Finding child care can feel like a daunting task for parents, but it doesn't have to be. Here, you will find information related to locating licensed child care providers, the types of child care available to you, requirements of child care facility licensing, and how to evaluate child care providers you visit.

Steps to Choosing Child Care

High-quality child care settings allow children to experience stimulating interactions in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe. It is important for your child to have access to materials, activities, and toys in areas that are safe for their state of development. Your child should feel welcomed, loved, and comfortable with those who care for them. A good caregiver is loving and responsive, respects the child's individuality, and offers a safe environment for play and exploration. Here are steps you can take to ensure a child care facility is right for you and your child.

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View this map to find child care near you.

When selecting child care, it's important to remember the following factors:

  • Adult-to-Child Ratio: Ask how many children there are for each adult. The fewer the children for each adult, the better for your child. You want your child to get plenty of attention.
  • Caregiver Qualifications: Ask about the child care provider’s training and education. Caregivers with degrees and/or special training in working with children will often be better able to help your child grow and learn. Are the caregivers engaged in activities or programs outside of work that help to improve their skills and knowledge around child development? Do they attend classes and workshops that focus on early childhood development?
  • Turnover: Check how long the child care provider has been at the center or in their home. It’s best if children stay with the same caregiver at least a year. Caregivers who come and go make it hard on your child. Consistency helps to build your child’s self-esteem and provides them a sense of security.
  • Supervision: Are children supervised at all times, even when they are sleeping? How do the caregivers discipline children? (Discipline should be positive, clear, consistent, and fair.) Can caregivers be seen by others at all times? Have the caregivers been trained on how to prevent child abuse, how to recognize signs of child abuse, and how to report suspected child abuse?
  • Safe and Clean: Have caregivers been trained how to keep children healthy and safe from injury and illness? Do all caregivers and children wash their hands often, especially before eating, and after using the bathroom or changing diapers? Is the outdoor play area regularly inspected for safety? Is equipment the right size and type for the age of children who use it?
  • Active Parents: Involved parents build trust, communication, and consistency between home and child care.
  • Accreditation and/or IdahoSTARS Rated: Find out if your child care provider has been accredited by a national organization or has been rated through the IdahoSTARS program. These providers have met voluntary standards for children that are higher than most state licensing requirements. Visit the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children website for more information.

The Cost of Child Care

Sources: and the Treasure Valley United Way ALICE Report

Child Care Aware

  • National Advocacy/Public Policy group that serves families and professional child care workers by collecting data yearly for nationwide reports that aid in community leadership and policy making.
  • These references are from the 2017 data. Access the 2017 Report.

Treasure Valley United Way ALICE Report

  • ALICE is an acronym for ‘Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed.’ While families in this category are working and above federal poverty level, they still struggle to make ends meet.
  • Localized part of a nation-wide project, ALICE Pacific Northwest looks at Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, and breaks them down further by county. The specific Treasure Valley ALICE report looks just at Idaho, county by county.
  • Idaho’s ALICE population is 26% of families. Combined with those at or below federal poverty level (around 14%), this means that approximately 40% of Idaho families are struggling to make ends meet.
  • These references are from the 2018 report; however, the report pulls from 2016 data. View the reports.

Both Projects

  • Looking at both projects together gives a somewhat more rounded view of the situation of income and child care.
  • While the Child Care Aware report focuses specifically on Child Care, the ALICE report gives a broader view of all the expenses that households of varying sizes and demographics reported. Alternately, the Child Care Aware report focuses nationally and at state level, but the ALICE report gives a more detailed approach by looking at each county.
  • Especially important to note, Ada County is home to several major commercial and high tech employers. Both the cost of living and the median household income are higher in Ada County than generally in the rest of the State.

Idaho and Ada County Average Cost of Childcare

AgeCenterFamily/In-Home% of Income
Infant/Toddler$6,905 / year$6,284 / yearCenter = 13.3%
Family/In-Home = 12.1%
4 year old$6,429 / year$5,834 / yearCenter = 12.4%
Family/In-Home = 11.2%

The Child Care Aware report lists the 2017 average cost of childcare via several breakdowns.

  • The numbers above are based on prices reported in the Child Care Aware report. The ALICE report lists the Idaho couple average income as $51,807. The percentages shown in the chart are the percent of income—based on the $51,807—used for childcare.
  • Ada County median household income is $61,301/year, which is $9,494 (18.3%) higher than State average.

Child Care Workers

  • Many people who work at child care centers do so because they have children. The Child Care Aware report addresses costs to child care workers (2017 Idaho Child Care Fact Sheet)
  • The State of Idaho percentage of the average child care worker income ($19,480) required yearly to keep 2 children in child care is 68.9%. While we were unable to find a statistic on average child care worker pay for Ada county, general observation from looking at starting pay in many job listings is that the starting pay for State, County, and Boise City child care workers is nearly the same. This means that in Ada County, the percentage of child care fees to pay is even greater.
  • Most centers offer incentives such as reduced or free child care to workers. Without these incentives, child care for child-care workers (who would otherwise pay up to almost 69% of their income toward childcare cost) would be unaffordable.
Cost of Child Care

Download the Cost of Child Care for Parents (PDF)


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