This type of care takes place in the caregiver's home. Many family child care providers have young children of their own. They may care for children who are the same age as their own children or for children of different ages. Carefully review the program, policies, caregiver's qualifications and condition of the home. Ask about children, teenagers or other adults who live in the home. Who are they, what are their backgrounds and how may they interact with your child?

The AAP recommends that a child care home should not have more than six children per adult caregiver, including the caregiver's own children. (Some states allow more children when at least two adults are available at all times in larger family child care homes.) The total number of children should be fewer when infants and toddlers are included. No caregiver working alone should handle more than two children younger than 2 years.

Because there usually is only one adult, backup care in an emergency situation must be nearby. In some areas, caregivers belong to a network of family child care providers who may provide training, shared toys and backup help.

Family child care providers usually work alone. This makes it hard to judge their work. Look for caregivers who are licensed or registered with the state and, as a result, have unannounced visits by an inspector. Some family child care providers have earned accreditation as well.

Accreditation means that an outside observer has determined that the facility or home generally meets the criteria for high-quality child care. Family child care providers can be accredited through the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC). If they are not accredited, encourage your provider to contact NAFCC for more information.

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