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Child Care and Early Education

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Child Care Centers are licensed to provide supervised care for children during some portion of a 24-hour day. Staff for approved day care centers must meet certain educational requirements; the program must ensure specified adult/child ratios; and the facility must meet building, fire and zoning codes. Services may include play time, activities to promote healthy growth and development, and snacks and/or meals, as appropriate.

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Head Start is a federally-funded child development and family support program that provides early education, health, mental health, nutrition and social services for low-income pregnant women and families with children from birth to age three. Services may include prenatal education and parenting classes for pregnant women; child development information; parent/child activities; a home visiting program for families with newborns; early education services in a variety of settings; comprehensive health and mental health services including smoking cessation and substance abuse treatment; coordination with organizations providing early intervention for infants and toddlers with disabilities; assistance in obtaining income support, housing or emergency cash; and transportation to program services.

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School Readiness Programs prepare children, usually age three to five, to succeed in school. The programs are modeled on Head Start/Better Beginnings/Brighter Futures programs.  They often focus on children from low income families or those who have or are at risk for a disability, or who have special needs. Services may include comprehensive development screenings, active learning, parent education programs, family activities, early literacy exercises, home visits and healthy snacks during the school day. Sometimes the programs are based in the home and focus on providing materials, instruction and support to help parents prepare their child for school.  

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Drop In Child Care programs provide supervised care for children on an unscheduled basis for all or part of the day in situations where the need for child care arrangements is unexpected.

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Child Care Provider Referrals are programs that provide statewide and community-based services designed to improve the availability and quality of child care. These programs maintain lists of child care resources and link families who are in need of child care services with child care centers, licensed family child care homes and other organization-based providers; provide information that helps families become good consumers of child care services; recruit new child care providers to expand the availability of the service locally; provide training and technical assistance for providers; and collect and disseminate data which document the demand for child care services and the current availability of child care resources. Some programs may also make referrals to preschools and many provide referrals to children's play groups.

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Child Care Expense Assistance help cover all or part of the cost of child care in public and licensed private child care centers or private family child care homes, usually for low-income families or families which include children with disabilities, where parents are working, in school or in a training program. Also included are programs that pay the costs of in-home or out-of-home child care when the parent is receiving diagnostic tests, undergoing medical treatment, is hospitalized or needs to be out of the house for other reasons; and those that provide financial assistance to families with young children to help cover some of the costs of a parent staying home to care for their child.

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Preschools provide education and activities for children who are younger regular school age.  Activities generally include learning shapes, color and numbers; active outdoor play; observation of nature and pets; dancing and rhythms; block building; playhouse activities; games; simple excursions outside the school; stories and picture books. Children are also given a nutritious snack and/or meal and a period for rest, and are taught basic cleanliness and good health habits.

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