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services for enrolled children and families. They engage parents in their children?s learning and help them in making progress toward their educational, literacy and employment goals. Significant emphasis is placed on the involvement of parents in the administration of local Head Start programs.

Age Eligibility

3-5 years

Financial Eligibility

A child from birth to age five or a pregnant woman is income eligible for Head Start if the family income is determined to be below the income figures published annually by the federal government as the Poverty Guidelines.

Cost

Free


Regulatory Information: Head Start Program Performance Standards and Regulations


Early Head Start

Early Head Start is a year-round program that provides services for pregnant women and for children from birth through age three and their families. Early Head Start children and their families receive: High-quality early childhood education in a warm and nurturing relationship-based environment, Parent education and engagement, Health and mental health services or referrals, including prenatal education ? Nutrition education ? Family support services

Age Eligibility

Birth -3 years, or a pregnant woman

Financial Eligibility

A child from birth to age five or a pregnant woman is income eligible for Head Start if the family income is determined to be below the income figures published annually by the federal government as the Poverty Guidelines.

Cost

Free


Regulatory Information: Early Head Start Program Performance Standards and Regulations


Early Intervention Program (EIP)

EIP offer a variety of therapeutic and support services to children with confirmed disabilities or established developmental cognitive, physical, communication, socio-emotional, or adaptive delays as defined by the state. EIP services can be provided anywhere in the community, from your home to a library or early childhood center.

Age Eligibility

Under 3 years of age. Child must have a confirmed disability or established developmental delay, as defined by the State, in one or more of the following areas of development: physical, cognitive, communication, social-emotional, and/or adaptive.

Financial Eligibility

N/A

Cost

Free


Regulatory Information: EIP Regulations


Special Education Preschool

The New York State Education Department (SED), Office of Special Education oversees a statewide preschool special education program with school districts, municipalities, approved providers and parents. Evaluations and specially planned individual or group instructional services or programs are provided to eligible children who have a disability that affects their learning. Funding for these special education programs and services is provided by municipalities and the State.

Age Eligibility

children age 3-5

Financial Eligibility

Need based

Cost

Free


Regulatory Information: Special Education Preschools Regulations


Family Day Care Home

Family child care is an on-going arrangement in which child care is provided in someone's home on a regular basis. Family Cay Care Home providers can care for three to six children at a time in a residence for 3 or more hours/day.

Age Eligibility

6 weeks - 12 years

Financial Eligibility

Varies

Cost

Varies


Regulatory Information: Family Day Care Home Regulations


Group Family Day Care Homes

Provides care for seven to twelve children at a time in a residence; for 3 or more hours/day.

Age Eligibility

6 weeks - 12 years

Financial Eligibility

Varies

Cost

Varies


Regulatory Information: Group Family Day Care Home Regulations


"Legally Exempt" Child Care

Sometimes referred to as "informal" child care, legally exempt care is usually provided to to one or two non-related children, or to one or more closely related children, by friends, family members or neighbors. Legally exempt providers

Age Eligibility

N/A

Financial Eligibility

For a family to receive subsidized child care services, the family must meet specific financial and social eligibility criteria that are determined by federal, state, and local regulations. In NYC, families must make an appointment by calling 311 and appear at an eligibility interview at the Administration for Children's Services child care office in their borough.

Cost

Free


Regulatory Information: Unregulated


In-home caregivers

In-home care is provided by an individual that you employ to work in your home. Caregivers are available to either "live-in" in your home or "live out" and come to your home each day. Individuals working in this capacity do not receive subsidies and are typically referred to as nanny, housekeeper, au pair, in-home care provider, or babysitter.

Age Eligibility

N/A

Financial Eligibility

N/A

Cost

Varies


Regulatory Information: Unregulated