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Parent's Choice:

Breaking Down Child Care Options in Indiana

Breaking Down Child Care Options in Indiana

Choosing a child care program is one of the most important decisions a family makes. In Indiana, you can find safe, high-quality programs in homes, centers and faith-based early learning settings. Programs vary greatly and finding the right fit looks different to each family.

When breaking down child care options in Indiana, there are four main categories that families have to choose from.


A facility designed to provide child care for one or more children — in a building that is not a home — is called a child care center in Indiana’s regulatory system. Child care centers are required to be licensed unless the hours or the ages they serve, allows them to be exempt. These programs often care for many children organized by age. There are multiple classrooms dedicated to infants, toddlers and preschoolers with caregivers in one facility with a curriculum dedicated to each age range.

Staff in these programs are required to have comprehensive federal background checks which are routinely updated, along with the completion of regular training. Caregivers must also be certified in various first aid techniques. The size of these facilities allow for multiple teachers per classroom when necessary. This means that more kids can be enrolled in a single classroom.

To help accommodate the families in their community, many centers offer subsidies like On My Way Pre-K or Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) to offset the required costs to enroll.

Home Settings

Home settings are called family child care homes in Indiana’s regulatory system. The programs operate out of a residential home, often the provider lives in the same facility. There are three primary types of family child care homes which all have slightly different regulatory requirements:

  • Licensed family child care home
  • Not licensed family child care home approved for CCDF vouchers
  • Not licensed – this setting must care for fewer than five unrelated children

In most family child care homes, staff must have comprehensive federal background checks which are routinely updated. Staff must also be certified in various first aid techniques and attend required training annually. These programs often only have one caregiver but are still required to follow specific caregiver-to-child ratios.

A unique offering of family child care homes is the ease of ability to offer care outside of regular business hours. Because the provider is operating out of their own home, they could care for a child in the evening or overnight if they meet appropriate regulatory standards.

Religious Settings

This type of care is offered as an extension of a church or not-for-profit religious organization. Registered ministries are not licensed care, and they can use a faith-based curriculum if they choose. Registered ministries can fall within three regulatory options:

  • Registered ministries with a voluntarily certified program designation, often called VCP
  • Registered ministries approved for CCDF
  • Registered ministry

These types of programs operate similarly to a center and are often located in a religious facility like a temple, church, mosque or synagogue. It is common for child care programs in a religious setting to have multiple classrooms dedicated to infants, toddlers and preschoolers with caregivers in one facility. It is also likely that the programs follow an education curriculum catered to each age range.

Similar to other types of care, teachers have health and safety certifications along with a completed federal background check. They must also complete an array of formal education training on an annual basis.

Like centers, it is common for these programs to offer that help offset the enrollment costs for families.

School-Based Programs

These programs are operated by a local school corporation or private school. They are not required to be licensed or follow state guidelines for early learning settings unless they choose to serve infants or toddlers consistently. If the program only cares for preschool-aged children, the school corporation sets the program guidelines.

Often, when a school corporation offers early care, they often offer before- and after-school care to further accommodate the needs of families in their community. If a school-based program chooses to care for infants or toddlers, the caregivers must meet similar regulatory standards as other types of care.

How to Choose

There is no right answer for deciding what type of care is right for your child and family. It is important to consider a number of factors, including the location of a facility, enrollment cost, work schedule of caretakers, age of the child and curriculum offerings, among many others.

Finding a Program

Now that you have broken down the child care options in Indiana, you need to know what programs are in your local area. Early Learning Marketplace is a tool that helps families search for child care providers based on their needs while offering the option to enroll in a program directly from the website. This resource helps save time by filtering options according to your specific needs and allowing you to save your seat as soon as you find the right fit.

If you need personalized help finding care for your family, please contact SPARK Learning Lab at 1-800-299-1627 or email a helpful agent.

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