Types of Care

There are many different types of child care in Virginia, from small home settings to large centers.  Each has advantages and disadvantages.  The type of care you choose depends on your family’s needs and the availability of child care in your area.


Child care that takes place in a facility that is not a private home. Serve fairly large groups of children who are separated by age group and led in structured activities.  All child care centers must be licensed unless they are exempt from licensure in accordance with the law.

  • A Licensed Child Care Center provides care for two or more children in a setting other than a private home or for 13 or more children at any other location (e.g., private residence) and it is licensed by the Virginia Department of Social Services.  Licensed child care centers must meet the Standards for Licensed Child Day Centers
  • License-Exempt providers are not required by law to be licensed because of religious practices or because they are private certified preschools.  Exempt centers must still meet some state regulations.

Staff-to-children ratio requirements for child day centers:

Birth to the age of 16 months

16 months to 2 years

2 years

3 to 5 years

5 to 9 years

10 to 12 years







Specialized types of child care are:

  • Preschool programs usually offer an early-childhood educational class for 3- through -5year-olds.  Many offer a part-time schedule (for example, a few hours a day, two to five times a week) as well as full-day care, but only from September to May.
  • Head Start/Early Head Start promotes the growth and development of children from low-income families. Parent involvement, a health program, and family support are included. Early Head Start serves families with children from birth to 3 years old and children ages 3 to 5 years old attend Head Start. Head Start locator
  • School-age child care programs offer care for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. They usually operate in schools, community centers, YMCA/YWCA, or park and recreation programs.  Care is typically available before and after school, on school holidays, and/or during the summer.  Such programs shall be subject to safety and supervisory standards established by local governments OR Instructional programs offered by public and private schools are considered exempt from licensure (§63.2-1715 of the Code of Virginia.)

Virginia Department of Social Services: Search for a child care facility inspection record.

Family Day Homes

Family child care takes place in the child care provider’s home. Family Child Care Homes typically involve a mixed-age group of infants  to school age.  In a family-structured environment, activities can include field trips, arts and crafts, music, and hands-on learning.  Any home child care provider caring for more than 4 children must be licensed.

Family child care providers shall ensure that a caregiver does not exceed 16 points by using the following point system to determine if an additional caregiver is needed:

Birth to the age of 15 months

16 to 23 months

2  to 4 years

5 to 9 years

10 and older

4 points

3 points

2 points

1 point

0 points

  • Licensed providers may have between 1 and 12 children in care, depending on how many other adults work with them, and their capacity (space) for care. (Children who live in the home are not included in the licensing count.) Licensed home providers must meet the Standards for Licensed Family Day Homes.
  • Voluntarily Registered providers may not care for more than 4 children (not including children living in the home). The home must meet the Voluntary Registration of Family Day Homes: Requirements for Providers.
  • Virginia Department of Social Services: Search for a child care facility inspection record.
  • Locally Permitted child care providers are Fairfax County residents who care for up to 4 children in their homes that are required to have a family child care permit.  Choosing a Child Care Provider with a Permit
  • Family Child Care System Home is any private family home, which is an approved member of a family child care system and cares for children up to age 12 years.  For additional information contact the Infant Toddler Family Day Care.
  • An Unregulated Family Day Home is not inspected by the state or its designee. It can legally provide care for no more than 4 children  in addition to the provider’s own children or children residing in the home.  Homes that exceed capacity are operating illegally.