Choosing a Child Care Provider—Provider Qualifications

Choosing a quality child care provider is an important decision. Once you have your list of referrals, you can begin to learn about the ones that interest you. Visit the provider’s website or ask them about their background and qualifications. Take some time to learn about a providers’:

Licensing Report and Health and Safety Inspections

The Department of Social Services website allows you to search for any provider you may be interested in and see the results of their most recent health and safety inspections. These reports will tell you when the provider was last inspected, what violations they may have been cited for, and how these violations were addressed.

Keep in mind:

Religiously Exempt Child Day Centers and Voluntarily Registered Family Day Homes are typically only inspected after a parent makes a complaint, so they may have fewer inspection results. However, if the Religiously Exempt Child Day Center or Voluntarily Registered Family Day Home is approved to accept the VA Child Care Subsidy program they will have the twice-yearly unannounced inspections. 

It is common for providers to have a few infractions – you will want to see the details of each to determine whether these were minor infractions or signs of major health and safety violations. Talk with our Referral Specialist if you have questions about the severity of a violation.


The Unified Virginia Quality Birth to Five (VQB5) System measures and improves the quality of early childhood classrooms for children from birth to age five. It helps families choose high-quality programs and sets the standards for measuring and supporting teachers in all types of programs. VQB5 provides feedback and support to teachers and program leaders so they can help young children learn and grow.

VQB5 concentrates on two important aspects of quality:

  • Interactions: The quality of teacher-child interactions is assessed using a tool called the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). This tool observes various age-appropriate aspects of how teachers interact with children to support their learning and development.
  • Curriculum: Programs are recognized if they implement an approved curriculum in at least one of their classrooms. This ensures that there is a focus on providing a structured and effective curriculum for learning.

All publicly-funded programs are now required to participate in VQB5, and ratings will be shared publicly by Fall of 2024. Visit the VDOE website for more information.

Accreditation is a voluntary process designed to improve the quality of early child care and school-age care programs. Accredited providers have met national safety standards in addition to being state-licensed. Some of the more well-known accrediting agencies include:

Standards and Curriculum

A core component of a high-quality early childhood education experience is the ability for children to have opportunities, experiences, and access to materials that will help build their school readiness skills, developmental abilities, and engage with the world around them. The Virginia Department of Education outlines comprehensive early learning and development standards for children birth to age five. These standards address a programs:

  • Approaches to play and learning
  • Social and emotional development
  • Communication, language, and literacy development
  • Health and physical development
  • Cognitive development, including science, social science, math, and fine arts

A quality child care program uses a curriculum that will support every child through their development and meet state standards. Some early childhood education curriculum models are:

  • Abeka — A biblically based curriculum for grades pre-k through grade 12. Utilizes a Spiral Learning approach the begins with the basics and progresses to deeper understanding at age-appropriate times. Offers curriculum for homeschool, Christian schools, and preschools.
  • The Creative Curriculum — An differentiated approach in which children learn through creative and active teaching strategies. Curriculum is divided by age  — Infant, Toddlers & Twos, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Family Child Care.
  • High Scope — A play-based, child-centered curriculum featuring active learning, positive adult-child interactions, a child friendly learning environment, a consistent daily routine, and team-based assessment. Offers curriculum for Infant-Toddler and preschool.
  • Montessori The Montessori method is an approach to classroom learning that emphasizes independence and choice. Montessori education programs are characterized by Montessori trained teachers, multi-age classrooms, specially designed Montessori materials, child-directed work, and extended periods of free choice.
  • Reggio Emilia Approach The Reggio Emilia approach is an inclusive, village-style approach that engages children, parents, and the community as all being essential components to the learning process. Children have control over their learning and teachers collaborate with students, rather than just instructing them. There is no set curriculum or testing program, but teachers will often base lesson plans on each child’s interests.
  • RIE (Resources for Infant Educators) Approach The RIE, or “Educaring” approach believes parents and caretakers must have respect for infants and trust that they are natural inventors, explorers, and self-learners. This approach encourages freedom to explore and interact with other infants, time for uninterrupted play, and environment that is safe, cognitively challenging, and emotionally nurturing, and the involvement of the child in all care activities.
  • Waldorf Approach The curriculum at a Waldorf preschool is focused on creative learning over academics, developing a love of learning, and encouraging  a child’s natural curiosity for the world around them. Waldorf schools do not use any computers or digital technology in the early grades curriculum, although mechanical technology and the practical arts are incorporated at all levels.

Providers can also create their own curriculum. Frequently, these self-designed curriculum are:

  • Play based — A play-based curriculum allows children to learn the skills they need in a structured environment with the help and supervision of a teacher through social play, individual play, and group play. 
  • Cooperative Approach — An instructional strategy in which small groups of students work together on a common task.

Once you’ve done some research on the providers you’re considering, call each one to get additional information. Use this time to ask questions like:

  • Does the provider have space for your child?
  • What are their hours of operation? 
  • What are the weekly or monthly tuition fees?  Are there other fees or costs associated with the program?
  • Are there any financial assistance options available?

If the program sounds like a good fit for your family, set up a time to meet with the provider and take a tour of the facility. While you’re on the tour, get a feel for the environment, ensure health and safety measures are in place to protect your child, and look for indicators of quality child care.

What to look for during your tour