Child Care Assistance and Referral

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
703-449-8484 TTY 711
Multiple Locations-Main Office: 12011 Government Center Parkway, 8th Floor
Fairfax, VA 22035
Yonas Wondwossen

Choosing a Quality Child Care Program

banner child care assistance and referral family members

Choosing the right child care program for your child is a very important decision. Parents want a safe, nurturing and educational environment where their children can learn, play and grow. Child Care Assistance and Referral (CCAR) offers information about regulated family child care homes, child care centers and school-age care in Fairfax County. 
You may search directly online by zip code or other criteria to find a program near your work or home. You may also download the online child care flyer for additional information.

What to Look for in a Quality Child Care Program

Here are questions you may want to ask and things to consider as you explore your options:

ASK Questions

General Questions

  • Is your center 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?
  • 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

For more information about choosing a child care program, call CCAR at 703-449-8484.

Child Care Options

There are different types of child care options that you might consider when choosing the best place for you and your child. CCAR offers information on hundreds of regulated family child care homes and centers in Fairfax County. The following child care program options are available to you when deciding on a child care placement:

Family Child Care Home – Home based child care provided in the provider’s home. Each provider who has a county permit or state license usually manages his/her family child care independently and may care for children of mixed age’s groups (infants, toddlers, and preschool and school age children). Family providers that participate in the USDA Food Program serve nutritious meals and snacks.

Child Care Center – Center based programs typically provide full day, year-round care, for groups of 12 or more children in a non-residential setting. Usually children are grouped according to age (infant, toddler, preschool or school-age). Contact the Virginia Department of Social Services about the licenses these programs and for more information.

Family Child Care System – A network of individual family child care homes. Providers are screened, trained, and monitored by a state licensed system. In Fairfax County, Infant/Toddler Family Day Care of Northern Virginia provides this form of child care. They can be reached at

Preschool or Nursery School – Is a part-day program serving young children, generally between the ages of 2 ½ and 5.

School Age Child Care - Child care for school-age children grades K – 6 is offered before and after the regular school day and during school breaks. SACC is located in most county elementary schools.

In-Home – Child care provided in a child’s own home by relatives or by a family employee such as a nanny. In home care is considered unregulated child care.

Click below to learn more about other Office for Children’s child care program options:

Virginia Preschool Initiative

Early Head Start and Head Start

Maintaining Your Child Care Arrangements

Parents who stay actively involved in their child care arrangement will have better experiences. Children will also benefit from a good arrangement that lasts for a consistent period of time. To maintain good child care arrangements parents can:

  • Arrange their schedules so there is time to talk with the provider.
  • Visit and observe their children while the children are in care.
  • Discuss concerns with the provider as they arise.
  • Get to know other parents using the same care.
  • Keep to the agreed schedule and call when an emergency might result in a late pickup.
  • Pay fees on time.
  • Let the provider know how much their work is appreciated.

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