When you decide to enroll your child in childcare outside of your home, there are many things that you may be concerned about, including financing childcare and finding a safe provider that will appropriately stimulate and support your child. To make the best choices for your child, it is important that you understand the various licensing requirements in the state of Washington.
Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care
Family, friend, and neighbor care consist of informal child care arrangements that you make with close family and friends. Family, friend, and neighbor care providers do not require licensing in Washington State. However, it is important that you select experienced caregivers that you trust and can provide a healthy environment for your child.
You may want to choose family, friend, or neighbor care because your child receives one-on-one attention from someone that they are close to. However, it is important to ensure that your child receives the benefits of social and educational development during their early years. For this reason, you may want to provide your child's caregiver with resources to help their development in childcare.
If you qualify for a subsidy to pay for childcare, you can use this subsidy to pay for a family, friend, or neighbor childcare provider, even if they are not licensed.
Home and Center-Based Childcare
Both home and center-based childcare providers need to be licensed through the Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL). Currently, more than 6,000 childcare providers are licensed in Washington State, and childcare providers operating without a license are subject to various fines.
There are many benefits to selecting a licensed childcare facility. Licensing regulates the health and safety standards of a facility and requires that all caregivers meet certain professional and safety standards and follow the early learning guidelines set out by the DEL.
Licenses issued by the DEL are non-expiring. However, licensed facilities must present documentation and may have to undergo inspection every year to keep their license. Even if a childcare program is licensed by the DEL, it is still important that you thoroughly assess the facility and caregivers to make sure they are an appropriate match for your child. If you are concerned about the safety or standards at a particular childcare facility, you should report your concerns to the DEL, so they can make a proper inspection.
Part-time Private Preschool
Part-time private preschools that operate for less than four hours a day do not require licensing through DEL. Although it is not required, many private part-time preschools are approved by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Approval through the OSPI depends on a private school meeting certain safety and health standards as well as teacher certification. It is renewed each year and requires the school to submit attendance records to the OSPI for continued operation.
Full-time Private Preschool
Private preschools that operate for more than four hours each day may be approved by the OSPI, as well. However, they are required to be licensed by the DEL and are held to the same health and safety standards as public childcare programs.
Your childcare facility may have other special endorsements in addition to their license from the DEL and approval through the OSPI. If the school follows a certain method of education, such as Montessori or Waldorf, they should be endorsed by an appropriate program for these methods.
Before enrolling your child with a childcare provider, it is important that you check that they are currently licensed through the DEL or OSPI website. If you are selecting a friend or family member who is not licensed, it should be someone that you know and trust.
For more information and options for childcare or preschool, talk with different local services and visit websites like http://www.kidscountry.net.