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Choosing Quality Child Care

Care About Quality was published by the California Department of Education in 2000.
While the many choices and varying advice regarding child care may seem overwhelming, in the end your feelings will help you choose your provider.

Your local child care resource and referral (R&R) agency offers a wealth of information right at your fingertips—and it’s free. Child care resource and referral agencies are located in every county in California. Take a look at what resource and referral agencies offer.


Your local child care resource and referral agency is just a call away. By dialing 1-800-KIDS-793, you can get the phone number of your county’s resource and referral agency. Your local R&R will  help you take the first steps in finding quality child care.

Parent Tip

Research shows when your child receives high-quality child care, she has a better chance of success in school, academically and socially, and in life! Above all, measure quality child care by whether there is a warm, positive relationship between the child and the caregiver and whether there is a safe, healthy, and stimulating learning environment.

Taking the first steps in your decision

Parent Tip

One of the best sources in finding quality child care is through the resource and referral (R&R) agencies. These agencies provide child care referrals and a variety of information to all parents as well as the community about the availability of child care within all counties in California. The R&Rs also assist potential providers in the licensing process, offer information about training for caregivers, and promote quality services in early care and education programs.

The visit

A visit provides more information than any phone conversation. Make sure you visit while the provider is offering child care. Look around the child care facility or home:

Depending on the age of your child, there are several types of child care you may need to consider. The following provides a description of settings from infant to school-age child care.

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Infant and toddler care

When looking for quality care for infants and toddlers, look for a provider who seems to enjoy your child by talking and interacting with her in a warm, friendly way. It is important that your little one is included in activities but stays safe when around older children. Keep these questions in mind when looking for quality infant and toddler care:

Preschool care

Preschoolers need room to run, jump, climb, and socialize. Look for a provider that can expose your child to books, toys, art, music, and “share time,” which will help him prepare for school without pushing him too much.        

Find out:

School-age care

Quality school-age care offers a safe, friendly, and stimulating environment for older children when they are not in school. Children need to be supervised at all times. Indoor and outdoor activities should be stimulating and fun for this age group. School-age care also needs to be flexible to offer a program that meets the individual needs of children. Here are some questions to consider when looking for quality school-age care:

Other points to consider

Whether you are looking for infant, preschool, or school-age care, read the caregiver’s written policies and procedures. Determine when the program is closed and what the policy is for late pickup or illness. Check references. Talk with other parents who have children in the program. When you have narrowed down your choices, contact two important agencies that will help check on the past history of providers: your local Community Care Licensing and/or TrustLine. Visit the program at least twice, at different times of the day. Stay long enough to watch children switch from one activity to another. 

Making your choice

Before making your final choice, bring your child to visit the child care provider(s) or center. Watch:

Talk to the provider again and ask for written fee information.  If possible, enroll your child in the child care program a few days before returning to work to ensure a smooth transition.

Parent Tip

One indicator of quality is whether or not the child care center you are considering is accredited through a well-known organization called the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) External link opens in new window or tab.. If a child care center is working towards accreditation or a staff member is a member of this organization, it is more probable the provider is dedicated to giving your child good care. To learn more about NAEYC, or to find accredited early childhood programs, check out its Web site.

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Child Care Centers

Care About Quality Table of Contents

Questions:   Early Education and Support Division | 916-322-6233
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