In Delaware there are three types of child care available to choose from: family, large family, and centers.

There are a wide variety of child care and early education programs available to you.

Family Child Care

Family child care is provided in a licensed home for up to 9 unrelated children, depending on their ages. Parents choose family child care because they want to keep their children in a home-like environment. They prefer to relate to a single provider and believe that children are healthier, happier, and more secure in smaller groups. Sometimes they choose family child care because they find it closer to home, less expensive, or more flexible.

Large Family Child Care

Large family child care is provided in a licensed home or commercial building for up to 12 unrelated children, depending on their ages. Parents choose this type of because they want to keep their children in a home-like environment. They prefer to relate to one or two providers and believe that children are healthier, happier, and more secure in smaller groups. Sometimes they choose a large family child care home because they find it closer to home, less expensive, or more flexible.

Child Care Centers

Child care centers usually provide more structure and include early care and education centers, preschools, and after-school programs. Families often choose this type of care because they offer children the opportunity to interact with a larger number of children and adults. Child care centers offer programs to a variety of age groups and vary in terms of educational philosophy, curriculum, costs, and services.

The Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) encourages parents/guardians to do their homework when choosing a quality, licensed child care provider; it is one of the most important decisions you can make for your child. Licensed child care providers offer developmentally appropriate activities to keep kids engaged and educated, as well as to support school readiness and success. Child care regulations include requirements for safety, health, and nutrition. Here are a few items parents/guardians should know as they consider choosing care for their children:

  • Child care is paying someone to provide care for your child outside of your home.
  • There are different types of child care in Delaware including family or large family child care (meaning care is provided in the home of a provider or in a commercial property for some large family providers) and center child care (meaning care is provided in a larger, non-home environment).
  • To provide child care in Delaware, all sites must receive a license from the Delaware Office of Child Care Licensing before being able to operate and must have annual checks performed.
  • All family/large family child care providers and center staff must pass background checks.
  • To receive a license and remain licensed, child care providers must comply with specific regulations to help ensure your child is safe and successful.
  • OCCL has a child care search showing the location and recent licensing history of all licensed family child care homes, large family child care homes, and early care and education and school-age centers in our state. There you can see a listing of regulation violations and complaints that were substantiated as well as those that resulted in concerns being cited to help you make an informed choice regarding the best child care placement for your child.
  • You may contact OCCL to see the active licensing record of any licensed child care facility in Delaware.
  • Providing care to children outside the child’s own home for a fee and without a current license is a violation of Delaware law and has penalties. Allegations regarding possible unlicensed care should be reported to OCCL for investigation.

For more information, please call the Office of Child Care Licensing at 302-892-5800 (New Castle County) or 302-739-5487 (Kent and Sussex counties) or send an email.

Questions to Ask When Selecting Care

The first question to ask when interviewing someone to provide child care is: “Are you licensed by the State of Delaware?” Licensed providers are required to post their license in a prominent place where visitors can view it. By choosing licensed child care, you can be sure that each person with access to your child has been fingerprinted and determined eligible to have access to children. Enrolling your child in an unlicensed program, places him or her at risk.

Use these Questions to Consider When Choosing Child Care to help you choose the right care for your child.

Selecting the right care for your family is a very important decision and there are many things to consider. Our Child Care Search provides information to help parents make a more informed choice by displaying five years of compliance history including results of unannounced annual compliance reviews, substantiated complaints, and complaints with concerns cited. It also shows if a facility is on an enforcement action for failing to comply with licensing regulations. Programs participating in Delaware Stars receive additional oversight and technical assistance. If you are looking for a provider who is not listed on this site, please contact us at 1-800-822-2236. If you want to review the complete licensing file, please contact your local Office of Child Care Licensing at 302-892-5800 (NCC) or 302-739-5487 (Kent and Sussex). If you want to review the complete licensing file, please contact your local Office of Child Care Licensing at 302-892-5800 (NCC) or 302-739-5487 (Kent and Sussex).

Total Number of Serious Injuries, Deaths, and Child Abuse Cases in Child Care in DE since 2015

Year Injuries Deaths Child Abuse
2015 164 1 8
2016 173 1 3
2017 247 0 10
2018 191 0 1
2019 215 1 3
2020 89 0 2

Paying for good child care can be a struggle. In fact, child care is probably the second largest expense in a budget after housing expenses. The average cost of child care in Delaware is $640 per month. This cost can vary depending on the number and ages of the children, location, and type of care desired. Purchase of Care (POC) is a program that helps low-income families pay for their child care. This service supports families with young children so that the parent or guardian can hold a job or attend a training program. If you are working, you may have to pay a portion of your child care expenses. If you are found to be eligible for POC, you may choose your child care provider from the following options:

  • A state licensed center
  • A state licensed family or large family child care home
  • A license-exempt provider such as a relative

You may get a list of child care centers and homes in your area from the Children & Families First agency at 1-800-734-2388 or your local Division of Social Services (DSS) office. DSS will also be able to give you more information on the program rules and fees. If you are interested in participating in POC, please contact your local DSS office or the DE Help Line at 1-800-464-4357.

Learn about assistance options offered by the Division of Social Services.

Visit the Division of Social Services for information about Cash Assistance, General Assistance, Refugee Cash Assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid (CHIP), Food Supplement Programs- Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) School and Community Nutrition Programs, Community Food and Nutrition Programs, Child Care, and Income and Eligibility. You can apply online for many of these services as well as for health care coverage, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and the Food Bank by visiting ASSIST.

Learn about programs that prepare children from low-income families to get ready for school

Head Start is a federal program that helps children from birth to age five from low-income families by providing a positive learning environment. Please visit benefits.gov to learn more about these programs and their requirements and to locate a program near you.

These websites may be used to  provide you with information, and help answer questions you may have.