For Parents

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Finding Quality Child Care

The Maryland State Family Child Care Association prides itself in being a quality resource for child care providers and Maryland families. We promote quality Registered child care for all of Maryland's children.

Where to Start

If you are in search of a child care provider, Locate Child Care is the place to start. All Registered providers are listed with Locate and Locate will provide a list of Regulated Providers to you based on the criteria you are searching for. Locate Child Care is operated through each county Resource and Referral Office. It is a free service that is publicly funded and operated through the Maryland Family Network.

The Locate counselors will review your child care needs, such as type of child care desired, the location and the cost you can afford. They will offer you guidelines on what to look for in quality child care. They will also offer you other resources such as information on the child care subsidy program.

Setting Up an Interview

When looking for child care it is recommended that a parent call many programs to get an idea of what is offered for your child. Important things to find out during an initial phone call are location, hours, cost, and how many other children the provider cares for.

If the provider has an opening, make an appointment to visit the setting. Many providers interview at night and some interview during business hours. Whatever the case, remember that the provider will usually only interview if they have space available so you may need to make many contacts before you have a good list of places to visit. Parent's should visit at least 3 or more programs for comparison.

Before and During the Interview

When making an appointment with a provider it is very important that you be on time. You are not only interviewing the provider but they are also interviewing you. Family child care providers are limited in the amount of children and the ages of the children that they can care for. Therefore if you are late for an interview without a telephone call, more than likely that provider will feel that you do not value their time after hours and you may not value their time during the work day and may be late picking up your child. This may affect how the provider perceives you.

Take your child with you and observe the environment, the caregiver, and if it is during business hours, the other children. After this, decide on an arrangement that is best for you and your child.

After the Interview

After you have selected an arrangement, if the provider offers you the space for your child, there will be paperwork that is required by the Office of Child Care and other paperwork that may be required by the provider. Each provider operates their business differently so it may also be necessary to sign a contract. If so, read the contract/handbook thoroughly to be aware of the way the provider addresses all aspects of the services they offer. Take steps in the beginning to establish a good relationship with the provider, the key for that is communication. A successful child care experience can make for a happy child and a very happy parent and provider.

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Child Care Terms

Important terms to know and understand when searching for quality child care.

Click on the name to read more.

  • Regulated Child Care


    Regulated Child Care means that a caregiver has been licensed to operate by the Office of Child Care (OCC) and meets the minimum child health, safety, and program requirements set by Maryland law. A regulated caregiver must continue to meet those requirements in order to maintain the registration. Compliance with licensing regulations is monitored by OCC through regular on-site inspections of the child care program. The caregiver must operate according to the Maryland child care regulations. The facility must pass an inspection verifying that it is safe, clean, and appropriate for child care use and meets all applicable health and fire codes. There must be an adequate supply of safe and age-appropriate activity equipment and materials. The caregiver and all staff must undergo police background checks, receive physical examinations; and complete a specified amount of pre-service education or training in child care topics. Once the facility is in operation, The caregiver and staff must continue to receive training on a regular basis. All licensed child care centers and registered family child care homes are routinely inspected at least three times every two years. Two of these inspections are unannounced "drop-in" visits that are intended primarily to determine if child health and safety requirements are being met. The third inspection is an announced inspection that includes a comprehensive review of program records as well as an assessment of child health and safety compliance. All licensed child care centers and registered family day care homes are initially authorized to operate for a period of two years. At the end of that period, a non-expiring license or registration may be issued that continues in effect until it is surrendered, suspended, or revoked. A non-expiring license or registration may also be placed on conditional (i.e. probationary) status if the center operator or family day care provider does not comply with certain State requirements.

  • Illegal Child Care


    In Maryland, it is illegal for a non-relative or an agency to provide paid out-of-home child care for 20 or more hours per month on a regular basis without proper OCC licensure. A person or agency that provides Illegal child care is subject to civil and criminal penalties under State law. Using illegal child care can be dangerous for children because an illegal caregiver has not met any of the health, safety, or professional standards required of regulated caregivers. Also the home or building where illegal child care is provided has not been inspected by OCC or local authorities to determine if the premises are safe or appropriate for child care purposes.

  • Family Child Care


    Family Child Care are child care programs that are operated by professional caregivers in private residences. No more than eight children can be present for care in the home at the same time. Only two of these children, including the caregiver's own, can be under the age of two unless an additional caregiver is present. No more than four children under the age of two can be present at the same time under any circumstances. Family child care homes generally operate for at least eight hours per day and sometimes offer flexible scheduling.

  • Center Child Care


    Center Child Care are facilities that traditionally serve large groups of children. While they vary in size, each must remain within the designated maximum child capacity established by the Office of Child Care. In many centers, children are usually grouped with others of the same age. Other centers often use mixed-age groups (for example, infants or toddlers grouped with preschoolers, or preschoolers grouped with school-age children). For child supervision and safety purposes, child care regulations specify a maximum size for each group that is based on the ages of the children in the group. The same basis is used to establish a minimum staff-child ratio for each group. This means that there is a maximum number of children that may be present at one time. Small group centers have a maximum capacity of 12 children and may be located in private residences.

  • Nursery Schools


    Nursery schools are educational programs for children 2 years through 4 years old. These programs are approved by the Maryland State Department of Education. Most are also licensed by OCC as child care programs.

  • Child Care Subsidy Program


    Program issues vouchers to eligible families in need of help with the cost of child care. To receive this assistance, families must meet certain requirements. In addition to help with the cost of child care, families can receive help locating a licensed child care provider.

  • Maryland Child Care Credential


    The Maryland Child Care Credential recognizes child care providers who go beyond the requirements of State licensing and registration regulations. There are six credential levels, each one recognizing a child care provider's achievement of a specified number of training hours, years of experience and professional activities which lead to quality child care. Participating providers will complete training in topic areas to develop the knowledge and skills they need to provide the highest quality care for the children and families they serve. Though the Maryland Child Care Credential is a voluntary program, all regulated family child care providers and child care center staff are eligible and encouraged to participate.

  • NAFCC Accreditation


    For providers, NAFCC Accreditation recognizes them for the high quality care they offer children and families. For children, accredited family child care homes offer safe, inviting spaces and warm, nurturing care. For parents, accreditation is an indicator to help identify responsive, stimulating child care, complete with educational activities designed to meet the needs and interests of all children. For communities, accreditation is an indicator that quality family child care providers are available to help make communities attractive to families. For employers, accreditation indicates that family child care homes offer a stable, high-quality child care program, which research has shown directly improves employee attendance, morale, and productivity

  • Child Development Associate


    The Child Development Associate (CDA) is an individual who has successfully completed the CDA assessment process and has been awarded the CDA Credential. CDAs are able to meet the specific needs of children and work with parents and other adults to nurture children's physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth in a child development framework. A CDA performs according to the CDA Competency Goals in center-based, home visitor or family child care programs.

  • Child and Adult Food Care Program


    Through CACFP, 2.9 million children and 86,000 adults receive nutritious meals and snacks each day as part of their day care.

  • Maryland EXCELS Program


    Maryland EXCELS is a voluntary Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). A QRIS is a program that awards ratings to family providers, center-based and public school child care programs, and school age before and after school programs that meet increasingly higher standards of quality in key areas.