Child Care Options

There are three primary non-parental child care arrangements used by families in the U.S. Each has its unique advantages and considerations. No one type of care will be best for all families. A good child care arrangement is one which matches the child’s and family’s needs to the type of care provided.

Center-based Child Care

Center-based child care are group child care programs which provide full or part time care. In Illinois they are licensed by the State according to minimal standards regulating health, safety, space and staffing standards.


The advantages of center-based care are:

  • Its reliability (they are open year round and do not fluctuate with staff illnesses or vacations)
  • Trained staff (good centers have well-trained staff who design a developmentally appropriate program for children)
  • The variety of playmates
  • Opportunities for parental involvement in curriculum planning and policy-making
  • Additional services which are often available such as special field trips, health screening, music, dance, or gymnastic instruction.


The considerations of center-based care are:

  • The inflexibility in choosing and paying for only the hours that you need
    (typically center-based care is open 7 a.m. through 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. Monday – Friday, only).
  • Parents working rotating shifts, needing part-time care, later evening hours or weekend care have a harder time finding centers that will accommodate their needs.
  • Generally centers have larger groups of children in a room and your child may need to adjust to several different adults who work different schedules.
  • Centers offer more structured settings with less ability to accommodate individual needs, routines, and interests.
Family Child Care

Family child care is provided in a home other than a child’s own home. Oftentimes, the provider is a mother with children of her own. Providers who care for more than 3 unrelated children must be licensed through the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and are subject to fingerprinting and a criminal background check for child abuse and neglect. The provider must complete 15 hours of in-service training per calendar year and must also complete a 6 hour training on caring for children with disabilities. For a full listing of requirements and list of steps to becoming licensed, please see the Becoming Licensed Provider – Flyer.


The advantages of family child care include:

  • Smaller, home-like setting with one consistent adult
  • Greater flexibility in hours (it is more common to find family child care provided during early or late hours, evenings or weekends)
  • Fewer children and less structure to adjust to allowing the caregiver to better accommodate individual needs and routines.


Considerations of family child care are:

  • The lack of reliability (often there is no substitute should the provider get sick or go on vacation)
  • The high turnover rates among providers
  • The variability in quality.

Finding Child Care Booklet

In-home Child Care

In-home care takes place in the child’s own home. In many cases, the caregiver may be a relative of the child. (This is instead of a professional nanny.)


It has the advantage of causing the least disruption to the child, the greatest convenience to the parents, and also offers the highest degree of control over the care-giving situation (what and when the child eats and sleeps, what, if any T.V. is shown, which toys are played with, etc.).


Considerations of in-home care include:

  • Its cost (generally it is the most expensive of all arrangements)
  • The complexity of finding a qualified caregiver
  • The loss of family privacy
  • The difficulty in retaining caregivers and maintaining good communications (turnover rates in child care are generally highest among in-home caregivers)
  • The legal, financial, and other requirements of the parents as employers
  • The lack of social interaction opportunities for the child or caregiver.

In-home Booklet