What Types of Child Care Are Available?

About

Did you know that there are several types of early childhood education and care programs that you can enroll your child into? To find a program type that works best for your family, review the options listed below.

Available Program Types

Child Care Center

At a child care center that is state-certified by the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), care and education services are provided to more than seven children.

Family Child Care Home

In a family child care home that is state-certified by OCDEL, one caregiver provides care and education services for three to six children who are not related to them in a home setting.

Group Child Care Home

In a group child care home that is state-certified by OCDEL, care and education services are provided for up to 12 children in a home or commercial setting.

Relative Care

Through relative care, one caregiver provides care and education services for no more than three related children in a home setting who may be eligible for subsidy reimbursement.

Public School

A public school provides pre-kindergarten programming. These schools may be publicly or privately funded.

Private School

A private school provides pre-kindergarten programming. These schools are funded by the individual family or school.

Other Things to Consider

Child Care Works

Through Child Care Works, federal and state-supported child care subsidies are provided to income-eligible families who either work or attend school or training programs and pay a co-pay. Subsidies are paid directly to a provider in a home, child care center, or community-based setting. To see if you are eligible or to receive assistance in finding child care, contact your local Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC).

Head Start

Head Start is a federally-funded comprehensive early childhood education program supplemented by state investment. Through the program, infant, toddler, and pre-kindergarten opportunities are provided at no cost to income-eligible families (100% of poverty). Children with developmental delays or disabilities, as well as children who are learning English as a second language, may also qualify. Programs are found in homes, child care centers, schools, and community-based settings. To see if you are eligible or to receive assistance in finding child care, contact your local ELRC.

Pre-K Counts

Pre-K Counts provides state-supported high-quality pre-kindergarten opportunities at no cost to income-eligible families (300% of poverty). Children with developmental delays or disabilities, as well as children who are learning English as a second language, may also qualify. Pre-K Counts classrooms are found in child care centers and schools. To see if you are eligible or to receive assistance in finding child care, contact your local ELRC.

School Districts

School districts allocate funds from their general fund to support their pre-kindergarten programs.

Privately Funded Birth to Kindergarten

Privately Funded Birth to Kindergarten is user-funded programming that is often provided by a nonprofit, for-profit, religious organization, or university.

Child and Adult Care Food Program

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides aid for the provision of nutritious foods for children birth through school age. To learn more about this program, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Education website.

Quality Assurance

Keystone STARS is Pennsylvania’s quality rating and improvement system for early learning programs. NAEYC, NAFCC, and NECPA accreditation are voluntary private-pay national initiatives. Each ELRC offers access to information, services, and resources to promote high-quality early childhood education. Quality Coaches provide support and technical assistance to programs working to build quality.

Home Visiting Programs and Support Services

Home visiting services give parents and others raising children the support necessary to improve their health, safety, literacy, and economic self-sufficiency. Trained professionals visit women, families, and children to provide parent education and support in order to promote child well-being and development. The six evidence-based home visiting models in Pennsylvania include Early Head Start, Family Check-Up, Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers, and SafeCare Augmented.

Early Intervention

Early Intervention is a system of publicly-funded services for children birth to age five with developmental delays or disabilities. Early Intervention supports and services are embedded in typical routines and activities within the family, community, and/or early care and education settings. Parents who have questions about their child’s development can call the CONNECT Helpline at 1.800.692.7288.

Print This Resource

This resource is available as a printable PDF. For additional assistance in finding an early learning program that meets your needs, check out our family guide, “How to Find, Choose, and Pay for High-Quality Child Care.”

 

Image: An early learning professional holds a baby in her arms, with one hand gently caressing the child's head.

Series Navigation

The Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series highlights several early childhood topics to support parents and caregivers who are caring for young children. Use the list below to navigate through each series topic:

Learn more about the series.

 

Picture: A young baby looks up at the camera.
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