Choosing High-Quality Family Child Care
Family child care homes play an important role in the child care system. Often families choose family child care because they offer families a home-based environment, the accommodation of nontraditional and flexible hours, mixed age groups in a smaller group setting and convenient care located in the neighborhoods where families live.
Family child care homes and other types of home-based providers fall under different regulations in every state. In New Jersey, family child care providers are not required to be licensed, but they may voluntarily register with the state after meeting health, safety and training requirements set forth by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), Office of Licensing. The registration process for family child care providers is managed by each county child care resource and referral (CCR&R) agency.
CCR&R agencies also support families in understanding and accessing child care in their community by providing child care referrals to all types of available child care options, including family child care. A family’s child care choice is one of the most important decisions a family will make, and CCR&R staff will provide a list of referrals personalized to a family’s needs and preferences, including checklists for evaluating high-quality child care.
When visiting a family child care home, families can evaluate family child care by assessing whether the program meets health and safety standards, and meet other indicators of a high-quality child care program by touring the home and using a checklist that asks questions including, but not limited to:
- Asking to see the provider’s Certificate of Registration and how many caregivers are present during the day, including the ratio of adults and children.
- Whether children are supervised at all times, both indoors and outdoors and even while sleeping.
- If all caregivers have met all of their mandated training requirements, including valid First Aid and CPR certification.
- If the provider makes handwashing a regular part of the program’s practices including before eating and after using the bathrooms and/or before and after diapering?
- Whether the provider serves snacks and meals that meet nutritional standards and/or is enrolled in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).
- If the home is free of hazards and whether the program has an emergency plan in place for all types of emergencies including, but not limited to natural disasters or for an injured or sick child.
- If parent and provider communication is incorporated into the program to discuss daily activities, parental involvement and the family’s culture and values.
All families have unique and specific needs to determine the child care setting that is best for their family. There may be additional questions that a family may want to ask and families can contact their local CCR&R to get additional information about how to assess high-quality child care. You can access a Family Child Care Checklist from Child Care Aware of America that lists specific questions you can ask when touring a family child home. If you want more information about local child care options, including family child care homes, you can find your local CCR&R agency by going to ChildCareNJ.