Finding Child Care

Child Care Resources maintains a database that includes all types of legally operating programs, both licensed and unlicensed. We have information about ages of children the programs serve, hours of operation, rates and programming. We update our database regularly, particularly so we know which facilities have vacancies.

How do I get a list of child care providers?

  1. Give us a call at 406-728-6446 or 800-728-6446. We’re available by phone M-F 8-5 p.m. Mountain Time, after hours by appointment.
  2. Search online on your own — 24/7. If you create an online account, searching will be faster in the future. If you don’t find what you are looking for online give us a call or send in the online child care needs form. We can conduct a more advanced database query than is available online.
  3. Complete the child care needs online form. The more complete your response, the better we’ll be able to match your needs. We’ll get back to you by the next business day.

What to Look for

Why Quality IS Important

Your child’s brain grows fastest during the first three to five years of life. Interactions with adults, including child care providers, during these crucial, early years greatly impact children’s future and lifelong success. Recent research shows that the quality of child care has a lasting impact on children’s well-being and their abilities to learn. Children in poor-quality child care lag behind their peers in language and reading skills and display more aggression toward other children and adults.

Plan to spend enough time visiting potential child care providers to assess the programs. Choosing child care matters because a strong early childhood education lasts a lifetime.

Types of Child Care

There are several types of care available to meet the needs of you and your family.

Family Child Care Homes
Offer a home-like atmosphere with a ratio of one caregiver to maximum of six children, including the provider’s own, under the age of 6.

Group Child Care Homes
Are settings where two adults provide care for a maximum of 12 children, including the provider’s own, under the age of 6. Care is often, but not always, provided in a private home.

Child Care Centers
Care for 13 or more children with hours that normally coincide with regular working hours. Maximum capacity is based on square footage of the facility. Staff/child ratio and group size are based on the ages of the children.

Are part-day, sometimes part-year, programs and are not licensed in Montana. Some full-time child care programs offer preschool programming.

Head Start and Early Head Start
Have income-based eligibility. They are part-day, part-year comprehensive programs. Head Start is for 3- to 5-year-olds. Early Head Start serves infants and toddlers.

School-Aged Care
May be offered in licensed or unlicensed programs. Some schools offer programs that operate until about 5:30 p.m. There are a variety of summer programs for school-aged children; some operate all summer and some focused programs are only available for a week or two, like science or sports camps.

Drop-in Child Care Facilities
Are not regulated by the state of Montana because the care provided is usually irregular and for shorter periods of time.

Tips for Finding Quality Child Care

Take your time in choosing a child care provider.
Compare your options, and ask plenty of questions. Here is a checklist to help you know what to look for and what to ask.
Check the provider’s licensing history.
For information on the provider’s registration/license status, as well licensing inspection reports, visit the Montana Public Provider Portal.
We can help you interpret any unfamiliar terms. It’s very useful information for parents, but written more for licensors and child care facility owners.
Best Beginnings STARS to Quality
Over 230 child care programs are participating in Montana’s Best Beginnings STARS to Quality program; a voluntary Quality Rating Improvement System or QRIS. Participating facilities receive support and financial incentives for meeting specific quality indicators in a five-level system. View a list of facilities in the STARS to Quality Program.

Child Care Resources During the Pandemic