Resources for Parents & Families
Parents of young children have a tremendous amount of decisions to make with regards to the care and education of their children. What type of program is best for their children? How much money should a family spend on care? How can a family ensure that the program they select is high quality? Are there public programs that can support families in providing early care and education for their children? Are there effective ways to support learning in the home? What questions should a parent ask a provider to ensure his or her child is receiving care that supports optimal development? These questions are just examples of what parents must consider in their approach to the early care and education of their children.
The Texas Early Learning Council is dedicated to providing parents and families with tools and information to assist them in making informed decisions about early care and education programs and services. To do this, the Council has several exciting projects that will take place over the next three years. Parents will be able to visit this website to access critical information on child development, early care and education programs, and news and information on the Texas early care and education system that may affect programs they access.
The Council will work with community partners across the state to enhance awareness of the importance of quality early education and care. Council efforts will be made to ensure that information is made available to all Texans, particularly those in underrepresented and special populations. A key part of the Council's mandate is to promote awareness of and participation in high-quality programs by Texas families. The Council will commit significant resources to accomplish this. Efforts of Council in this area include:
- A comprehensive, statewide needs assessment, which will give parents, stakeholders, and policymakers a clear portrait of the current demand and availability of early care and education programs and services throughout Texas.
- An early care and education standards comparison tool, also known as a "crosswalk," which will allow parents and others to quickly gather knowledge on the standards, accreditations, and practices of each of the diverse early care and education programs operating throughout the state.
- Infant and Toddler Early Learning Guidelines, which will provide milestones for development between birth and age three for young children. Parents and other stakeholders will have a tremendous resource of strategies for promoting learning and optimal development in these crucial early years.
- An outreach and communications campaign aimed at educating parents and communities about early care and education programs and services, as well as knowledge of the needs of children in the early years of development.
- A statewide integrated early childhood data system, which has the potential to offer parents the opportunity to search for programs and services in their areas and to access data on the quality and effectiveness of those programs.
- An early care and education career development system, which has the potential to provide parents with information on the qualifications and training of the staff at programs in their areas.
- An online resource center, which is available below. Parents will be able to access an in-depth collection of resources and information on early care and education, as well as the programs and systems they access.
Parents and stakeholders who work with parents are encouraged to sign up for the Council's Newsletter or routinely visit this page in order to stay informed about new Council tools and resources as they become available.
The Texas Early Learning Council will work to provide parents with tools that will increase their ability to navigate the complex Texas early care and education system and increase their knowledge of early child development. Please stay tuned to this page for updates and new tools for parents.
Finding care for your child
Types of regulated Child Care:
- Listed Family Homes: Family homes that provide regular child care in their own homes for 1-3 unrelated children. There are no minimum standards, orientation or training requirements for listed homes. They are not inspected unless a report is received.
- Registered OPERATIONS: Registered Child Care Homes provide care in the caregiver's home for up to six children under age 14; they may also take in up to six more school-age children. The number of children allowed in a home is determined by the ages of the children. No more than 12 children can be in care at any time, including children of the caregiver. Registered homes are inspected every 1-two years and if a report is received.
- Licensed OPERATIONS: All types of licensed operations have published standards they are required to follow and are routinely monitored and inspected. Operations are inspected according to the level of risk associated with deficiencies cited at each inspection and if a report is received related to child abuse/neglect or standards deficiencies. Licensed Facilities include day care and 24-hour residential care.
Locating child care:
Make sure you do your homework before selecting a child care provider. Your choice of child care has a huge affect on your child. Below are some tools that can help you find out the facts before entrusting your child to someone else.
Child Care Assistance:
Certain families qualify for financial assistance for child care for their children under the age of 13 based family income and other factors. In some cases, parents can receive assistance with 100% of the cost of care, in other instances, parents must pay a monthly co-payment that tends to range from 9%-11% of their monthly income. Availability and income requirements vary depending on what area of Texas families resides in. Generally, however, child care assistance is only available for families with an income at 185% of the state median income or less. To determine eligibility for child care assistance, parents must consult with their local workforce center. Visit this page to locate the closest workforce center near you. Be sure to check the "child care assistance" button.
Public School Pre-k consists of full-day and half-day programs, for children ages 3 and 4, operated in local school districts. A child qualifies for Public School Pre-k if he or she meets at least one of the following criteria:
(1) is unable to speak and comprehend the English language;
(2) is educationally disadvantaged (Eligible to participate National School Lunch Program);
(3) is a homeless child;
(4) is the child of an active duty member of the armed forces of the United States, including the state military forces or a reserve component of the armed forces, who is ordered to active duty by proper authority
(5) is the child of a member of the armed forces of the United States, including the state military forces or a reserve component of the armed forces, who was injured or killed while serving on active duty; or
(6) is or ever has been in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services
If at least 15 children in a district meet at least one of the requirements listed above, The district must provide at least a half-day pre-k program. State funded pre-k is free to children who qualify. To enroll your child in public school pre-k contact your school district.
