Child care comes in many forms. Sometimes a relative provides care for a child, and sometimes it is a person outside of the family. A child might receive individual care or be part of a group, and the setting might be in a home—the child’s, a relative’s, or a day-care provider’s—or a center. One or several adults might be involved in caring for a child.

With such diversity among day-care providers, research has been conducted on what constitutes quality in child care. Because some settings are easier to study than others, most of the research on quality indicators has been conducted in licensed day-care centers, though more recently research on the quality of family-oriented day-care arrangements has been increasing.

The results of the research so far have found the following items to be three of the indicators that reliably mark quality day care in a group setting:

  • Stability of the child-care provider or providers. The ongoing availability of the same caregiver or caregivers is crucial to quality of care. Trusting emotional relationships are established by continuity of care, and the research finds that caregivers who have a long-term commitment to their jobs relate to children in more caring, stimulating, and developmentally appropriate ways than caregivers who see their job as temporary. Superior group-care settings assign a primary caregiver to a specific small group of toddlers; doing this attends to a child’s need for a secure base. Stability of care is just as important when considering individual, one-on-one settings.
  • Child development training. One of the foundations for aptly offering quality care for children is training in child development. Through training and education, caregivers gain knowledge about age-specific issues and a broad perspective on children’s behavior rather than only the more narrow perspective of personal experience. This knowledge allows a caregiver to address behavioral issues in an age-appropriate manner and to identify early signs of potential problems that need to be addressed.
  • The presence of more than one adult. Individual caregivers need to have available at least one other adult to pitch in and help. Caregivers need support both concretely and emotionally. The companionship and help of one other adult relieves stress and pressure so individual caregivers can professionally and patiently attend to the needs of the children under their care.

Good child care is important for the health and well-being of children. Take time to find a quality day-care setting and provider for your child.