Types of Child Care


Regulated Care Options

There are separate rules and requirements for each type of care.  Regulations include requirements for the caregivers, the site and the program.  Registered care includes family child care and school age child care.  In Tompkins County, the Child Development Council enrolls and inspects registered care.  Child Care Centers and School Age Child Care are licensed by the NYS Office of Children and Families (OCFS).  Our child care specialists are happy to explain the differences in all of the types and their basic requirements.  Give us a call at 273-0259.

Family Child Care  - Care is provided by one adult for 3 to 8 children in an occupied residence. Children may range in age from 6 weeks to 12 years.  The maximum number of children in care is dependent upon the provider's own children and the ages of children in care.

Group Family Child Care - Care is provided by at least 2 adults for 3 to 16 children in an occupied residence.  A group provider must have an assistant present when there are more than 8 children present. There must be one adult for every 2 children under 2 years old. Children range in age from 6 weeks to 12 years.  The maximum number of children in care is dependent on provider's own children and the ages of children in care.

Child Care Center - Care is provided for 6 or more children on a regular basis for more than 3 hours a day, in a facility.  There are specific building, staffing and program requirements.  Children are grouped by age and cannot be mixed.  Child care centers in Tompkins County range from 30 to 160 children.

School Age Child Care (SACC)- Care is provided for children under 13 years of age who attend school.  Care may be provided before and after school and during school holidays and breaks.  Care may be provided in a school, church, child care center, or community center. 

Head Start - Head Start programs are licensed centers serving 3 and 4 year old children.  Head Start programs must meet New York State licensing regulations and federal Head Start standards.  A home based educational option is provided.  For information on Head Start programs, eligibility requirements and the enrollment process, please go to and click on the Early Childhood tab.

Other Early Childhood Programs

Universal Pre-K - Universal PreK (UPK) programs are operated by school districts, but may be located in a variety of settings including schools, Head Starts and community child care centers.  In Tompkins County, there are UPK programs in Ithaca, Groton, Newfield and Trumansburg School Districts. Please contact the school district for enrollment information.

Nursery Schools - Nursery Schools generally serve children ages 3 to 5 years in a variety of facilities.  They typically operate for 3 hours or less per session.  These programs are not regulated; however, some have elected to register with New York State Education or are accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Camp Programs - Recreational programs that operate during the summer months and sometimes school holidays maybe regulated by the NYS Department of Health or may be afterschool programs regulated by the NYS Office of Children and Family Services.

Informal Care 

Informal care is not required to be licensed or registered with New York State.  Informal care can be offered in the caregiver's home for no more than 2 children (not related to the caregiver) or in the child's home, such as by a nanny or au pair, or they may operate for 3 hours per day or less. 

Legally Exempt - Legally Exempt child care providers provide informal care for children who are subsidized through the Department of Social Services.  Legally Exempt child care providers are required to complete an enrollment process that involves basic safety requirements and background checks.  The Child Development Council enrolls Legally Exempt providers and provides Health and Safety Inspections and technical assistance.  Contact us for more information.