Head Start is a federal program that funds comprehensive services for children and families including education, health, nutrition, and social services. Children from birth to age five from families with low income, according to the Poverty Guidelines published by the federal government, are eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start services. Children in foster care, homeless children, and children from families receiving public assistance (TANF or SSI) are categorically eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start services regardless of income.
Head Start programs may enroll up to 10% of children from families that have incomes above the Poverty Guidelines. Programs may also serve up to an additional 35% of children from families whose incomes are above the Poverty Guidelines, but below 130% of the poverty line if the program can ensure that certain conditions have been met. Head Start is free for eligible children.
Locate a Head Start program near you.
Early Childhood Intervention (ECI):
ECI provides evaluations, at no cost to families, to determine eligibility and the need for services for children ages birth to 3. Families and professionals work together as a team to plan appropriate services based on the unique strengths and needs of the child and family. Services are provided in the home and in community settings such as child care facilities, play groups and Mothers' Day Out programs. For help in locating ECI services, please call the DARS Inquiries Line, or search online to find a service or program in your area.
Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD):
Child ages 3-5 with disabilities may qualify for PPCD programs through their local school district. To inquire about your child's eligibility for PPCD, contact your local school district and let them know you would are interested in seeking a referral for your child for the PPCD program.
Child care assistance for children with disabilities:
Some workforce centers offer increased subsidies for children with disabilities, but they are scarce. To inquire about this type of care, contact your local workforce center
- Many local communities and non-profits offer services for children with disabilities. To learn more about the local resources around you contact the State's 211 system.
- Texas Parent to Parent, offers a local program search and resource directory for parents of children with disabilities.
Texas Rising Star Provider Certification:
A Texas Rising Star Provider is a child care provider that has an agreement to serve Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) subsidized children and that voluntarily meets requirements that exceed the State's Minimum Licensing Standards for child care facilities. The Texas Rising Star Provider certification system provides graduated levels of certification as providers meet progressively higher certification requirements from 1 to 4 stars. To find providers with Texas Rising Star Certifications, please contact your local Texas Workforce Board. Find your local Texas Workforce Board
Texas School Ready! Certification System:
Texas School Ready!
is a program that certifies preschool education classrooms that effectively prepared their students for kindergarten. Texas School Ready! is administered by the Childrens Learning Institute and is based on the actual linking between the quality instructional practices that must be in place in a preschool program to get children ready for kindergarten AND the children actually achieving scores showing they were on track in the areas of reading and social skills when they went to kindergarten.
Many national organizations offer certified accreditations to child care centers that meet certain standards. Parents should inquire about center accreditations when selecting an early care and education program for their child. Don't be afraid to ask the director if their accreditation is current. The most common accreditations in Texas are:
Tools to help parents support the healthy development of their children
- Early Childhood Calendar: a parent's guide to healthy, happy children. Available in English and Spanish.
- Texas Education Agency - Early Childhood Education in Texas: Learn about TEA's early childhood education programs
- The Magic of Everyday Moments: This resource by Zero-to-Three offers information on how children grow and develop from 4 to 6 Months. You'll find tips for how parents and children can nurture their children's healthy development through everyday routines and interactions.
- Interactive baby brain map: This tool allows you to see precise how young brains develop and what you can do to support healthy brain growth.
- Family budget estimator: See what housing, care, medical and other expenses will cost you in your area.
- PBS Parents: a website that offers a wide array of tools and information of health child development
- Texas Project First: a website created by parents, for parents to provide information and resources on special education in Texas.
- Texas Parent to Parent: provides support and information for families and children with disabilities, chronic illness, and other special needs
- Training videos for parents on Infant and Toddler care: Eight free courses for parents on caring for young children from the Department of Family and Protective Services.
- Safe sleeping tips for your baby and you: On average, almost 400 Texas babies die in their sleep each year - suddenly, unexpectedly, and without a clear explanation or due to accidental suffocation or strangulation. That's why it is so important to always give babies "Room to Breathe."
- Born Learning: a public engagement campaign website that helps parents, grandparents and caregivers explore ways to turn everyday moments into fun learning opportunities.
- Parenting Counts: a developmental timeline for children, birth to age 5, on their skills and abilities in physical, social, learning, and communications development.
- Text4baby: a free service that provides health and safety text messages to parents throughout their pregnancy and the first year of life of their child