The decision to leave your child in someone else's care while you are at work or school is one of the most important decisions you can make. Parents want a safe, nurturing and educational environment where young children can learn, play and grow.
While there are a variety of child care options available, many families in Fairfax County choose family child care providers who care for young children in their homes.
It is very important to select a family child care provider who has either a current Fairfax County permit or a Virginia state license to operate a home-based child care program. When you choose a regulated family child care provider, you are selecting an early childhood professional who:
a. Receives regular health and safety inspections.
b. Has current first aid/CPR certification.
c. Has had tuberculosis screening and background checks, for all residents 18 or older. (Search of the state Central Registry Search for any Child Protective Services finding is conducted for all residents 14 or older).
d. Is required to participate in ongoing professional development.
The Child Care Permit
- Fairfax County residents who care for up to four children in their homes are required by law to have a current family child care permit from the Fairfax County Office for Children. (Residents who care for five to 12 children must be licensed by the state.)
- We can help your child care provider become permitted. He or she can start by attending one of our free workshops, “Preparing for Your Family Child Care Permit.” For the date and location of our next workshop, child care providers can call 703-324-8100, or visit our Web site at: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/ofc.
Download the brochure for more information about how to choose a child care provider with a permit *.
* Fairfax County is committed to nondiscrimination in all county programs, services and activities. To request reasonable accommodations or to receive this information in an alternate format, call 703-324-8100 or TTY 711.
- A current CPR and first aid certificate.
- Emergency plans, supplies and equipment.
- Thorough background checks of everyone in the home age 14 or older.
- Immunization records of all children in the home.
- A negative tuberculosis test.
- Rabies records for pets.
- Annual safety inspection from the county Fire Marshal.
- A visit from a child care specialist covering health, safety, nutrition and child development.
- Required professional development.
- A supportive relationship between you and your child care provider is essential. Here’s how you can help:
- Make sure your child care provider has a current child care permit or license.
- Let your child care provider know immediately if your emergency contact information changes.
- Make sure you and your child care provider have a written agreement which covers policies about illness, vacations, fees, hours of operation, and late pick-up/early drop-off.
- Visit your child in care, and participate in your child’s activities when possible.
- Ask your child care provider to participate in the USDA Food Program. This will help ensure that your child receives healthy meals and snacks from your child care provider.
- Let the child care provider know how much you value his or her work.
1. How can I find quality child care for my child?
Learn more at the Office for Children.
2. Our family has very limited income; where can I find help paying for child care?
Learn more at Child Care Assistance and Referral.
3. How do I know if a family child care provider will be able to support my child’s social, emotional and intellectual development?
Family child care providers that are permitted by Fairfax County or licensed by the state, receive ongoing professional learning in many areas related to supporting children's development and readiness for school. It is important for you to also have an engaged conversation with your family child care provider and ask questions about their background and experience with children. The next section has some recommended questions that you can ask your family child care provider to better understand how they can help support your child.
Here are questions you may want to ask and things to consider as you explore your options:
- Is your program state-licensed?
- What are the qualifications, experience and training of the professionals who will be caring for my child?
- What are your health and safety practices?
- Do you use an age-appropriate curriculum for the children in your program?
- Do you accept children with special needs?
- Do you have experience working with children with special needs?
- Are the children spending time outdoors every day? Where do they go for outdoor play?
- What kind of food is served to children each day at mealtime and for snack?
- What kinds of activities do children do each day who are my child's age?
- Do you encourage family involvement in your program?
- What are your health and safety practices?
- Do you have an Emergency Plan that you can share with me?
- Are you certified to administer medication, if needed?
- Additional Specific Questions to Family Child Care
- Is your family child care program county-permitted or state-licensed?
- How long have you been doing family child care here in Fairfax County?
- Why is your family child care program the best one for my child?
- What are the ages of the children currently in your care?
- Do you participate in the USDA Food Program?
Things to OBSERVE and CONSIDER during Your Initial Meeting or Visit:
- Is the staff patient and kind toward children?
- Does the staff understand children's needs and help them learn to solve problems?
- Are there enough age-appropriate toys and materials?
- Are the indoor and outdoor play areas safe, clean and organized, with adequate security?
- Are there safe, open areas for babies to play?
- Are dangerous items locked up and stored safely away from children?
- Are there working smoke detectors throughout the home or facility?
- Are the children happy and engaged?
- Did staff show interest in my child?
- Do I trust this family child care provider/child care center or preschool staff with my child?
- Will my child be comfortable here?
- What do other parents say about this program? Are there references I can contact who have used or are currently using this program?
- Will this program support my child's learning and development?
- Does this program meet our family's needs?
The family child care provider you have chosen may participate or may be eligible to participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The main goal of this program is to ensure the children in care receive healthy meals and snacks and providers receive training in nutrition. Children and providers learn about food and healthy eating.
Nutrition is an important part of quality child care and a healthy lifestyle. All children need well balanced meals and snacks that provide variety of nutrients for good health and energy. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) helps child care providers receive reimbursement for meals and snacks that mean USDA meal pattern requirements for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and snacks. Training and education programs are also offered to providers that participate in the CACFP.
Child Care homes participating in CACFP:
- Care about good nutrition for children.
- Serve nutritious meals and snacks based on USDA nutrition standards.
- Help children learn and feel positive about food and develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
You should also know that:
- Your child care provider may ask you to complete certain forms required by CACFP.
- Your child care provider will be happy to show the menus to you.
- You may be contacted at some time and asked about the type and quality of meals served to your child to help manage the program better.
- Special arrangements can be made for meals and snacks for children with special nutritional needs.
By working together, you and your provider can give your child a head start on a healthy lifestyle.
If you have any questions about the Child and Adult Care Food Program, contact Office for Children at 703-324-8100.