What is an Accredited Daycare or Preschool?

Kids tend to figure out pretty quickly who they can ask for what. If mom says no, ask dad. If dad says no, ask mom. If mom and dad both say no, then ask the grandparents, who will usually say yes under the table! However, figuring out the permission system behind the alphabet soup of child care accreditations, tends to be more complicated.

Who gives what? NAEYC? NAFCC? NECPA? OMG… TL;DR!

The first thing to remember is that a daycare and preschool accreditation (from a non-profit organization) is not the same as a child care license (from a state or county). Having a state license indicates that a child care center or preschool fulfills the legal requirements to be in business. Licenses typically cover issues such as minimum level of training and education for the child care provider, as well as health and safety requirements for the facilities.

Accredited child care programs have to meet higher standards than those required to be licensed. Accredited daycares must offer a high level of attention and the types of activities that should be found in quality child care programs. Accredited preschools must offer educational activities that will help children’s growth and development, and that will help them be ready for kindergarten.

State licensing was really the only way to judge the quality of a daycare center or home daycare until 1985, when the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) rolled out its Early Childhood Program Accreditation project. Since then, various other organizations have launched their own daycare accreditation and we estimate that there are about 20 operating today. First prize for the preschool accreditation body with the cleverest acronym goes to APPLE, the Accredited Professional Preschool Learning Environment :)

It’s hard to say what is the best preschool accreditation or what is the most important daycare accreditation, because there are simply too many types of child care programs with different priorities, strategies, and philosophies. We can, however, say that the NAEYC is the oldest and largest body with over 10,000 accredited child care and preschool programs.

If you are looking for a nationwide child care accreditation organization that will most likely have an accredited child care center near you, then NAEYC would be a good place to start. If you’re looking for a family child care accreditation body because you want to find an accredited home daycare, then NAFCC is also a good option.

Below are a few of the most widely known child care and preschool accreditation organizations (for a more complete list of daycare accreditations, click here).

NAEYC – National Association for the Education of Young Children

NAFCC – National Association for Family Child Care

NECPA – National Early Childhood Program Accreditation

AMS – American Montessori Society

NAC – National Accreditation Commission

In all cases, a little curiosity comes in handy when you encounter an accreditation during the course of checking out a new preschool. Good early childhood accreditation organizations tend to be very transparent about their criteria and publish it on their website. You should be able to check exactly how the child care provider qualified!

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