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Chapter 2: Background

According to the National Association for Regulatory Administration, approximately 9.8 million children younger than five years are cared for on a regular basis outside the home by non-relatives. Of these, about 86% or 8.3 million children are in licensed child care facilities [1]. Additionally, an estimated one million children are enrolled in Head Start programs [13].

The term early care and education (ECE) can include many different places where children are cared for outside of their homes. ECEs can include child care centers, family child care homes, Head Start, day-care, preschool, and pre-K. The children in these programs are very young—about five years old or younger [14]. Many of these places are licensed by states to provide safe care for children.

Some children spend up to 10 hours a day, five days a week, in care outside of their home [2]. Families rely on ECE programs to safely care for their children while adults in the family work. When child care is not available, it can cost families their paychecks and reduce business productivity. Employee absenteeism as a result of lack of child care costs U.S. businesses $3 billion a year [15].

For this guidance manual we will be using the term early care and education (ECE) programs to describe places where children are cared for outside their own home.

This definition can include places that go by many names, such as

  • Child care
  • Family child care homes
  • Head Start
  • Pre-K
  • Preschool
  • Daycare