Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care    

What is Family Child Care?

This type of early education and care is delivered in a provider's home. Children in a family child care home may range in age from infant through school age and programs may serve between a maximum of six or ten children (with an additional assistant).

There are 3 types of Family Child Care Providers:

  • Family Child Care (FCC) which allows up to a maximum of six children;
  • Family Child Care Plus (FCCP) which allows up to 8 children so long as at least two of the children are school aged;
  • Large Family Child Care (LFCC) which allows for up to 10 children if the provider has an approved assistant working with them. Children may range in age from infant through school age.

Some Family Child Care Providers are part of a Family Child Care System, which may provide additional supports to providers and families.

Family Child Care Licensing

In Massachusetts, we are able to elevate our focus to the developmental needs of children because of a strong foundation of licensing. An EEC License indicates that a program and its facilities have met standards for health, safety, supervision and staff training as determined by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC). It is the first-level standard that should be considered when choosing any program.

An EEC license means that: 

  • Programs must be healthy safe and offer activities that help your child develop and grow.
  • Providers have training in first aid and are CPR certified.
  • Providers have specialized training in child development and curriculum implementation.
  • Programs must maintain appropriate ratios of teachers to children.
  • All employees are required to undergo a criminal background check.

Almost all child care provided outside a child’s own home, whether it be in a center-based program, an after school program, or in a family child care home, must be licensed or authorized by EEC.   (Programs operated by a school district are not licensed by EEC.)

The current license for all programs will be posted in a prominent location.

One of the most important parenting decisions you can make

Choosing a family child care program means more than selecting a safe and nurturing environment that works with your family’s needs and schedule.  A quality program can also play an important role in your child’s social, emotional and brain development. As the latest science shows us, early experiences literally shape how the brain gets built. When babies, children and youth are given a strong foundation, the benefits are life-long.

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care is dedicated to helping all children build the strong foundation for healthy and productive lives that is essential for the commonwealth’s future economic prosperity. By partnering with educators and helping parents become informed consumers, we are working to go beyond the standards for licensure to take our community-wide understanding of quality to the next level.  Quality early education and care and out of school time programs are key to fostering the next generation of citizens. 

A “quality” program is defined as one that is aligned with the developmental needs of all children. In the past decade or so, scientists and practitioners have been drawing on vast amounts of research to define the key components of quality. As a parent, you can utilize this knowledge to find the program that best nurtures and supports your child’s social, emotional and brain development.

There are various types of programs that are part of Massachusetts’ mixed delivery system of early education and care, including family child care, center-based programs, public preschool and out-of-school time programs, and Head Start.  Across all of the types of programs, the components of quality are the same:

  • Curriculum, Assessment and Diversity
  • Safe, Healthy Indoor and Outdoor Environments
  • Workforce Qualifications and Professional Development
  • Family and Community Engagement
  • Leadership, Management and Administration

The Five Key Quality Components to Look For

1. Curriculum, Assessment and Diversity

This includes the development and assessment of curriculum, the “serve and return” interactions between teacher and child, and attention to children with special needs and diverse language and cultures. Because all staff members that work with children are key partners in learning, we refer to all of them as “educators”.

Key questions: 

  • Have the educators received formal professional development in curriculum that is aligned with Massachusetts guidelines? Have they completed coursework on language and literacy skills?
  • Are educators trained in using screening tools to detect developmental delays? Does your program monitor each child’s progress?
  • Is there regularly scheduled time for staff to plan curriculum?
  • Will they use screening tools to set goals for your child and provide regular progress reports?
  • Are the materials used reflective of your child’s background and culture and the diversity of the community?

2. Safe, Healthy, Indoor and Outdoor Environments

Program environments should support the implementation of the curriculum through the use of space, materials and opportunities for children to experiment and practice skills. They also support health, safety and nutrition.

Key questions: 

  • Are there stimulating indoor and outdoor spaces, including outdoor space that allows for gross motor activities?
  • Does the environment include 3-4 interest areas with a variety of accessible and appropriate materials and equipment?
  • Is there an annual consultation by a Health Consultant to monitor records, update health care policies and assist the program in complying with health and safety requirements?
  • Are educators trained to work with special diets, allergies and/or specialized feeding issues?

3. Workforce Qualifications and Professional Development

To ensure healthy development, the workforce must have formalized training, content knowledge and ongoing professional development.

Key questions:

  • Do all educators caring for children have a high school diploma or GED?
  • Does at least one educator have a minimum of 2 years experience as a Family Child Care Provider?
  • Does at least one educator have a Child Development Associate’s credentials or higher (i.e. AA or BA) for the age of the children served OR is EEC Lead Teacher Qualified (Preschool or Infant/Toddler)?
  • Do all educators have an Individual Development Plan that ensures they are trained in MA guidelines?

4. Family and Community Engagement

High-quality programs recognize the interconnection between the child, the family, the community and the program itself. These programs involve parents as full partners while providing them with information, resources and support.

Key questions:

  • Is there a system in place for daily two-way communication (i.e.: email, telephone hour, checklists)?
  • Is there an opportunity to meet with educators at least every two months?
  • Does the educator participate in community events and have relationships with and information about community resources such as vision and dental screenings?
  • Are parents encouraged to volunteer to assist in the program and share their culture and interests?

5. Leadership, Management and Administration

High quality programs require effective leadership with management and administrative practices that ensure a stable environment, fiscal accountability, evaluation of the program’s practices and policies and the development of relationships within the community.

Key Questions:

  • Does the program have a written business plan and admissions policy?
  • Is there a written plan that addresses alternative staffing or care if the caregiver is ill, must be away from home, or in case of emergency?
  • Are communications updates sent to educators and families?
  • Are educators and families surveyed on an annual basis in order to evaluate the program and develop a comprehensive written improvement plan?
  • Do educator salary scales reflect education and performance levels?

Information provided by the Department of Early Education and Care. Created: September 27, 2011