How old is your child?

If you need regular child care before your child is 6 weeks old, your best options may be a neighbor or relative or a nanny or other individual who comes into your home. Most center-based and family child care programs do not accept children younger than 6 weeks old.

You are looking for an infant program. Be sure to look for a program that individualizes feeding and nap schedules based on your baby’s specific needs. Some of the options for infant care may include:

  • Child care centers (including private for-profit, not-for-profit, faith-based, and University centers)
  • Family child care homes
  • Group child care homes
  • Early Head Start
  • Even Start
  • Neighbors or relatives
  • Nannies or other in-home caregivers

You are looking for a toddler program. Some center programs may separate younger toddlers from older ones, or have separate classes for one-year-olds and two-year-olds. Look for a program that gives your growing toddler lots of time to run and play, and doesn’t expect her to sit quietly and listen for long periods of time. Some of the options for toddler care may include:

  • Child care centers (including private for-profit, not-for-profit, faith-based, and University centers)
  • Family child care homes
  • Group child care homes
  • Half-day Mother’s Morning Out programs
  • Early Head Start
  • Even Start
  • Neighbors or relatives
  • Nannies or other in-home caregivers

You are looking for a preschool program. When your child reaches age 3, his language and social skills are growing, he is eagerly exploring his world, and he may be excited about preschool. Look for a program that is child-centered and encourages lots of hands-on exploration through play. Some of the options for 3-year-olds may include:

  • Child care centers (including private for-profit, not-for-profit, faith-based, and University centers)
  • Family child care homes
  • Group child care homes
  • Half-day Mother’s Morning Out programs
  • Half-day preschool programs
  • Head Start
  • Neighbors or relatives
  • Nannies or other in-home caregivers

You are looking for a preschool or pre-kindergarten program. Your four-year-old may be very independent and self-confident, enjoy playing with others, and better able to sit still for longer periods. But she still learns best through active play, and needs plenty of time to explore both indoors and outside. The Georgia pre-kindergarten program is available free for many 4-year-olds, and usually meets during traditional school hours. Many child care providers also have extended-day programs, for a fee, for children who need to arrive early or stay late. Some of the options for 4-year-olds may include:

  • Lottery-funded pre-kindergarten programs (in child care centers or elementary schools)
  • Child care centers (including private for-profit, not-for-profit, faith-based, and University centers)
  • Family child care homes
  • Group child care homes
  • Half-day Mother’s Morning Out programs
  • Half-day preschool programs
  • Head Start
  • Neighbors or relatives
  • Nannies or other in-home caregivers

You are looking for a preschool or pre-kindergarten program. Your five-year-old is getting ready to start kindergarten next year, but still learns best through active play, and needs plenty of time to explore both indoors and outside. The Georgia pre-kindergarten program is available for children who are still 4 years old on September 1 of the current school year, and usually meets during traditional school hours. Many child care providers also have extended-day programs, for a fee, for children who need to arrive early or stay late. Many other programs also offer quality care and education for 5-year-olds who have not started kindergarten. Options include:

  • Lottery-funded pre-kindergarten programs (in child care centers or elementary schools)
  • Child care centers (including private for-profit, not-for-profit, faith-based, and University centers)
  • Family child care homes
  • Group child care homes
  • Half-day Mother’s Morning Out programs
  • Half-day preschool programs
  • Neighbors or relatives
  • Nannies or other in-home caregivers

Your 5-year-old is learning so many new things in kindergarten, but you also want to be sure she is safe and happy before and after school. You are looking for either before-school care, after-school care, or a combination of both. Child care centers, not-for-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, and some elementary schools offer formal out-of-school programs, and some families enroll children in enrichment programs after school. Some programs also offer special full-day activities on school release days. Options for 5-year-olds when they are not in kindergarten may include:

  • Child care centers (including private for-profit, not-for-profit, faith-based, and University centers)
  • School-based before and after school programs
  • Before and after school programs at local recreation centers, YMCAs, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, faith-based organizations, etc.
  • Informal enrichment activities (including sports, music, art, dance, 4H, scout troops, etc.)
  • Family child care homes
  • Group child care homes
  • Neighbors or relatives
  • Nannies or other in-home caregivers

