Choosing child care will be one of the most important decisions you will make. Maine has resources to help!

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Choosing Child Care

Maine has different child care options to meet the various needs of families. Learn more about them here!

Child Care Centers

These programs operate in a facility designated for the care of children. Children are often grouped according to age in child care centers. In Maine, facilities providing care for more than 3 children must be licensed; staffing requirements vary based on the total number and ages of children in the program.

Family Child Care

These programs operate within a private home and often serve multiple age groups. In Maine, if an individual is providing child care for more than two children who are unrelated to them, that person(s) must be licensed by Maine’s Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services. The maximum number of children allowed in a family child care home in Maine is 12; depending on the number and ages of children, additional staff may be required.

Nursery School

These programs offer programming for children for no more than 3 ½ hours per day. Some nursery schools offer both a morning and afternoon session, but children may only attend one session per day. Nursery schools typically serve preschool-aged children, though some offer programming for toddlers.

License Exempt Care

This type of care is also known as “family, friend, and neighbor care.” Individuals can offer care for up to two children unrelated to them without becoming licensed.

Head Start

Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Head Start serves preschool-age children and their families. Many Head Start programs also provide Early Head Start, which serves infants, toddlers, pregnant women and their families who have incomes below the federal poverty level. Head Start programs offer a variety of service models, depending on the needs of the local community.

Recreation Programs

These programs serve children during out-of-school time hours, including before school, after school, and during summer and school vacations in community-based settings (e.g. in a school or YMCA). Recreation programs are not required to be licensed, but the programs must maintain appropriate staff-to-child ratios and all staff must pass background checks as required by the state.

Public Preschool Programs

These programs are operated by local school departments and serve 4- and 5-year-old children (who are not yet enrolled in kindergarten).

In-Home Care

This type of care is provided in the child or children’s own home. These caregivers are commonly called “nannies” or “au pairs.”


The Maine Department of Health and Human Services worked with stakeholders to create and implement a quality rating and improvement system for Maine called Quality for ME. The system has three goals:

1. To recognize child care programs that provide quality care
2. To encourage programs to increase their level of quality
3. To provide families with identifiable standards of quality

making an informed decision

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for your family!