Early Learning

We know that as parents you want the best for your children, which is why you try to offer them a balanced diet, make sure they get enough sleep, and encourage a variety of activities to promote their healthy growth and development. As you strive to set your children up for success in life, it is important to choose a quality early learning setting.

Child Care Aware® of America’s 2016 State Fact Sheets report discusses the lasting positive impact that the quality of child care and other early learning settings have on children’s academic and cognitive achievement, effects that are visible even 10 years after a child has left child care. Children who receive care in quality, responsive, and nurturing early learning environments have opportunities to establish healthy habits and get a jump start on school readiness. Of children who arrive at school without the skills needed to succeed, more than 85 percent are still behind in fourth grade, a statistic that emphasizes the significance of early learning opportunities during these formative years of a child’s life.

Child Care Aware® of America works to ensure that families in every community have access to high quality, affordable child care and early learning settings. Child Care Aware®, a department of Child Care Aware® of America, and your local Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) agency can help you find the information and resources you need to begin your child care search and to choose a quality program for your child. Call 1(800) 424-2246 or visit www.childcareaware.org to get started.

In addition to Child Care Aware® of America and Child Care Aware®, the resources below can help you learn more about early learning opportunities available where you live.


Head Start

Head Start is a comprehensive program that facilitates the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development of young children from income-eligible families. Services include education, health, nutrition, screening for developmental delays, and a variety of family social services when needed. Click here for more information, and visit https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/HeadStartOffices to locate Head Start (for children 3-5 years old) and Early Head Start (children from birth – 2 years old) programs in your community.

State Pre-K

State Pre-K Programs focus on school readiness and preparing children for success in Kindergarten and beyond. Most of the programs are primarily for 4-year-olds, but some states’ programs also target 3 year-olds. Currently 40 States, plus the District of Columbia, have state funded Pre-K programs, but eligibility and availability of space varies by state. In order to find out if your state has funded Pre-K programs, you can contact your local public school system, the state department of education, or your local Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agency. For help finding your local CCR&R, call Child Care Aware at 1(800) 424-2246 or visit www.childcareaware.org.

National Accreditations

National accreditation organizations strive to increase the quality of individual early child care education programs for the benefit of providers, families, and most importantly – children. When a child care provider has earned a national accreditation certificate from one of the national accreditation agencies, it may mean, depending on the state you live in, that they have reached a higher quality of child care than a provider with a state license only. There are multiple national accreditation agencies that accredit child care centers and family child care homes. Please click the links below for additional information on some of the currently-recognized national accreditation organizations:

Accreditation organizations for Child Care Centers:

Accreditation organization for Family Child Care Homes:

Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS)

Quality Rating and Improvement Systems are used to evaluate, improve and communicate the quality of child care programs. A set of standards are used to rate the child care providers, and resources are made available to the providers to help them improve their program standards in order to receive a better rating. Over half of the states currently have QRIS programs that are either statewide or county/region specific. If you’d like to find out about QRIS in your area, select your state from the Child Care Aware State Resource Map, and look under the “Child Care” category.

Child Care Aware of America

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