Choosing child care is one of the most important decisions a parent can make. Finding the care most suitable for your child will take time, but learning about the types of child care available and how to determine quality in a child care program will help your search be successful.
Steps to Finding Quality Child Care
1. Determine what is important to you and your family.
a. In addition to location, hours, and tuition, there are other things to consider such as:
- Is connection to your faith important in an early learning experience?
- Does your child have special needs to consider?
- Are you looking for a certain philosophy such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia, or Play Based curriculum?
- Would your child thrive best in a home or in a center environment?
State-Licensed Family Child Care Homes
Child care and education are provided in a small group setting in an individual’s home, providing a home-like atmosphere for a child and greater flexibility to match non-traditional schedules.
State-Licensed Center-Based Programs
Child care and education are provided in a commercial child care center such as a free-standing building, retail space in a shopping center, a location within or on the campus of an elementary school, a religious institution, cultural center, or university.
2. Identify child care programs in your area.
a. Irvine Child Care Listings*
- School-Age Child Care (children enrolled in elementary school)
- Infant, Toddler, and Preschool Care
- State-Licensed Family-Based Child Care (Please note: Family Child Care Homes are listed by Irvine Village. View Map of Irvine Villages here. Please call family child care programs directly to inquire about exact location, hours, and ages served. Some family providers provide care for elementary-age children.)
- State-Licensed Center Based Child Care
- For assistance, please contact the City of Irvine’s Child Care Resource and Referral line at 949-724-6632, Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
b. The Children’s Home Society also provides child care resource and referral services. The Orange County hotline numbers are 714-543-2273 and 949-364-6605; assistance is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. You may also click here to fill out a child care referral request form, and a program specialist will contact you directly to provide referrals. For your convenience, you may also search their online child care referral database for referrals that meet your family's unique needs. Please note: Speaking to a program specialist often results in a referral list that more closely fits your needs.
3. Check them out.
a. Visit the State of California Community Care Licensing Division to search any child care programs you are interested in, and view the most current data on state visits, inspections, and license status.
- Enter nine-digit facility number or select “child care.”
- From “child care” screen, enter the type of program you are seeking. Options include:
- Child Care Infant Center (0–2 years)
- School Age Child Care Center (kindergarten–sixth grade)
- Child Care Center Preschool (2–5 years)
- Family Child Care Home Large
- Family Child Care Home Small (must list exact name of licensee to search)
- Under “City,” type “Irvine” and click “search” at the bottom of the page.
b. Call to find out if your top choices have openings, and schedule a visit or tour.
c. Prepare for your visit:
- View the age-specific “What to Look for In a Program” guides developed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
- Look for hallmarks of quality such as NAEYC Accreditation or participation in the QualityStart OC program. To learn more about the QualityStart OC rating system, click here.
- Use a list of questions and a checklist when you visit each program.
- It is recommended you make the first visit alone. Then, once you narrow down your choices or choose a provider, bring your child in for a visit.