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Choosing an early education and care program means selecting a safe and nurturing environment for your child that also fits your family’s needs and schedule. Early care can also play a critical role in your child’s emotional, mental, and physical development, so it’s beneficial to research available programs before choosing one. The following can help you make an informed decision:

Know Your Options

There are three main types of early education and care; each varies by location, focus, and different child ages and education levels.

  • Family child care is delivered in a provider’s home to children ranging from infancy to school age.
  • Center and school-based early education and care takes place in a community or school setting and serves children of infant, toddler, or preschool age.
  • After-school and out-of-school programs are center-based programs that often run within public school building space. They provide care and learning opportunities for children ages five to 14 years old at times when school is not in session.

Choose the Right Program

Five statewide Early Childhood Resource Centers offer resources to help families decide what will work best for them, including pamphlets and videos that provide details about available programs.

Once you choose a program, you will need to choose a provider. You can start by looking through the care options available in your area or consulting with nonprofits such as Child Care Aware, who provide community-based child care information.

With those decisions made, you may want to look into financing child care. The Department of Early Education and Care provides financial assistance to families who meet mandated income criteria.

Special Programs & Parenting Tools

Head Start is a nationally funded program that promotes school readiness through high-quality, local early education. This free program serves families who meet federal low-income guidelines, have children with special needs, or who receive public financial assistance. Those who do not meet these criteria are still eligible to enroll at a low cost.

Coordinated Family and Community Engagement Programs (CFCE) are locally based offerings that work to increase families’ knowledge of and access to high-quality education and care in their areas. They promote parent education and family engagement, and provide information and support to families and providers.

Because parents are a child’s first teacher, there are many ways to continue involvement in early education at home. Parents can find guidance on engaging with and supporting their child’s early education with brochures on topics from building a preschooler’s literacy to supporting an infant’s cognitive development.

Massachusetts is dedicated to helping all children build a solid foundation for healthy and productive lives through various initiatives. By participating in these programs, parents can help ensure their children get the resources and education they need during these formative years.

Do you have any questions about early education and care programs in the Commonwealth? Comment below or tweet us, @MassGov.

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