As a parent, one of the biggest and most important decisions you’ll make is choosing a child care program. Access to skilled professionals will prepare your child for kindergarten, helping them develop important social-emotional skills and boosting their chances of long-term success.
However, finding a high-quality early childhood program can often be overwhelming and frustrating. To help parents and caregivers navigate this process, One Place offers a variety of services, including our Child Care Resource & Referral program, which matches your child with a verified early childhood education program.
Once you’ve decided that you’d like to enroll your child in an early childhood education program, the next step is to find a safe and trustworthy childcare provider that meets your family’s unique needs.
The quality of the child care program you choose matters. One of the most reliable markers of a safe, high-quality child care program is if they’re licensed or regulated by the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education.
This certificate means that the child care program adheres to specific regulations that protect the health, safety, and wellness of children in their care. Child care centers without a North Carolina DCDEE certification should be avoided at all costs.
Child care programs in North Carolina—whether in a business or a home—are required to be licensed if:
By visiting the North Carolina Official Child Care Search, you can view the licensing status of each child care center and verify that their license is up to date. You can also access inspection reports about a child care program’s compliance with health and safety through this search.
Why Are Licensed Child Care Programs Important?
In North Carolina, child care programs are visited at least yearly by the DCDEE for program monitoring. All regulated and licensed programs must maintain a minimum of a 75% compliance rate. Choosing a licensed child care program is an important step to ensuring that your child is as safe, protected, and supported as possible.
In order to obtain—and maintain—licensing, child care centers must meet a set of basic requirements that address the following:
Licensing vs. Star Ratings
Licensing from the DCDEE is different from the star-rated licensing system in North Carolina. North Carolina has a star-rated license system that awards child care programs one to five stars, based on state-defined standards.
Any starred program meets the minimum licensing requirements—and the star rating is not necessarily a reflection of better quality.
If you are looking at a religious-sponsored child care program and notice it doesn’t have a rating, be aware that these programs only receive a rating if they choose to apply. The absence of a star rating does not indicate the program’s overall level of quality.
Before making a decision about a program based on the star rating, we recommend visiting the program in person and coming to your own decision. Many one-star-rated programs provide excellent child care and should not be dismissed just because of their rating.
Before choosing a child care program for your family, try to visit a minimum of three programs. This gives the opportunity to assess the overall quality of the program and determine if it seems like the right program for your child’s needs.
During your visit, pay close attention:
Consult these checklists from Child Care Aware for other relevant and helpful questions to ask during your visit:
Before you make your final decision, ask around and see if you can get references. Other parents who have children in the program can provide you with valuable insights and an honest evaluation of the program.
Last but not least, ask for help! Searching for child care can be a stressful time. Our Child Care Resource & Referral team can provide referrals to high-quality, regulated child care programs in Onslow County—always free of charge!
To start your search, text “Child” to (910) 333-0608. After texting this referral number, you’ll be prompted to submit an online form. This includes questions like your reasons for seeking child care and your basic information. Once we receive this form, our Resource and Education Specialists will create a customized list of child care facilities in Onslow County that match your needs and preferences.
If you have a child under the age of 2 years old, our team can provide an enhanced referral: This means that we will search for programs that match your unique needs, and then we will call the programs directly to confirm available vacancies on your behalf.
Finding high-quality child care can be stressful and overwhelming. We’ve compiled a few additional resources to aid you in your search:
Do you have additional questions or need assistance? We’re here to help. Click here for more information about One Place’s child care and referral services.