Your growing elementary schooler is becoming more independent, but you still want to be sure he’s safe, well-supervised, and engaged during out-of-school hours. You are looking for either before-school care, after-school care, or a combination of both. Child care centers, not-for-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, and some elementary schools offer formal out-of-school programs, and some families enroll children in enrichment programs after school. Some programs also offer special full-day activities on school release days. Out-of-school options for 6- to 12-year-olds may include:

  • Child care centers (including private for-profit, not-for-profit, faith-based, and University centers)
  • School-based before and after school programs
  • Before and after school programs at local recreation centers, YMCAs, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, faith-based organizations, etc.
  • Informal enrichment activities (including sports, music, art, dance, 4H, scout troops, etc.)
  • Family child care homes
  • Group child care homes
  • Neighbors or relatives
  • Nannies or other in-home caregivers

What hours do you need child care?

Most child care programs in child care centers, group child care homes, and family child care homes operate during daytime hours. The specific hours of operation will vary among programs, so be sure you ask what time they open and close. Be aware that many programs charge stiff late fees if you pick up your child after the program closes. Informal caregivers such as neighbors or family members may also be able to provide care during daytime hours. If you are enrolling a 4-year-old in the Georgia lottery-funded pre-kindergarten program, be aware that program hours are similar to those of public schools. Many pre-k programs offer "extended-day" options for a fee for children who need to arrive early or leave later.

Most child care centers and family child care homes expect to enroll children full-time, but ask whether they have part-time options available. Some preschool programs for 2- to 5-year-olds operate on half-day schedules. Mother’s Morning Out programs also tend to be half-day programs, but may only meet a few days a week. Informal caregivers such as neighbors and family members may have flexible schedules that could accommodate your need for part-time care.

Child care centers, not-for-profit organizations, recreation centers, faith-based organizations, and some elementary schools offer formal out-of-school programs, and some families enroll children in informal enrichment programs (e.g., sports, music and art classes, dance lessons, 4H, and scout troops) after school. Some programs also offer special full-day activities on school release days. Some family child care homes may also accept children before and after school. Informal caregivers such as neighbors and relatives are also an option for out-of-school care.

Most child care centers, group child care homes, and family child care homes do not open before 6 a.m. If you are working a night shift or an early-morning shift, your best option may be an in-home caregiver such as a professional nanny, or relying on a neighbor or relative to care for your child until traditional child care programs open.

Finding evening and nighttime care can be challenging. Some child care centers have begun offering afternoon and evening hours, and a few are open 24 hours a day. If your workplace has a child care program, it may be more likely to be open during evening and nighttime hours. The other option for evening and nighttime care is an informal caregiver, such as a neighbor or family member, who will provide care either in your home or in their own home. Having your child cared for in his own home may make bedtime and morning routines less stressful for him.

What size program do you prefer?

You are probably looking for a family child care home or an informal child care provider. Family child care providers care for up to six children in their own homes. They must register with the state and receive training every year. Informal caregivers include neighbors, friends, or family members who care for your child either in your own home or their home. Informal caregivers can care for no more than two children (not including their own) without being required to register as family child care providers. For families looking for lots of individual attention, family child care and informal child care may be the best options. No matter what choice you make, be sure you find the best-qualified person to care for your child!

In Georgia, you are looking for a group child care home. A group child care home cares for between 7 and 17 children, usually in mixed-age groups. Group programs must meet strict state licensing regulations (similar to the regulations for child care centers), and staff must have regular training. For families looking for a small group setting, group child care homes may be ideal for their child. No matter what choice you make, be sure you find the best-qualified person to care for your child!

You are looking for a center-based child care program. Child care centers may be run by for-profit companies, not-for-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, universities, or employers. Smaller centers are likely to be managed by faith groups, community organizations, or private business owners. Centers care for at least 18 children, and must meet strict state licensing regulations. Child care staff in centers must have regular training. In centers, children are divided into small groups by age. Look for a center with low adult-to-child ratios and small groups. No matter what choice you make, be sure you find the best-qualified person to care for your child!

