By Dennette Bailey

As a preschool teacher that operates under the auspices of a Day Care Home, or Family Childcare Home, I am well aware that many people do not understand the differences between the two choices. In an effort to help families understand those differences in child care providers, I am listing some items you might take into consideration so that you might have the opportunity to choose the best setting for your children.

Child Care Centers in NC are those licensed for more than 9 children. These types of facilities receive inspections from different agencies which include the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education, the city sanitation department and the city fire department.

In North Carolina the five-star rating system is in place. Those centers with 5- star ratings have a director with at least an associate’s degree and the teachers can have various education but not all of the teachers have to have at least an associate’s degree. When taking a tour at child care centers, parents are more likely to talk in depth with the directors and briefly meet with the classroom teachers. Centers have higher teacher to child ratios. A typical 3-year-old classroom for example will have between 10 and 12 children per teacher. Centers may be more likely to have cameras for parents to log into online and watch the classroom. In addition, they are also more likely to have several employees allowing for other teachers to fill in if a teacher is sick or leaves for other employment. Centers are more impacted by teacher turnover (In a research study published in the Journal of Research in Childhood Education 2011 teacher turnover rates were reported to have fluctuated around the 30% range). Childcare centers are also larger facilities which means they may have more classroom materials and or commercial playground equipment. Centers are also usually located in commercial areas providing more access for families as bus routes are available if needed. Centers also have a director and may have a variety of employees such as cafeteria workers and cleaning staff.

Day Care Homes or Family Child Care Homes include all those settings that are licensed for less than 9 children. This might include those operating as preschools, like myself, or those operating as a mixed age facility and offering traditional childcare. Family childcare homes are inspected by the city when receiving their initial license. Thereafter, they are inspected and regulated by the North Carolina Division of child Development and Early Education just like centers. They do not however, have continued regular inspections by the city sanitation or city fire department because they have so few children in care. The NCDCDEE, instead, is required to inspect the family childcare home for sanitation and fire safety.

To receive at least a four-star rating, the provider would need to have a Bachelor’s degree or participate in the rating assessment and have an associate’s degree. To receive the five-star rating, the provider must have at least an associate’s degree and receive an acceptable score in the rating scale. Homes have fewer children enrolled and thus they have less illness. Moreover, there is more opportunity for families to get to know the teacher and decipher if the teacher’s values fit the family’s needs for their child’s education and social and emotional growth. They do not usually have cameras due to the fact that the program is in the provider’s residence, and such a service would be cost prohibitive. They also may have only one or no assistants because of their low teacher:child ratios.

Questions to ask when looking into care for your children:
Is this a state licensed facility?
What star rating does this facility have?
What formal education does my child’s teacher have?
How will the teacher interact with my child if they become upset?

None of the state inspections apply to half day preschool or afterschool programs provided by churches, private schools or local YMCA‘s, as half day programs are not regulated by the State of NC.

Cassidy, D. J., Hestenes, L. L., Hegde, A., Hestenes, S. and Mims, S. 2005. Measurement of quality in preschool child care classrooms: An exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis of the early childhood environment rating scale-revised. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 20: 345–360.

Click here for more resources and blogs on child care!

Want to see more blogs like this and get notifications on local events and happenings? Subscribe to our free weekly newsletters here.