Choosing a Center or Home

Center- or home-based child care -- which is right for you? And how do you go about choosing a specific program or caregiver? The following information can help you in your search. 

Child Care Licensing, Accreditation, and Quality Rating

Child care centers and family or group child care homes should be currently registered or licensed by the State of Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), Child Care Licensing Division. Ask for proof of current licensure from the State of Michigan.

In addition, as you search for child care centers and homes on the Licensing database, see under Inspection Reports for each program, and read the recent Inspection, Renewal, and any Special Investigation Reports. Review any rules violations carefully -- especially if they are recent violations, and ones that could affect the safety and well-being of children. Please note that every licensed child care program is required to have a Licensing Notebook of their state reports (since 2010) available for you to review, and that child care licensing reports are also available to you via a FOIA request. In addition, you can request any past reports for someone who has run other licensed child care programs in the past.

State licensing rules are only minimal standards. Accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children/NAEYC (center-based settings) or the National Association for Family Child Care/NAFCC (home-based programs) is an indication of meeting child care quality standards, as is the State of Michigan's quality rating and improvement system.

Center-based Child Care

Centers provide care for children in a group setting outside of a home. NAEYC for Families provides more information on center-based care and accreditation.

Potential Advantages:

  • Environment and staff responsibilities are focused on child care.
  • Teamwork can promote a positive atmosphere and spirit of cooperation.
  • Staff emergencies do not affect center's hours.
  • There are usually several adults to care for children.
  • A center may be more likely to provide a written account of an individual child's activities.
  • A center may be more likely to have connections with other community resources.
  • Licensed center care is generally more affordable than hiring a nanny or other caregiver to come to your home.

Potential Challenges:

  • Exposure to larger numbers of adults and children increases the risk of illness.
  • A center may have a more institutional atmosphere.
  • A center may require more conformity and routine than home care, resulting in less flexibility.
  • Changing shifts and staff turnover may affect relationships between the child and primary caregiver.
  • There may be communication gaps due to multiple caregivers.

Home-based Child Care

There are two different types of home-based care. The first is family or group child care. In Michigan, a licensed family provider cares for a maximum of 6 children in her own home. A group provider cares for up to 12 children and must have an assistant if there are more than 6 children or more than 2 infants and/or 4 toddlers. See NAFCC for Families for more information about home-based child care and accreditation.

The second type is in-your-home care where a caregiver is hired to care for children in the family home. This option includes nannies, babysitters, and au pairs.

Potential Advantages:

  • Individualized care is more likely.
  • Care takes place in a home setting.
  • Parents and children can benefit from a sense of an extended family.
  • There are more opportunities for multi-age interaction, and siblings can be together rather than in separate classrooms and playgrounds during the child care day.
  • More continuity and bonding with one primary caregiver is possible.
  • A home may be more flexible in caring for children with minor illnesses.
  • A home may accommodate a parent's need for longer or unusual hours, or care during emergencies.
  • Licensed family or group child care is generally much more affordable than hiring a nanny or caregiver to come to your home.

Potential Challenges:

  • Caregiver may work alone, unobserved by others. Long hours may cause stress and fatigue.  
  • Handling emergencies could be more difficult if only one adult is available.  
  • Caregiver illness or emergencies can leave a parent without child care unless a backup is planned.  
  • Caregiver may not have the resources or expertise to provide an age-appropriate environment for different age groups.
  • Caregiver might not commit to a long-term arrangement.
  • Hiring a nanny or other private caregiver to come to your home is often the highest-cost type of care. Au pairs can be more affordable, though you also provide housing for them.

(Portions reprinted with the permission of Child Care Network) 

Child Care Aware provides a resource titled Is This the Right Place for My Child? and information on types of child care.

Browse child care resources.

If you have questions about your child care search, please email or call (734) 763-9379.