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Choosing Child Care: Is This the Right Place for My Child?

Research is key to finding the perfect match for your kids

Choosing child care is one of the most important decisions you make as a parent. Child care can help shape your child's early development - mentally, physically, and socially. With so many different options available to parents, Hillsborough County Children's Services has one big tip on how to find the perfect child care match for your kids: Do Your Research.

Know the Types of Child Care: State law defines five types of child-care programs which are licensed through and overseen by Hillsborough County Child Care Licensing.

  • Child care facility - A child care facility provides child care for more than five children, unrelated to the operator. The provider also receives a payment, fee or grant for any of the children receiving care whether for profit or nonprofit.
  • Family child care home - A Licensed Family Child Care Home is an occupied residence in which child care is regularly provided for children unrelated to the operator. The provider receives a payment, fee or grant for any of the children receiving care whether for profit or nonprofit.
  • Large family child care home - A Large Family Child Care Home is an occupied residence in which child care is regularly provided for children unrelated to the operator which receives a payment, fee or grant for any of the children receiving care whether for profit or nonprofit and which has at least two full time Child Care Personnel on the premises during the hours of operation.
  • Non-public schools with preschool programs - A non-public school is a preschool program operating in a private school institution. To meet the definition, the preschool children served must be between the ages of 3 and 5. In addition, the majority of the school's population must be school aged. Should the program choose to serve children under the age of 2, or should the school's population of school aged children fall below the majority, licensure will be required. Non-public schools are inspected one time per year.
  • Religious-exempt programs - A Religious-Exempt Program is a licensed exempt child care provider affiliated with an accrediting program that meets statutory requirements. These programs are inspected by the Hillsborough County Child Care Licensing Office two times per year.

Ask for references: Many of your best recommendations for child care come from friends and family, as well as pediatricians. Ask your friends and family with kids on which way they went for child care - in-home care, child care facility, school pre-school program, etc. - and why.

Compare and contrast: Every child is unique when it comes to the best learning environment for them. Visit a few different child care options that you think would be the best fit for your child and ask questions. How many caregivers will there be with your child? What are the sleep practices for infants/toddlers? What type of certifications (CPR, First Aid, etc.) do the caregivers have? Staff qualifications? Background checks?

Ask about their license: Once you narrow down your child care options, ask about their license with the County. Every person or program offering child care, even if someone is watching your child in their home, must have a license through Hillsborough County. Did you know that after-school programs, including martial arts and dance studios which offer after-school care, must be licensed too? Knowing what the requirements are and the inspection process for your child care provider is an important factor to understand when making such an important decision for your family.

Review inspection reports: Hillsborough County's Child Care Licensing Program regulates the operations of child care centers and family child care homes in Hillsborough County, including Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City. Through the Child Care Licensing Program, periodic inspections are conducted, complaints filed against these facilities are investigated, and enforcement action is taken as necessary. Child care centers and family child care home files are available for parents to review to help them make decisions when seeking child care.

5 Kid Facts every parent should know

If you have concerns over a child care facility or know of someone providing child care in their home without a license, contact Child Care Licensing program.

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