Exploring Your Options
Types of Care
Day Care Center
A day care center refers to child care in a non-residential setting. Most centers offer a full day program and are open year round. Some centers will accept children on a part-time basis, others will not. Some centers provide care to children of all ages, including school age children, before and after school and when school is not in session. Other centers provide care to one age group, such as preschoolers or infants. There are centers that are small, enrolling perhaps only 15 children and others that are larger, enrolling more than 100 children.
A day care center must be licensed by New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYSOCFS). The center must meet specific requirements for facility, health, safety, staffing and educational programming.
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Group Family Day Care
Group family day care takes place in the provider's home for all or part of the day. A group family day care may care for children ages 6 weeks through 12 years of age. One provider and at least one assistant care for a group of children, usually of mixed ages, and may care for up to 16 children as long as 4 are school age and there is one provider for each 2 children under the age of 2 in care. Always check the license for the actual capacity.
Family Day Care
Family day care takes place in the provider's home for all or part of the day. One provider cares for a small group of children, usually of mixed ages. A family day care home may care for children ages 6 weeks through 12 years of age. In New York State, a family day care home must meet requriements of NYSOCFS if they care for more than 2 children for more than 3 hours a day. A family day care provider may care for up to 8 children as long as 2 are school age and no more than 2 are under the age of two. Always check the registration for the actual capacity.
School Age Child Care
This refers to care for school age children in the hours before and after school and at times when school is not in session. Day care centers, family day care homes and group homes may offer school age child care. Public schools, youth recreation groups, religious organizations and other community groups often sponsor school age child care programs. These programs are required to be registered by the NYSOCFS. School Age programs may enroll children through high school age.
Head Start/Early Head Start
Head Start and Early Head Start are federally funded programs. Head Start programs are for children ages 2.9 to 5 years of age and Early Head Start programs are for children 6 weeks to 3 years of age. They provide 3 hours of a free program and can sometimes offer extended/all day care for a fee. It's open to all families who meet income eligibility requirements. Head Start/Early Head Start commonly serves unemployed parents, low income families, foster children, homeless children, TA recipients, SSI recipients, and children with special needs.
Nursery Schools and Preschools
These are social and educational programs for children ages 3 to 5 years. They operate for less than 3 hours per session, 2 to 5 times a week and follow a school year calendar. They are not required to be licensed, but may need approval of the local health department. They can voluntarily register with the New York State Department of Education, which sets guidelines for facility, staff and program. Nursery Schools may also apply for accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
In-Home care means care in the child's own home by someone that the parent has employed. There are trained in-home providers, usually called nannies, as well as in-home providers that have no training. There are live-in or live-out in-home providers. This type of provider is not required to be licensed in New York State.
New York State Universal Pre-K Program
These programs are state funded public school pre-kindergarten programs for children who turn 4 by December 1 of the school year. In addition to the developmental program, comprehensive health and social services are offerd to the families. Pre-K programs may be full or part day and follow the school calendar. Check your local school district for availability. This is not offered in all school districts.
Summer Day Camps
These offer full or part day summer activities, frequently outdoors. Religious organizations, community centers or private groups may operate summer camps. In New York State, summer camps must have a state, city or county Health Department permit to operate legally.
Legally Exempt Providers
A Legally Exempt Provider is one adult caring for no more that 2 unrelated children in his/her home. They are NOT regulated by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services.