You are looking for a center-based child care program. Child care centers may be run by for-profit companies, not-for-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, universities, or employers. Larger centers are likely be managed by not-for-profit organizations, private business owners, for-profit companies and chains, or franchise owners. Large centers may care for 200 children or more, and must meet strict state licensing regulations. Child care staff in centers must have regular training. In centers, children are divided into small groups by age. Look for a center with low adult-to-child ratios and small groups. No matter what choice you make, be sure you find the best-qualified person to care for your child!

You have many options available. You may choose an informal caregiver, such as a neighbor or family member, who focuses on caring for your child. You might consider a family child care provider, who cares for up to six children in his or her own home. Group child care homes and child care centers care for 7 or more children in small groups, and may be run by for-profit companies, not-for-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, universities, or employers. There are advantages and disadvantages to all types of child care. You need to select a program size that best meets your child’s needs. No matter what choice you make, be sure you find the best-qualified person to care for your child!

Where would you like your child to receive child care?

You are looking for an informal child care provider, such as a nanny, neighbor, friend, or family member. An advantage of choosing in-home care is that your child spends her time in familiar surroundings, which may make her adjustment to child care easier. The quality of care your child receives may vary depending on the person. It’s your job to screen potential caregivers carefully to make sure they will provide the best care for your child. Informal caregivers are not monitored by the state, and should care for no more than two children (not including their own children) at a time. Look for a caregiver who is responsive to your child.

You are looking for either an informal child care provider (such as a neighbor, friend, or family member) or a registered family child care provider, who cares for up to six children in her own home and must register with the state. Whether you choose an informal caregiver or a family child care provider, your child is likely to receive a lot of individual attention in a home care setting. Look for a well-organized and developmentally appropriate environment and a caregiver who is responsive to your child.

You are looking for a center-based child care program or group child care home. Center-based programs care for larger numbers of children in small groups. Centers and group homes must meet strict state licensing requirements. Look for a program with low adult-to-child ratios, small group sizes, a well-organized and developmentally appropriate environment, and a caregiver who is responsive to your child.

You can choose in-home or out-of-home settings for child care. The advantage of in-home care (including nannies, neighbors, and family members) is that your child receives care in the familiar surroundings of his home. You may also choose care in the home of a neighbor, family member, or family child care provider. Children cared for in their homes and in others’ homes tend to get more individual attention because they are in smaller groups. Your other option is an out-of-home program in a child care center or group child care home. Center-based programs meet strict state licensing requirements, and staff must have regular training. If you choose a center, look for one with low adult-to-child ratios and small group sizes. No matter where you choose child care, look for a well-organized and developmentally appropriate environment and a caregiver who is responsive to your child.

What types of program would you prefer that your child attend?

Family child care providers or neighbors, relatives, or friends may be good choices for child care. Be sure you screen potential caregivers carefully.

Many universities have laboratory schools that include either full-day child care programs or part-day preschool programs. Children of faculty and staff sometimes receive priority in these programs, but many programs have a specific number of slots set aside for children from the local community. Be aware that many university programs have waiting lists.

If your child is in elementary school, the school may offer a program for before and after school and school release days. Choosing a school-based program means you avoid the challenge of transporting your child to another site for child care after school. School-based programs may also feel familiar to your child.

Many faith communities offer child care and education programs for children of various ages. The curriculum in those programs usually includes some religious instruction, and the program may have specific policies related to the beliefs of the faith group. Most programs do accept children who are not from that faith tradition.

A for-profit program may be run by an individual business owner, by a chain or corporation, or by a franchise holder. Some chain and franchise programs have well-established curricula that are used in all centers; others choose individual curricula for each center or classroom.

Some not-for-profit agencies offer child care. Not-for-profit child care programs are likely to have a philosophy that is consistent with the organization’s overall mission and goals. Some not-for-profit programs may be slightly less expensive than for-profit programs.

If you are looking for occasional drop-in care, you might investigate a local Mother’s Morning Out program, which is open for a few hours a few days a week. Some larger cities also have drop-in centers where children can receive care for a few hours at a time on an occasional basis. Drop-in programs may require you to fill out an information form and a health form for your child and to provide copies of your child’s immunization records. Another option for occasional child care is an informal caregiver such as a neighbor, friend, or family member.

