Resources & Referrals
Finding Child Care
Choosing child care is one of the most important decisions families make. Finding quality child care takes time and effort. We can help! For free, confidential child care information and referrals:
- Search our on-line database
- Visit the Office for Children
One Bergen County Plaza
Hackensack, New Jersey
- Call us at 201-336-7150
The Office for Children:
- Assists families in assessing their child care needs
- Describes child care options
- Provides counseling to families on the importance of quality early childhood programs and how to choose a provider
- Provides free referrals to child care programs in Bergen County
Do you have concerns or a complaint about a child care provider? If you are unable to resolve the issue with the provider, and wish to file a complaint about a child care program, call the NJ Department of Children and Families Office of Licensing at 609-987-2027 for child care centers, or the Office for Children at 201-336-7150 for family child care.
If you have concerns about services provided by the Bergen County Office for Children, e-mail us or call 201-336-7150. You may also write to:
Bergen County Office for Children
One Bergen County Plaza
Hackensack, NJ 07601
Types of Child Care
Registered Family Child Care
New Jersey regulations limit home-based child care to no more than five children plus a maximum of three children who live in the home. Family child care providers may choose to apply for a Certificate of Registration from the sponsoring organization serving their community, which in Bergen County is the Office for Children.
Child Care Centers
A facility that cares for six or more children under the age of 13 must be licensed by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Office of Licensing. Child care centers are licensed to care for a specific number of children and specific ages, birth through 13. Care may be full or part-time. After school care and holiday / vacation care may be offered for school age children.
Child care centers include specialized programs such as:
- Nursery schools or preschools: part-time or full-time programs for socialization and education
- Cooperative programs (parent co-ops): parents are asked to regularly participate in the classroom in exchange for a lower rate
- Head Start: a tuition-free preschool program offered for 3 and 4-year-olds from low income families (as defined by the federal government). The program offers meals, developmental experiences, health screenings, and may provide transportation
- Drop-In Programs: children are accepted as care is needed. Advance notice and registration are usually required (If the parent remains in the same building, a drop in program is not required to be licensed)
- School Age Programs: school age programs serve children during out of school time hours - before and after the school day. Some programs operate on school holidays and during the summer. Many are located in schools, but school age care is also available in many child care centers, family child care homes, and community programs such as Boys and Girls clubs. School based programs may be operated by the school or by an outside agency. Programs operated by a school do not have to be licensed
Choosing Child Care
Some types of care do not have state oversight, such as a caregiver coming to your home, care in someone's home who is not a registered family child care provider, mom / tot story hours, playgroups, and drop in programs where parents remain in the building. While referrals are not available for these types of care, the guidelines that follow may be helpful when choosing any type of care.
Visit providers and look for the key indicators of quality before making your choice.
Does the child care provider:
- Seem to be liked by the children in his/her care?
- Show warmth and friendliness to your child and the other children?
- Seem to be someone with whom your child will be happy?
- Make eye contact when speaking with children and engage in conversation with an individual child?
- Respect your family's culture and background?
- Share your values and attitudes about child rearing?
- Appear to be in good health?
- Allow visiting anytime?
- Licensing regulations state that parents of enrolled children may visit any time during operating hours to observe program activities. No appointment is necessary. Parents who are looking for child care and want to observe must be permitted to observe the operation and program activities, but may need to schedule the visit in advance.
- Have policies for medical situations and emergencies?
- Programs should have well thought out written plans for dealing with emergencies. Fire drills should be held monthly. Caregivers should have training in first aid and CPR.
- Require that children be properly immunized?
- Licensing regulations require documentation of immunization status.
- Have consistent staff with the children from day to day?
- It's best for children to be with the same caregiver consistently. Getting used to new caregivers can be stressful for children.
- Clean, safe, free of health hazards, and attractive?
- Medication and toxic substances like cleaning supplies must be kept out of children’s reach. Look carefully for possible hazards such as peeling paint, loose carpeting, evidence of water leakage, and uncovered electrical outlets.
- Large enough and adequately equipped for children to rest, eat and play?
- Equipped with sufficient heat / cooling, light, and ventilation?
- Low staff / child ratios and small group sizes?
- Find out how many children there are for each adult and how many children in a group. Smaller groups and fewer children for each adult are better for children to get the attention they need. The younger the child, the more important this is. Babies need an adult to child ration of no more than one adult to four infants, while one adult for ten children is acceptable for four-year-olds.
- Safe and appropriate material that will be stimulating and entertaining?
- A variety of hands-on activities?
- Opportunities for children to explore, discover, and learn through play?
- Regular opportunities for outdoor play and field trips to nearby places of interest?
- A balance between active play and quiet time?
- Encouragement and modeling of good health habits and social skills?
- For example, do children and adults wash their hands often, especially before and after eating, and after using the bathroom or changing diapers?
- Nutritious meals and snacks?
- Find out if you will be responsible to provide your child's food, and if so, how the food will be stored and reheated. If the program provides the food, ask to see sample menus.
- Policies and expectations in writing?
- Fees and hours that meet your needs?
- Your schedule with the provider?
- Your child's individual needs?
- Each child is unique, and caregivers should adapt their approach to meet your child's needs. Let the caregiver know what your child's personal style is (for example, how s/he deals with new situations, if s/he is generally quiet or active, if s/he is shy around strangers or enjoys approaching new people).
- Is the staff interested in your family's culture and is there staff who speak your home language? Talk openly with the staff about any special needs your child may have that will require any special accommodations.
- Any allergies your child may have to food, medicine, insect bites, animals, etc.?
- Handling of emergencies and who to contact?
- Your provider needs to know how to reach you in an emergency and who to contact if you cannot be reached.
- Provider's education and experience with children?
- Caregivers with training in working with children will be better able to help our child learn and grow. Even experienced caregivers should be involved in activities, such as attending workshops, to improve their skills.
For more information about choosing quality child care, visit these websites:
- Child Care Aware of New Jersey
- Child Care Aware (national site)
- NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children)
- New Jersey Inclusive Child Care Project
- New Jersey Department of Human Services
- What's New in Child Care? Presentation by NJ Division of Family Development