Choosing Child Care

A center or a home-based child care program, or an in-your-home caregiver -- which is right for you? And how do you go about making a choice? The following information can help you in your search. 

Child Care Licensing, Accreditation, and State Quality Level Rating

Child care centers and family or group child care homes should be currently 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. See A Parent's Guide to Child Care Licensing.

Child care licensing rules are mandatory, and ongoing compliance is important. As you search for child care centers and homes on the Licensing database (or by clicking on Child Care Licensing Reports for each program in the Great Start 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. Licensed child care programs are required to keep a notebook of their state reports available for you to review, and past reports are also available to you via a FOIA request

Optional programs for meeting various quality standards include the State of Michigan Great Start to Quality QRIS (level rating), or 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).

Center-based Child Care

Centers provide care for children in a state-licensed 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 up to 6 children (7 with State special approval) in her own home. A group provider cares for up to 12 children (14 with State special approval) 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 and family child care research data for more information.

The second type is in-your-home care where a caregiver is hired to care for children in the family home. This option is not state-licensed child care. It 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 be able to 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. 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.