Choosing the right child care program for your child usually means considering the cost of care, the location, and the ability of the provider to meet the individual needs of your child. This page will introduce all of the care and education environments you will find in Mississippi.
Private Child Care
Private child care is provided by the individual owner(s) and/or operator(s) of a small- or medium-sized business. There are around 1,900 private child care providers in Mississippi. Services are provided in the owner’s or operator’s home or at a facility. Most private child care providers (around 1,600) are regulated by the Division of Child Care Facilities Licensure at the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) to provide a minimum standard of health and safety in the care environment. Staff working in a licensed private child care setting and all individuals living in a licensed child care home must pass a comprehensive background check. Additionally, all child care staff working in a licensed setting must complete orientation training regarding basic health and safety issues in child care. MSDH and the Mississippi Department of Human Services offer a number of professional development and technical assistance opportunities to private child care providers to support their role in the care and education of Mississippi children. To learn more about the rules and regulations governing private child care providers, including the minimum qualifications child care staff must obtain to provide care, click here.
Licensed Child Care Center
A licensed child care center refers to a private facility that provides care to children while parents are working or unavailable to care for their children. Child care centers typically group children of similar ages and offer some type of programming throughout the day. Some centers provide age-appropriate educational services, although this is not required in order for the facility to operate. These facilities are licensed by MSDH and must adhere to regulations regarding child care. Health and safety of the children in these settings is a priority. Click here to download a copy of the rules and regulations governing licensed child care centers.
Licensed Child Care Home
A licensed child care home refers to an independent owner/operator who provides care to children while parents are working or unavailable to care for their children. Care is provided in a group setting in the owner’s or operator’s home. These providers may care for 12 or fewer children who are not related to the provider within the third degree and who are younger than 13 years old. Typically some type of programming is provided throughout the day. Some providers in this setting provide age-appropriate educational services, though this is not required in order for the home to operate. These facilities are licensed by the Mississippi State Department of Health and must adhere to regulations regarding child care. Health and safety of the children in these settings is a priority. Click here to download a copy of the rules and regulations governing licensed child care homes.
Registered Family Child Care Home
A registered family child care home refers to a private child care setting in which an individual is paid by parents to care for their children while they are working or unavailable. This setting occurs in the child care provider’s home and provides small-group (five or fewer children) care in a home-like environment. These homes are not licensed, monitored, or otherwise regulated by the Mississippi State Department of Health. Minimal information is maintained about these programs by the Mississippi Department of Human Services to assist in emergency preparedness only. All family child care home providers who are approved to accept Child Care Payment Program recipients are registered.
CCPP-Approved Child Care Provider
A CCPP-approved child care provider refers to any private child care provider that is eligible to serve children and families participating in the Child Care Payment Program (CCPP) of the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS). CCPP-approved providers must complete an application and approval process with MDHS in order to begin receiving reimbursement for the provision of services to CCPP-participating families. CCPP-approved providers must reapply for approval each year. If you have been approved to receive child care assistance through CCPP, you must choose a CCPP-approved provider in order to receive the benefit. Click here to download a copy of the rules and regulations governing CCPP.
To search for CCPP-approved providers, click here. On the search page, select the “Accepts MDHS Subsidy Children” box before submitting your search.
Unregistered Family Child Care Provider or Unlicensed Child Care Facility
An unregistered family child care provider or unlicensed child care facility refers to a private child care setting in which an individual or organization is paid by parents to care for their children while they are working or unavailable. Unregistered and unlicensed care providers are not monitored or regulated by the Mississippi State Department of Health or the Mississippi Department of Human Services. NOTE: It is unlawful for any person to provide care-for-pay for more than five children at one time who are not related to the adult within the third degree. Click here to learn more about the types of businesses that are exempt from licensing.
Public prekindergarten services are offered in 72 school districts in Mississippi. These classrooms are regulated by the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) and are funded through a combination of state and federal funds. Seats in these classrooms are limited but are available at no cost to parents of children who live in the school district. Here is a list of public prekindergarten locations in Mississippi. Many school districts also offer special education services to prekindergarten children. To learn more about public prekindergarten in Mississippi, click here.
Early Learning Collaboratives
The Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013 authorized and directed MDE to implement a unique prekindergarten program in Mississippi. Colloquially known as “Collaboratives,” funding is disbursed each year from MDE to a lead partner (a public school district or nonprofit entity), which serves as a fiscal and administrative agent for a group of public and private care providers in Mississippi who are dedicated to delivering high-quality care. There are currently 11 state-funded early learning collaboratives comprised of a school district, Head Start agencies (if available), child care centers, and private nonprofit organizations. In order to receive funds, collaborative providers must implement the early learning standards adopted by MDE and use curriculum and other programming that align with the early learning standards. To learn more about early learning collaboratives, click here.
Head Start and Early Head Start
Eligible children may attend prekindergarten at Head Start and Early Head Start (HS/EHS) centers. Head Start currently serves 21 counties in Mississippi; Early Head Start serves 63 counties across the state. Eligibility for HS/EHS is determined by household income and the child’s exposure to other social and environmental risk factors. HS/EHS emphasize a comprehensive approach to promoting each child’s health and development. Enrollment eligibility is dependent on the parent’s or guardian’s compliance with home visits and other supplemental experiences outside of the classroom. HS/EHS centers must meet national performance standards set by the Office of Head Start. These standards are high and considered a benchmark for delivering high-quality care nationwide. HS/EHS grantees receive funds directly from the Office of Head Start in the United States Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and must comply with the administrative requirements, auditing requirements, and operational procedures set forth by ACF. To learn more about Head Start and Early Head Start in Mississippi, click here. To learn more about how eligibility is determined and/or how to apply for Head Start or Early Head Start services, click here. To learn more about Head Start and Early Head Start in the United States, click here.
Other Care Settings
An in-home caregiver is someone who comes to, or lives in, your home. The caregiver can be a relative or a friend or someone you pay to come to your home. If you have three or more children needing care, in-home care may be less expensive than other kinds of care. You may also want to use in-home care if your child needs special care because of a physical, mental or emotional problem; if you need care for an infant or toddler or care for a child at night; or if you need only after-school care. In-home care can be costly, especially if you have only one or two children and are paying someone for full-time care. In-home care providers are not regulated by any state agency. Some in-home care providers belong to professional organizations or have completed certification or degree programs. In interviewing in-home caregivers, you will want to find out about their training and experience, their attitude toward children, and their ability to meet any unique needs of your child. At the very least, parents should be sure any caretaker they accept into their home has completed basic CPR and first-aid training and can pass a background check. Click here to learn more about how to request a background check in Mississippi. You may also request a background check on a potential caretaker through a number of third-party sites.