There are many ways to classify child day care services. Formal organizations like the US Department of Labor suggest two overhead types that may differ in a variety of ways. These are commercial or nonprofit centers operated in more commercial fashion or private, family-based care that takes place in someone’s home. These two distinct kinds of care can then be split into many other types that could have varying levels of service.
Of the commercial and/or nonprofit child day care services, much can be said. Day care often means care available for long periods of time, perhaps eight to ten hour stretches, while a parent works. Some centers have part-time day care available, others even have drop off day care for people with uncertain schedules, or centers take care of children who are ill and cannot attend regular daycare. A few centers operate on twenty-four hour schedules, providing care for kids whose parents do shift work.
Many people make a distinction between day care and nursery school or preschool, but this distinction doesn’t always apply. There are child day care services that focus on shorter days and early learning activities, and they might offer extended hour programs for children who need care while a parent works a full-time day. Some of these programs are not run by private businesses but are run by government agencies: Head Start preschools and SELPA preschools are examples of this in the US. Many nonprofits have childcare services too, and these may especially be found in church settings.
Other organizations that wouldn’t ordinarily be involved in childcare may still have child care centers. These include corporations that offer free day care to employees, and colleges that may have this service for students, teachers, and/or administrators. Sometimes high schools with teen mom programs have daycares or preschools too.
Just as there are a plethora of child day care services offered by businesses, corporations, churches, or government agencies, there are many home-based family daycares. These require licensing to legally operate and they may be the preference of some families. Cost to participate in either kind of care setting is variable; sometimes home-based settings are less expensive. Greater limitations occasionally exist in family child day care services and particularly space in a home or available employees could limit number of children. Still, this is viable alternative that attracts many families because it may feel homier.
It wouldn’t be fair to omit mention of child day care services offered for free by friends or family members. Given the growing costs of participation in daycare, many people turn to parents, siblings or others and ask their help in watching children. When it works, this arrangement can sometimes be the most helpful, since usually no more than a couple of children are given attention by an adoring relative.
Of the options, it is the most “homey,” especially when kids get to stay at home for care or at a relative’s very familiar house, and it frequently costs the parent nothing. This arrangement is not always congenial, on the other hand. It can easily be made difficult if arguments exist on parenting style or if a relative is no longer able to participate in care. In these cases parents may need to initiate a search for other child day care services that will work better.