Find a Licensed Provider
Making the Right Decision
More and more, research tells us that our children’s healthy development depends on safe and positive experiences during the first few years of life. If you are a parent who works during these early years, choosing good child care is one of the most important decisions you will ever make for your child (Child Care Aware).
All children—especially infants and toddlers—need a child care setting where they can thrive with caregivers who understand how to promote their healthy growth and development. That’s because young children need a schedule that is responsive to their needs, with appropriate stimulation and time to rest. They need to be talked to and played with. They need love and attention. And they need the opportunity to form the kind of comfortable, secure relationship with a caregiver that will nurture their healthy emotional development. (Zero to Three).
- Our online directory helps you find licensed child care centers and family child care providers in Arlington County.
- You can get inspection reports by contacting us at 703-228-1685
Information for Parents
Child Care Subsidies are available to qualifying households. Learn more here.
Start looking as far in advance as you can. No matter what type of care you are considering – a child care center or care in someone else’s home – finding the right child care option can take some time.
You can locate child care programs and providers in your area by visiting the homepage of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.
Click to conduct a web-based search to identify child care programs in your area accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. This organization administers a national accreditation process for child programs that meet NAEYC standards of quality.
If you are looking for a home-based provider for your baby or toddler, the National Association for Family Child Care offers an Internet-based search option so that you may identify NAFCC-accredited family child care providers in your area.
Choosing an accredited program means that the provider or program has met quality standards that exceed those required by state or local licensing guidelines. But accreditation does not tell the whole story. Recommendations from other parents, friends and co-workers are often helpful as well. And, of course, you still have to visit and judge for yourself how a caregiver or program meets the needs of your child and family.
Visit and Ask Questions
Visit the child care options you are considering. Find out about these key indicators of quality:
Adult to Child Ratio. Ask how many children there are for each adult. The fewer the children for each adult, the better for your child. You want your child to get plenty of attention. The younger your child, the more important this is.
Group Size. Find out how many children are in the group. The smaller the group, the better. Imagine a group of 25 two-year olds with five adults, compared to a group of 10 with two adults. Both groups have the same adult to child ratio. Which would be calmer and safer? Which would be more like a family?
Caregiver Qualifications. Ask about the caregivers’ training and education. Caregivers with degrees and/or special training in working with children will be better able to help your child learn. Are the caregivers involved in activities to improve their skills? Do they attend classes and workshops?
Turnover. Check how long caregivers have been at the center or providing care in their homes. It’s best if children stay with the same caregiver at least a year. Caregivers who come and go make it hard on your child. Getting used to new caregivers takes time and energy that could be spent learning new things.
Make a Choice
Think about what you saw at each visit, and make the best choice for your child and family.
The work isn’t over when you find good care for your child. You and your child’s caregiver are partners now.
Here are some ways to be involved:
- Have parent-caregiver meetings regularly, and ask questions.
- Offer to volunteer time when needed, like participating in clean up days, fixing broken toys.
- Be there for your child’s birthday party.
- Visit your child at child care and read a book aloud.
- Join in special events, like field trips, Career Day, Black History Month, or other holidays.
Even if you can’t get time off from work during the day, you can still check in at drop-off and pick-up times. Ask the caregiver how things are going, and how your child is doing.
Visiting and participating in events at your child’s provider sends a strong message. It tells your child and your child’s caregiver that you think what your child is doing and learning is important.