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An Overview: The Different Types of Child Care

In Washington State, the Department of Early Learning licenses two types of care:

  • Family child care homes
  • Child care centers

Other licensed-exempt care options such as part-day preschools,care provided by family members and community recreation programs, are not regulated by the state. 

Both types of licensed care have similar rules and regulations for learning environments, education/training requirements and health and safety. Both are eligible to participate in Early Achievers, Washington's quality rating and improvement system. Watch the Early Achievers Video for Parents to understand the importance of quality early childhood programs.

Child Care Centers vary in size and typically care for children in multiple age-groups, from infants to school-age children.

  • Advantages - Centers can more easily cover staff absences and maintain class schedules.
  • Disadvantages- Some centers have high staff turnover, which may cause disruptions in classroom routines and interactions.


Family Child Care Homes typically offer child care for mixed-age groups in a person's home.

    • Advantages- Family child care homes provide small group settings and typically cost less than center-based care.These providers often offer more flexible hours.
    • Disadvantages - Family child care homes may close for staff absences.
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