Finding care for a sick child can be challenging. State-licensed child care programs and registered family child care providers are required to have policies that exclude sick children from care until they are no longer contagious. Some larger cities and some employers offer emergency care for sick children, but such programs tend to be expensive and only open limited hours. If your child is sick, your best option is to find an informal caregiver (such as a neighbor, friend, or family member) who can care for the child in your home, so she has the comfort of familiar surroundings while she recovers. Ask whether your employer will allow you to work from home or work flexible hours so you can be at home with your child when she is sick.

Does your child have special medical or learning needs?

When you begin looking for child care, be sure to explain your child’s special needs to potential caregivers. Give the caregiver as much information as possible. If your child has complex medical needs, consider spending time helping the child care provider learn how to manage those needs before leaving your child in care. Many child care facilities offer inclusion programs, which allow children with special needs to receive care with typically-developing peers. For more information on inclusion, contact your local child care resource and referral agency.

Even if your child does not have special needs, he may benefit from the chance to interact with children with special needs in a relaxed setting. Many child care facilities offer inclusion programs, which allow children with special needs to receive care with typically-developing peers. For more information on inclusion, contact your local child care resource and referral agency

If you are concerned that your child may not be developing typically, talk to your health care provider about your concerns. He or she may recommend a developmental screening or special medical test to identify your child’s special need. It’s important to identify special needs as early as possible so children can receive the extra assistance they need. If your child does have a special need identified, be sure to explain your child’s special needs to potential caregivers. Give the caregiver as much information as possible. Many child care facilities offer inclusion programs, which allow children with special needs to receive care with typically-developing peers. For more information on inclusion, contact your local child care resource and referral agency

Will you need financial support to afford child care?

Remember that finding quality child care is essential! There are several options to investigate if you need financial help. If you are receiving TANF assistance, you may be eligible for child care assistance as part of your TANF package; check with your caseworker. If your income meets certain guidelines, your child may be eligible for federally subsidized programs such as Head Start and Early Head Start.

If you don’t meet the income guidelines for TANF or Head Start, here are some other options that may be available to help you afford child care:

  • Employer programs - Many large employers provide on-site child care, reduced-rate child care at certain centers, or subsidies to employees to help cover child care costs. Ask your human resources representative about child care options.
  • Child care spending plans - Many companies provide employees with pre-tax spending accounts that can be used to pay for child care expenses. These programs help you save money to pay for child care while also reducing your income tax burden. Talk to your employee benefits department to see whether your work has a plan.
  • Religious scholarships - Some religious organizations provide scholarships to cover child care and education costs for their members’ children. Especially if your organization has an on-site school, ask whether scholarships are available.
  • Sliding fees - Some child care programs, especially those in not-for-profit organizations and faith-based organizations, set up sliding fee scales that offer reduced rates for parents based on their income. Parents who are not on TANF may still qualify for sliding fees.

You are fortunate to be able to select child care based on quality indicators rather than cost. You might investigate whether your employer offers on-site child care, reduced-rate child care at certain centers, subsidies to employees, or pre-tax child care spending accounts that may help reduce your child care costs. Remember that finding quality child care is the most essential step. High-quality programs may be more expensive than lower-quality programs, but your child is worth the cost!

The cost of child care can sometimes seem overwhelming, and higher-quality programs may be more expensive than lower-quality programs. Remember that quality really does matter. If you aren’t sure whether you can afford quality, you might consider some of these options:

  • Employer programs - Many large employers provide on-site child care, reduced-rate child care at certain centers, or subsidies to employees to help cover child care costs. Ask your human resources representative about child care options.
  • Child care spending plans - Many companies provide employees with pre-tax spending accounts that can be used to pay for child care expenses. These programs help you save money to pay for child care while also reducing your income tax burden. Talk to your employee benefits department to see whether your work has a plan.
  • Religious scholarships - Some religious organizations provide scholarships to cover child care and education costs for their members’ children. Especially if your organization has an on-site school, ask whether scholarships are available.
  • Sliding fees - Some child care programs, especially those in not-for-profit organizations and faith-based organizations, set up sliding fee scales that offer reduced rates for parents based on their income.