Types of Care and Education

It's important to pick a program setting that best fits you and your child.

When searching for child care on the Parent Aware website, you can filter programs by three broad categories: centers and preschools, family child care, and Head Start. School-age care programs may appear in either the centers and preschools or family child care categories. Some types of programs are not included in the search results. They are listed below as other types of care. Most of these programs are not legally required to meet licensing health and safety standards. They are not eligible for a Parent Aware Star Rating.

Use these program descriptions to help narrow down your search.

Centers and Preschools

Child Care Centers and Private Preschools

These programs are licensed and monitored by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) or tribal human services agency and provide care and education for children in age-based groups, either full-time or part-time. These programs are often in free-standing buildings, businesses, community centers, or places of worship.

Public School Prekindergarten Programs
Public schools, including charter schools, may offer many program options, including early childhood education, extended day, family literacy, and school readiness programs. In-school or school readiness programs are administered by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). They are license-exempt, meaning they can provide care without having a license. License-exempt programs can become certified by meeting health and safety standards, which allows the programs to serve families that receive child care assistance

School-Age Care Programs
School-age care programs care for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. They can be offered in a building like a school, community center, YMCA/YWCA, or parks and recreation program. These programs may be licensed or license-exempt, depending on the setting. License-exempt school-age programs can become certified by meeting health and safety standards, which allows the programs to serve families that receive child care assistance.


Family Child Care

Family Child Care Programs

Family child care programs are licensed by the Department of Human Services and monitored by the county or tribal licensing agency. Family child care providers may care for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children in their homes. Some family child care programs are also provided in commercial spaces, such as hospitals or churches. Many family child care professionals offer planned play and scheduled activities that help children learn.


Head Start

Early Head Start (prenatal to age three) and Head Start (three to five-year-olds)

Early Head Start and Head Start and their child care partners serve young children from families with low income. Programs may be based in centers, schools, or family child care homes. These programs have comprehensive services that support the mental, social, and emotional development of children from prenatal to age five. In addition, programs provide early childhood classes and health and social services. Program services are responsive to each child and family ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage. Early Head Start and Head Start encourages the role of parents as their child’s first and most important teachers. Programs build relationships with families that support positive parent-child relationships, family well-being, and connections to peers and community.


Other Types of Care

Drop-In Programs
This is short-term care provided for a few hours at a time. It is usually offered in shopping malls or community centers.

Family, Friends, or Neighbors
Provider cares only for related children or children from no more than one unrelated family.


Legal Nonlicensed Providers
Family, friends, or neighbor care providers who register with the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) are referred to as legal nonlicensed providers. Legal nonlicensed providers are reimbursed for child care costs by CCAP and serve at least one unrelated child. They are monitored annually for compliance with health and safety requirements by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Results of those visits are posted publicly on the Department of Human Services’ Legal Nonlicensed Provider Annual Monitoring page.

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