In Family Child Care Homes, providers care for small groups of children in a residential building. Depending on the regulations within your state, this may or may not be the same home that the provider lives in.

About This Type of Care

This type of care is known by many different names, including Family Child Care Home, Licensed Child Care Home, Licensed Group Family Child Care Home, Legally or License-Exempt Home, Certified Child Care Home, Registered Child Care Home or Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) Care, depending on where you live and the regulations in your state. Family Child Care Homes may also be classified as a Large or Small Family Home, depending on the maximum number of children in care.

Home-based or Family Child Care providers may or may not be required to follow a set of minimum health and safety requirements (be regulated) by the state, county or city where care takes place. This often depends on the number of unrelated children that a provider cares for. Some states require Family Child Care Homes to be licensed if they care for more than one unrelated child. Some states don’t require any regulations until the provider is caring for five-six or more unrelated children. Regulated Family Child Care Homes may be called licensed, registered or certified depending on the rules within your state.

Legally or license-exempt home child care providers are often also called Family, Friend and Neighbor Care or informal child care. This type of provider is not regulated.

Your local Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agency can help you determine if your provider is required to be regulated and, if so, what regulations must be met. Find your local CCR&R with a zip code search on our CCR&R Search page.

Regulation does not ensure child care quality; however, it does set minimum health and safety standards and ensures that programs are regularly monitored for compliance with the regulations. Visit our page on child care licensing for more information.

Tips for Choosing This Type of Care

  • When visiting a Family Child Care program, ask to see a copy of the program’s license and inspection history. Some states post inspection histories online. Check to see if your state has inspection reports available online for you. These inspection reports will provide valuable information about the quality of your child care program. Check them before you select a program and periodically during the time after you enroll your child.
  • Confirm that every adult living, working or volunteering in the child care home has had a comprehensive criminal history check.
  • Home-based providers may or may not hire additional staff to work within the child care home. Ask your provider about the number of adults present during the time your child is there, and make sure that each staff person has received training on key health and safety standards such as first aid and CPR, safe sleep, medication administration and child development. Learn more about the ten recommended health and safety trainings that all adults caring for children should have.
  • Print a list of questions and things to look for that you can take with you when visiting a potential child care program.
  • Many Family Child Care or home-based child care providers offer a rich learning environment. Ask your provider to explain the types of activities they have planned and how those activities support your child’s learning.
  • Make sure that the provider’s policies and philosophies on discipline, supervision, safe sleep, nutrition, child development and learning align with what you want for your child.
  • Get a copy of your provider’s policies and sign a contract that outlines key areas, including hours of operation, rates, fees, field trip permission slips, transportation agreements and absence policies. Read more about recommended items that should be included in a child care contract.

Why Families May Choose This Type of Care

Many families choose Family Child Care Homes because they like the family environment and the smaller number of children present. Home-based programs often provide a very consistent primary caregiver for your child and may offer more flexible hours of care for families that need care in the evenings or weekends. Families with multiple children also like that siblings are cared for together rather than separated into different classrooms. Family Child Care Homes are often less expensive than center-based child care programs, but rates within your local community can vary widely.

Families should be aware, however, that Family Child Care Homes may only have one caregiver. If that caregiver becomes sick, takes a vacation or must close for any reason, families must make alternate care arrangements.