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About Family Child Care in Virginia

"Family child care is the most common form of child care in this country. Family child care
providers are independent, self-employed business people who have assumed one of society’s
most important responsibilities, that of caring for our youngest children."

In Virginia, there are over twenty one hundred family child care businesses 2, caring for thousands of Virginia's youngest children. 

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The Benefits of Family Child Care

Reprinted with permission from All Our Kin

Family child care is a critical component of a child care system that meets the diverse needs of all families, and is uniquely well-positioned to meet the needs of families that face the greatest barriers to accessing child care. Families may choose family childcare as their preferred child care arrangement for a variety of reasons, including:

Family-like environment. Many families feel more comfortable placing their children—particularly infants and toddlers—in family child care programs because they believe that their children will thrive within a small group in a warm, familial, home setting. The intimate, family-like environment of family child care programs fosters the strong,nurturing relationships that are so important to a child’s healthy growth and development.

Culture and language.Families may be able to more easily identify a family child care option that aligns with their cultural and linguistic background than a center-based program. Because family child care providers live and work in the same communities as the families they serve, families may feel that their family child care provider better understands their needs and the needs of their children than a provider from a different community.

Geographic accessibility. In locations (such as low-income and rural areas) where center-based care is less common or less accessible, family childcare programs provide families with child care options in the neighborhoods where they live and work. This is especially important for families that lack access to reliable transportation.

Flexibility. Unpredictable job schedules, evening, night, and weekend shifts, and on-call scheduling—particularly in industries like food,healthcare, retail, and hospitality—can make it nearly impossible for working parents to coordinate child care. Family child care providers often offer flexible scheduling options and are more likely to accommodate nontraditional child care needs by having extended hours, overnight hours and/or weekend hours.

Mixed-age groups. Family child care providers can care for mixed-age groups,including infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children, in addition to providing before-and-after school care and summer care for school-aged children. For families with multiple children,this can save time and money and provide peace of mind that their children are together in a safe and loving environment.

Affordability. Child care is often prohibitively expensive for families, but the cost of family child care is typically less than that of center-based care. As such, family child care programs can serve as an affordable, high-quality option for children and families from under-resourced communities.

Economic drivers.Family child care businesses support the workforce of today while preparing the workforce of tomorrow. Family child care generates significant economic returns as it allows parents to enter and remain in the workforce and providers to increase their own earnings as business owners.

Reprinted with permission. From All Our Kin, Creating the Conditions for Family Child Care to Thrive.


Types of Family Child Care in Virginia 

(From the Family Child Care Toolkit, produced by the Virginia Department of Social Services)

In Virginia, family child care providers are subject to regulation based on the number of children in care, the ages of the children, and/or the locality in which they operate.


Licensed Family Day Homes

The Code of Virginia mandates that a family day home be licensed if the provider cares for six to twelve children (exclusive of the provider’s own children and any children who reside in the home). The care may be offered in the home of the provider or in the home of any of the children in care. During the (less than 24 hour) absence of a parent or guardian, the licensed family day home provider assumes responsibility for the supervision, protection, and well-being of a child less than 13 years of age. All adult residents of the applicant’s household, assistants, and substitutes must complete a criminal history background check, central registry clearance, sworn disclosure statement, and a tuberculosis screening. Licensed Family Day Homes comply with licensing standards, which are proposed by the State Board of Social Services and enforced by the Division of Licensing Programs, to ensure that the activities, services, and facilities of the family day home are conducive to the welfare of the children in care. For the most recent set of licensing standards; effective July 1, 2010  visit

Voluntary Registered Family Day Home

Voluntary Registration is a form of regulation offered to family day homes that are not required to be licensed. These homes have five or fewer children in care, not including the provider’s own children and any children who reside in the home. Voluntary registration is not available in areas where local ordinances regulate unlicensed providers (Arlington, Fairfax, and Alexandria). The program is administered by agencies that have contracted with the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) to perform this function in a specific area of the state.​

To register, a family day home provider pays a contracting agency $50.00 for a two-year certificate. All adult residents of the applicant’s household, assistants, and substitutes must complete a criminal history background check, central registry clearance, sworn disclosure statement, and a tuberculosis screening at the time of their initial application and subsequent renewals. The provider must complete a health and safety checklist assessing the home and meet any local fire and zoning regulations.

The contract agency completes a home inspection to make sure basic child safeguards are adequate. During the two-year period, the contracting agency and VDSS licensing staff monitor ten percent of registered homes for compliance with staffing requirements and a health and safety checklist.

Unregulated care

Unregulated care also known as “family, friend and neighbor care,” is a family child care home that is not inspected by the state or any contracting agency. A provider can legally provide care for no more than five children, in addition to the provider’s own children or children residing in the home, or no more than four children under the age of two, including the provider’s own children or children
residing in the home, at any one time. Unregulated care includes many local providers who are paid to work with small groups of children in their homes and who do so as a business enterprise that contributes to the economic and social fabric of their communities. It also includes grandparents, aunts, and other relatives who open their homes daily to help family members, often for free.

Regardless of the setting, it is in the child’s best interest that family child care providers provide an environment that is safe, nurturing, caring and stimulating. An environment where children can grow and learn the foundational skills they will need to be successful in school.

1. Family Child Care Toolkit, Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Development, Virginia
Department of Social Services, 2011.

2. Data from the Virginia Department of Social Services website,

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