5 top childcare options: cost and value, from day care to nanny

Which childcare option is right for you?

2. Family day care/home center

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The US Census found that 1.6 million children under age five are cared for by a non-relative in that person’s home; the majority of these are in official “family day cares,” which in most states have to meet some regulations. (There are also more than 700,000 children in more informal arrangements, ranging from
babysitting coops to a neighbor watching the local kids.) A home-based setup usually involves a provider, and possibly his or her employees, caring for a small group of children of different ages.

COST: According to ChildCare Aware of America’s recent report, full-time family childcare for infants ranges from an average of $4,544 in South Carolina to $10,358 a year in New York. For a 4-year-old, the numbers dip only to $4,095 and $9,620.

PROS: Parents who love their family day care programs say they are happy for their children to be in a home setting where they can play with older and younger kids – something that some studies show have developmental benefits. They also say they feel more comfortable having a consistent, primary provider know and care for their child.

CONS: Child advocacy groups warn that home-based care is far less regulated than day care centers; many states do not require a family day care to be licensed until it is caring for a certain number of children. It can be difficult without a lot of legwork for parents to learn about a provider’s safety record and background. Home-based care, depending on the provider, can also be less reliable than a center, which has backups, say, for sick employees.

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