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What is child care?

What is Child Care: Exploring Benefits, Types, and Assistance Options

Child care is essential to our economy, enabling parents to work or attend school. During the pandemic, we saw just how critical this service is when child care centers closed and employees in health care, supermarkets, and other essential industries were unable to work. Families need consistent, quality child care the meets their unique needs. Research has shown that when child care is available and affordable, more women can engage in the workforce.

There are many types of child care that can meet families’ needs. Some parents may choose a child care center, while others will opt for a Family Child Care Home. Many caregivers select a family member, friend or neighbor to care for their child. These are all great options and each has its own set of positive qualities.

Child care is an opportunity for children to develop socially, emotionally, cognitively and physically. Early childhood education is an important element of child care and the level of engagement varies depending on the type of care a parent selects. Providers often collaborate with parents to ensure the child’s needs are met in the care setting and their education continues at home.

Types of Child Care Available

Exploring Various Child Care Options

Child Care Centers provide child care in a facility that looks and feels like a business. These settings typically offer a structured routine and have a higher child to provider ratio. Families who want to socialize their children with a larger group of children their age may prefer this environment. Educational opportunities in a center can be tailored more specifically to an age group. Centers typically offer set hours and days for child care.

Family Child Care Homes (FCCH) are a care environment set in the provider’s home. This option tends to have a smaller child to teacher ratio and may accept children from a wide range of ages. Parents who want to keep siblings together might consider this option because it could allow an infant and a 6-year-old sibling, for instance, to remain in the same environment. FCCH might also appeal to families with specific language or cultural needs. FCCH providers tend to offer more flexible hours of care that fit a parent’s atypical work or school schedule.

Head Start and Early Head Start (EHS) offer classroom-based care that’s highly focused on early learning and development. This structured program include nutrition, dental and medical exams, and home learning support. Pregnant mothers can also receive support through EHS. This program is available to families with qualifying incomes and is age specific (0-3 for EHS and 3-5 for HS). EHS and HS follow a set schedule that fits typical school hours.

Advantages of Child Care

Different child care programs offer different benefits. Parents can use our Keys to Quality child care checklist to help identify a program that meets their needs. But in general, child care can offer children an engaging environment to learn, socialize and develop. Children develop rapidly in the early years of life. Child care is a space where they can improve social skills, better emotional resilience, early learning and school readiness skills. Utilizing child care can also help children understand and develop routines that will prepare them for the classroom.

A recent study by Oklahoma’s Early Childhood Education Institute found that children who participated in high-quality early care and education, such as Early Head Start and Head Start programs, displayed sustained academic achievements through the third grade. “These children showed superior skills in areas like letter and word identification, vocabulary, oral comprehension, and mathematics compared to their peers who did not receive the same level of early education. This research underscores the lasting benefits of high-quality early education, noting that these early gains do not diminish over time.” The study suggests early educational interventions can provide significant long-term advantages in academic and developmental outcomes, supporting the importance of access to quality child care.

Access to quality child care and early education can be a significant driver of long-term health outcomes and social equity for children. As this article published in the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care explains, these services provide critical support, not only for children’s cognitive and socioemotional development, but also help in addressing broader social determinants such as housing, nutrition, and access to healthcare.”

How to Choose the Right Child Care

Factors to Consider When Selecting Child Care

There are many factors to consider when selecting a child care provider. Location, cost, caregiver qualifications, child-to-staff ratios, facilities, and the educational philosophy of the child care provider are just a few elements to weigh. Families should select the care provider who aligns with their values and approach to caring for the child. Many parents select a provider based on their family’s cultural and linguistic preferences, while others may opt for a provider who is trained to support a child’s special needs. Ultimately, the decision is up to the parent.

Check out Keys to Quality Child Care Checklist for more information. You can also watch our Family Child Care Journeys video series for a closer look at the selection process.

Visit CCRC’s “Finding Child Care” page to access comprehensive tools and advice that can assist them in making informed decisions.

What is Child Care Subsidy?

Child care subsidy is financial support that helps families afford child care. CCRC utilizes California’s Alternative Payments program to help eligible families receive low cost or no cost child care. Subsidies make child care accessible to families earning below a certain wage. These programs reduce the financial burden and enabling parents to work or pursue education.

Eligibility for subsidized child care is typically calculated based on family income, size, and the actual cost of child care. Subsidies can vary widely by state and local government regulations.

Generally, a family of two with a monthly income up to $6,128 will qualify for assistance. A family of three earning up to $6,931 monthly, and a family of four earning up to $8,025 each month may also qualify.

Complete our application to see if you are eligible.

How To Get Help With Child Care

CCRC and Child Care Assistance

CCRC provides support families with support, including financial assistance for eligible families and resources for finding quality child care. Our Resource and Referral staff works with families to identify which programs might work for them. The agency is committed to helping families navigate child care options and the benefits of engaging with their services.

Parent/caregivers applying for the Alternative Payment program are placed on the waitlist and are contacted in order of priority from the waitlist as vacancies occur.

First Priority

Children who are recipients of Child Protective Services (CPS) or children who are at risk of abuse or neglect upon written referral from a legal, medical, or social service agency.

Second Priority

  • Families who are income eligible.
  • If two or more families are in the same priority in relation to income:
  • The family that has a child with exceptional needs.
  • The family in which the primary home language is a language other than English.
  • The family has been on the waiting list for the longest time.

How to Apply for Child Care Assistance

The application process is simple and requires minimal documentation to get started. Most people complete the application in about 3-5 minutes.

Financial assistance for child care is available round-the-clock, including nights and weekends. Whether you need child care for a few hours a week or full-time, you have options to suit your schedule. Whether you are looking for employment, going to school, or working and in need of care, CCRC can help.

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