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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, nanny and babysitting services in a child's home, care provided by family members, community recreation programs, some parent cooperatives and playgroups are not regulated by the state. 

Both types of licensed care have similar rules and regulations for the learning environment, the caregiver's/teacher's education and training and the health and safety rules.  Both types are eligible to participate on Washington State's Quality Rating Improvement System-. Early Achievers. Watch the video, Early Achievers Video for Parents, to understand the importance of quality early childhood programs. Print out the Early Achievers brochure.

Child Care Centers are located in a non-residential facility.  Children are typically grouped with same-age peers in groups or classrooms.  Some centers may have mixed age groups for parts of the day.  Office staff can help families with paper work and other administrative needs.

  • Advantages- Some centers can more easily cover staff absences for sickness, vacations and continuing education without disrupting care availability.  Because of larger groups families are able to observe their child interact with same-age peers regularly.
  • Disadvantages- Some centers may be less flexible when meeting the community's needs regarding non-standard hours, use of subsidies to help to pay for care and individual child and family needs.  High staff turnover may decrease a centers ability to offer stable, consistent care.


Family Child Care Homes offer child care for a mixed age group in a person's home.  Family child care homes often offer the flexibility to meet a child's and their family's needs.

  • Advantages- Family child care homes offer a small group setting where children can get more individualized care.  Family child care providers can be well connected to their community and offer learning environment that truly reflects the families enrolled.
  • Disadvantages- Without an administrative person to mediate, it is important to have clear communication with your child's care provider and teacher.  Family child care home programs may close for staff sickness, vacations or continuing education- check the Handbook for the policy regarding planned and unplanned closures.
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