Types of child care

In Washington State, the Department of Early Learning licenses two types of child care: child care centers and family child care in homes. Both types of licensed care have rules and regulations around their learning environments, teacher/caregiver education and training, and health and safety. 

Child care centers are multi-classroom programs 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. Child care centers may or may not be franchised or affiliated with larger corporations, and may have administrative staff who can help your family with paperwork and other needs.

  • Advantages: Some centers can more easily cover staff absences for sickness, vacations, and continuing education without disrupting care availability. Because of larger groups, you’re able to observe your child interacting 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 center’s ability to offer stable, consistent care.

Family child care programs care for a mixed age group in a person's home. Although in a residential home, the indoor and outdoor spaces used for child care must meet the same standards as center-based program. 

  • Advantages: Family child care offers a small group setting where your children can get more individualized care. Family child care providers can be well connected to their community and offer a learning environment that truly reflects the families enrolled. They also offer the flexibility to meet your child and family's needs.
  • 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 programs may close for staff sickness, vacations, or continuing education – check your program’s handbook for the policy regarding planned and unplanned closures.



More options for child care

There are other options for child care, including part-day preschools, nanny and babysitting services in your home, community recreation programs, and parent cooperatives and playgroups, which are not regulated by the state. Child Care Resources offers information and assistance for families seeking non-licensed in-home care, click here for a helpful guide.

We also partner with friends, families, and neighbors raising children through fun, interactive, low-cost programs and resources offered in many communities. Learn more…