How Preschool Works in Connecticut

A 3-minute guide to preschool and child care in Connecticut. Learn about licensing laws, instructor training, and enrollment requirements — everything you need to know to choose the right program for your child.

Takeaway: There are three types of licensed child care — child day care centers, group day care homes, and family day care homes — which primarily differ in size. Connecticut provides a detailed database tool that allows parents to search for licensed preschool programs. In the last year, Connecticut has started taking steps toward implementing universal pre-K, but the state has not yet met the goals it originally set out.

Overview

Connecticut provides a detailed directory of all preschool programs in the state. Results display capacity, contact information, license information, school specializations, and inspection history.

Connecticut is among a handful of states that has recently made a strong push for universal pre-K. In 2014, Connecticut passed the Smart Start, a multi-year plan to increase access to pre-K across the state. The program set aside $15 million for its first year and $20 million for each year after that. With this money, the state planned to create 1,000 additional seats for students in its first year. Unfortunately, Connecticut has not met these goals. Of the $15 million available in grants for schools in the first year of the program, only $1.6 million has been awarded. This discrepancy is the result of schools not applying for grants (because they consider the funding insufficient) or the state denying grants to schools that do not meet all necessary requirements. The state hopes to open 28 classroom in the next school year, and would need 814 more pre-K classrooms to provide universal access.

The Early Childhood Cabinet of Connecticut created the Early Learning and Development Standards to provide guidance to child care providers on high-quality early learning experiences.

Center-Based Care

There are two types of center-based care in Connecticut: group day care homes and child day care centers. Group day care homes provide care to seven to 12 unrelated children outside of a private home, while child day care center provide the same type of care for 13 to 20 unrelated children.

All center-based care in Connecticut must be licensed. Licenses are issued by the Office of Early Childhood, and providers must reapply every two years. During those two years, the Commissioner of Early Childhood and the local health director makes at least one unannounced visit to each center-based care provider, and unannounced visits are also made when complaints are lodged.

To receive a license, center-based care staff members must pass medical exams and criminal record checks, have a certificate from a first aid course, and, depending on the staff member’s position, meet designated education and experience requirements. Additionally, center-based facilities must meet certain standards of health and safety, educational programming, and record-keeping to be licensed.

All centers must observe suitable teacher-to-children ratios. These are 1:4 for children under age 3, and 1:10 for children above age 3. For providers caring for mixed-age groups, the 1:4 ratio should be observed.

Home-Based Care

In Connecticut, home-based care is referred to as “family day care homes.” This type of program provides three to 12 hours of care to six children (including the provider’s own kids, if they are not in school full-time). During the school year, up to three additional children (or all of the provider’s children) may be allowed to attend a program as long as they attend school full-time.

Home-based care must be licensed in Connecticut, and the license must be renewed each year by the Office of Early Childhood. To receive a license, home-based programs must have a caregiver who has taken a first-aid course; all family members of the home must pass a background check and medical exam; and specifications about the safety of the physical environment must be met.

The Commissioner of Early Childhood makes announced home visits to home-based care facilities that are in the application process or that have recently made any changes (for instance, a change in address). The Commissioner also makes unannounced visits to one-third of all licensed home-based facilities every year, and inspects any providers if there is a complaint.

Unlicensed Care

There are certain programs that are not qualified as child care, and the providers for these programs are legally exempt from licensure requirements. Exempt care arrangements include programs that take place in public schools or municipal agencies; programs in private schools approved by the State Board of Education; two-hour courses that teach children specific skills like sports or art; informal care arranged between friends or neighbors; supplementary care at recreational centers, retail stores, or chartered boys’ or girls’ clubs; care at religious institutions with which parents are affiliated; or programs administered by certain pre-approved nonprofits.

Discover Connecticut preschools near you using the free Noodle preschool search, the most comprehensive tool of its kind.

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