Types of Child Care | Collaborative For Children

Types of Child Care

You can choose from several types of child care to fit your family's needs.

There are several different types of child care options available to families. As you use Collaborative for Children’s child care database, you can filter your search results by type of care.

Child Care Centers

Child care centers operate out of non-residential, commercial buildings. Centers are larger and enroll more children than a home-based provider. The children are usually divided into groups or classrooms according to age. Child care centers have a center director and several staff members. Child care centers may be privately operated for profit by a chain or individual, or operated by non-profit agencies, including churches, public schools or government agencies.

Centers typically offer a structured, classroom-like environment. Families often like child care centers because of the larger groups of children present and the variety of equipment, supplies and activities. Child care centers often have the most regulations and inspections. In Texas, child care centers are licensed and regulated by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Read more about child care centers:
Child Care Aware

Family Child Care Homes

In family child care homes – sometimes called child care home providers, or home-based child care – providers care for small groups of children in their own residential homes. Many families choose family child care homes because they like the family environment and the smaller number of children present. Home-based programs often provide a very consistent primary caregiver for your child and may offer more flexible hours of care for families that need care in the evenings or weekends.

Families with multiple children may like that siblings are cared for together rather than separated into different classrooms. Family child care homes are often less expensive than center-based child care programs. Be aware, however, that family child care homes may only have one caregiver. If that caregiver becomes sick, takes a vacation or must close for any reason, families must make alternate care arrangements.

Read more about child care homes:
Child Care Aware

Preschool Programs

Preschool programs are usually for children between the ages of three and five years old. They are often part-day and generally operate during the school year. Texas offers free pre-kindergarten programs for families that qualify. Many types of organizations offer preschool programs, including schools, churches, non-profit organizations and child care centers. Families who select a preschool program usually don’t need a full day, full year setting but are looking for a program that focuses on kindergarten readiness.

Read more about preschool programs:
Child Care Aware
Eligibility for Texas Pre-K

Charter Schools

Charter schools are free, public options for families to choose to send their child. Public charter schools were created by the state of Texas in 1995 to have the flexibility to adapt to the educational needs of individual students. Because they are public schools, charter schools are open to all children, do not charge tuition, do not have special requirements for admission and are not affiliated with any religion. Often, charter schools provide personalized learning environments that promote greater student achievement than traditional public schools. 

Read more about charter schools:
Texas Charter Schools Association
Texas Education Agency

Private Schools / Independent Schools

Private schools are owned and operated by private organizations or private individuals rather than the government. Private schools may be for profit or non-profit entities. Private schools are funded in whole or in part by charging tuition. Because families pay tuition to attend private schools, enrollment is not automatic and the schools can be selective in choosing children for admittance. Private schools often are founded upon a particular philosophy, viewpoint or mission and may or may not be faith-based.

Read more about private schools:
Texas Private Schools Association

Early Head Start and Head Start

Head Start programs are free, federally-funded programs designed to promote school readiness of children ages three to five from low-income families through education, health, social and other services. Head Start programs are operated by local non-profit organizations. Children who attend these programs participate in a variety of educational activities. They also receive certain free medical and dental care services, have healthy meals and snacks and enjoy playing indoors and outdoors in a safe setting. Their programs are required to serve children with special needs, such as physical and developmental delays or homelessness.

Early Head Start is a program that serves pregnant women and families with children birth to three years of age. These programs were previously offered only as partial-day programs for part of the year. Currently, however, they are moving to serving children during a full day and full year schedule. These programs offer a variety of support services.

Read more about Head Start and Early Head Start:
Child Care Aware

Before-School / After-School Care

There are various options for before-school and after-school care for school-age children. Many child care centers and child care homes offer this type of care for children who attend only before or after the school day. Recreation centers, churches and youth programs may also offer before and after-school programs. Many local schools may provide after-school care or will contract with another agency to provide after-school care onsite. These programs can be very convenient for families since transportation is not an issue.


Camps are vacation and summer child care programs that typically provide a variety of activities for children, such as arts and crafts, swimming, drama, organized sports or special interests like zoo camp or music camp, etc. These programs are usually for school-age children, though some are available to preschool-age children as well. Camps are operated by a variety of organizations which may include parks and recreation departments, community organizations, schools or child care centers. Camps may operate on a part-day or full-day schedule for as little as a week at a time, or spanning an entire summer. Camps may operate on a daily basis or children may attend overnight, residential camps.

Other Types of Care


Mother’s Day Out

A Mother’s Day Out program is a part-time, part-day program that allows families to send their children for as little as a few hours a day a few days a week. Children who otherwise are cared for by a stay-at-home parent can receive socialization with other children their age, as well as experience age-appropriate curriculum or activities while mothers – or fathers, or grandparents – can enjoy the periodic “day out.” Mother’s Day Out programs can be operated by various entities and are often affiliated with a church or school. Mother’s Day Out programs are tuition-based programs and are licensed and regulated by the state only if they operate three or more days per week.

Family, Friend and Neighbor Care

By its very nature, you won’t find family, friend and neighbor care in our database but you should know that many families choose family, friend and neighbor care for their children. This type of care is provided in the child’s or caregiver’s home by a person who is a relative, friend or neighbor of the child’s family. This type of care is typically legally exempt from regulations and may not be required to meet health, safety and training standards unless they care for children who receive government child care subsidies. Family, friend and neighbor care is also often the least expensive type of care.

Information in this section excerpted from Child Care Aware and other sources


You May Not Know That

In Harris County,
three-fourths of Children
in child care are in
unregulated care.

Families who found child care
through our QualiFind online
database and concierge services.

Families who were served by
Collaborative for Children's very
own everyday superheroes - our
parent engagement staff.