The Office of Early Childhood (OEC) makes it easy for parents to find high-quality child care and camps. Learn about your options — and about programs that may help pay some of the costs.
Looking for high-quality child care or camps for your children?
We can help! Dial 2-1-1 or visit 2-1-1 child care.
Find child care
High-quality child care is essential. It gives parents confidence to know that experts are taking care of their children. And it offers children a way to build their skills and develop with trained educators in a safe environment.
We always recommend TLC — trusted licensed care. When a child care program is licensed by OEC, you’ll know your child is in safe hands.
What are my options?
In Connecticut, there are a few different types of licensed child care:
- Family child care homes. These are child care programs that a person opens in their home. They’re usually smaller and may have up to 6 to 9 children.
- Child care centers. These are bigger child care programs, like day care centers or after-school programs. They may have more than 12 children.
- Group child care homes. These are less common, and they might be in someone’s home or in a building like a school. They may have up to 12 children.
There are also some child care programs that, by law, don’t need to have a license, like some programs run by schools. These programs don’t need to follow the health and safety standards required of licensed programs.
Whatever type of child care program, you’re allowed to have “immediate access” to your child. That means you can drop by any time the child care program and ask to see your child right away.
How do I choose?
The best thing is to figure out what you and your child need. Some things to consider about a possible child care program:
- What are their hours?
- How far are they from your home or work?
- How much do they cost?
- Does your child have any special needs?
Once you have a sense of what you need, take a look at your choices.
- Find out what’s available. Use 2-1-1 Child Care’s online search tool to get information about licensed child care providers in your area. You can also dial 2-1-1 (or 800-505-1000) to speak with a Child Care Referral Specialist. They’ll help you find the services that will best fit the needs of you and your family, all at no cost.
- Check their record. Once you have a list of a few licensed programs or providers, use the online License Lookup tool to learn more. You can confirm that a program is licensed and that staff has been approved to work with children. You can also see a history of program inspections and any past complaints.
- Plan a visit. Call and schedule visits at a few different child care options — and bring your child with you. 2-1-1 Childcare has quality checklists you can use when you’re visiting.
- Ask about past inspections. By law, OEC inspects all licensed child care facilities every year. We follow up with a written inspection report. Child care centers and group child care homes have to post their most recent inspection report. And if you ask, all types of child care — child care centers, group child care homes, and family child care homes — are required to let you see the most recent report.
Check out these handouts to get more tips on finding the right child care provider:
- How to Choose a Licensed Child Care Provider (English)
- How to Choose a Licensed Child Care Provider (Spanish)
Find summer camps
Licensed summer camps offer your kids a safe place to play and make new discoveries.
Learn what’s available in your area. Just dial 2-1-1 or visit 2-1-1 Child Care to search for local summer camps.
Find out if the camp is licensed. If it is, you can be confident that it’s been inspected by OEC. We make sure that licensed camps are safe places to learn and grow. And we make sure that staff have the training they need. To find out if a camp is licensed, dial 2-1-1 or search for it under “Youth Camps” on the License Lookup site.
Want tips on finding the right camp for your child? Get help from the Connecticut Camping Association.
Get your child ready for camp. Check out these tips from the American Camp Association.
Have a complaint about a summer camp? Find out how to file a complaint.
Learn about financial help
If you need help covering the costs of child care or camps in Connecticut, here are some programs and organizations that can help.
Contact 2-1-1 Child Care. They can help you learn about about no- or low-cost options for child care. Some child care programs get support that allows them to offer spots for free. Others may have open spots at a lower cost, based on your family income. Just dial 2-1-1 or visit 2-1-1 Child Care.
Learn about Care 4 Kids. Care 4 Kids helps working families with low incomes pay for child care. Visit the Care 4 Kids site or call 888-214-KIDS (5437) to find out more. You can also use their online tool to see if your family meets the income requirements.
Look into a Head Start Program. These programs offer free child care and family support to low income families with children age 5 and younger. Call use the Head Start locator to find contact information for a Head Start program near you.or
Call your local public school system. Many public schools offer free part-time preschool, special education programs, and before- and after-school programs. Contact the school district where you live to find out more.