Choosing Child Care in Alabama:
A Parent’s Guide

Choosing the right type of child care is often difficult. This brochure
is designed to assist you in selecting child care arrangements to suit
your family’s situation as well as your child’s needs. The checklist is
a partial list of things you should find in a child care setting where
quality is important.

Consider the following when choosing child care:

When do I need child care?

Plan ahead and give yourself time to visit several child care programs
before making a decision.

What is the cost of care and the payment schedule?

Child care costs may vary, depending on the type of care you choose, the
days and hours you need care and the area in which you live. Fees may be
more for infants and toddlers. There may be discounts if a family has
more than one child enrolled in care.

What is included in the cost of care?

There may be registration fees, transportation fees, and field trip and
activity fees. Parents may or may not be required to furnish infant
formula, baby food and diapers for infants or toddlers.

What are My Child Care Choices?

  • Child Care Centers – Caregivers care for thirteen or more children and
    legally operate in one of two ways: licensed or license exempt (Church
    sponsored centers are exempt, but may choose to be licensed).


  • Family Day Care Homes – One caregiver cares for no more than six
    unrelated children in the caregiver’s home and must be licensed.


  • Day Care Group Homes – Two or more caregivers care for no more than
    twelve children and must be licensed.

In Alabama, child care centers that operate less than four hours a day
are not regulated by the Department of Human Resources.

If you feel your family’s income is low enough to qualify for financial
child care assistance, contact your County Department of Human Resources
for more information.

What Should I Look For?

When visiting a day care facility, use this
Visited Checklist
to help
you decide whether it is a quality program that will suit the needs of
your child and your family. After an initial visit by appointment, try
to make an unannounced visit before enrolling your child.

What is “Licensed” Child Care?

Being licensed means that child care centers, family day care homes and
group homes have been inspected to assure that minimum standards are met
as required by the State Department of Human Resources and the State
Fire Marshall’s Office. Some facilities are also inspected by the State
Department of Public Health. All programs that require a license must
have the license renewed every two years. The Department of Human
Resources prescribes and enforces minimum standards for licensing
approval. Copies of minimum standards manuals used to license day care
facilities may be obtained by contacting the State Department of Human

Minimum standards for licensure include, but are not limited to:

  • Child/staff ratios based on ages of children and types of activities
  • Safety requirements for facility and equipment as prescribed by the
    State Fire Marshall
  • Records on children and staff, including immunization and health records
  • Minimum educational or training requirements for staff
  • Nutritional requirements for children
  • Transportation policies
  • Requirements for basic program operations and educational programming
  • Disciplinary procedures

What is “Quality” Child Care?

Quality child care involves attitudes and activities that promote
social, emotional, intellectual and physical growth and well-being of
every child.

Other factors contribute to quality such as:

  • Low child/staff ratios
  • Trained staff
  • Safe and healthy environment
  • Developmentally appropriate activities and practices
  • Age appropriate toys and equipment
  • Loving, positive interaction between child and caregiver
  • Parent Involvement
  • Licensing
  • Program accreditation

What about Parent Participation?

It is the responsibility of parents to be actively involved in their
child’s day care. Partnerships should be developed with caregivers.

Who Can Help Me Locate Child Care?

If you need help in locating licensed child care or need more
information regarding child care, you may contact an area Child Care
Resource and Referral Agency, your County Department of Human Resources,
or the State Department of Human Resources, 50 Ripley Street,
Montgomery, Alabama 36130, (334) 242-1425.

What About Complaints?

Serious complaints that cannot be satisfactorily resolved between the
parent and the caregiver should be reported to your local county
Department of Human Resources.