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California's complicated web of state, local, for-profit and nonprofit early learning and development programs can be daunting to parents considering options for their children's early education. The California Report has created this glossary to help parents make sense of the sometimes confusing terminology they will encounter as they try to make an informed choice for where to send their kids.
Transitional Kindergarten is the first year of a two-year program that uses a modified curriculum intended to be age and developmentally appropriate. The California Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 established the transitional kindergarten program, which will be offered at certain public school districts beginning this year. Full implementation is expected in three years. Currently, there are varying eligibility requirements, but typically a child is eligible for transitional kindergarten if he/she turns five years old during the fall. Children in California must be five years old to start regular kindergarten in 2015.
Head Start is a federal program for preschool children from low-income families.
The program was part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, beginning as an eight-week summer program in 1965 to help prepare low-income children for kindergarten. Now the program provides year-round services such as preschool, meals and health check-ups for low-income children between the ages of three and five, as well as parental training. Early Head Start provides assistance for low-income pregnant women and children, ages one to three.
The program has also gone beyond classes for children — Head Start provided early funding for Sesame Street in 1968.
California's state preschool program is funded by the California Department of Education's Child Development Division and is a preschool program for children between three and five years old from low-income families. It is different than Head Start in both the types of program it offers and its eligibility requirements.
State preschools have half-day and full-day programs. The half-day program is free for low-income families, and the full-day program fees are offered on a sliding scale based on income. The program also provides children with meals, parent education and referrals to health and social services.
In 2006, California voters rejected Proposition 82, which would have provided free half-day preschool for four-year-olds. The program would have been funded by raising income taxes for individuals making more than $400,000 a year and couples making more than $800,000. It also would have required all preschool teachers to hold B.A. degrees.
Child Care Center
A child care center provides care for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and/or school-age children all or part of the day. These facilities may be large or small and can be operated independently by nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies, churches, school districts and other groups. Most are licensed by the California Department of Social Services (DSS) through its Community Care Licensing (CCL) division.
Find a licensed child care center in California.
Review instructor-to-child ratio for day care in California.
More information at the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.
Family Child Care Home
A family child care home is a residence belonging to someone who provides child care, often a parent. Small family child care homes have one provider and can accept up to eight children, depending on their ages. Large family child care homes have two adults and can take up to 14 children, depending on their ages, which are often varied. The homes are licensed by DSS/CCL.
Licensed v. Non-Licensed Child Care
Licensed child care providers have completed classes on child safety and health. They have been fingerprinted and TB-tested and their site has passed an inspection. They also pay a yearly fee.
There are some types of child care that do not need a license, like nannies and babysitters who come to your home, relatives, parent co-ops, play groups and before and after school programs run by schools.
Get referrals for quality child care centers in your area.