Child Care and Early Education

The first few years of life is a critical time for children to learn the social, emotional and cognitive skills that will help them succeed later in school and in life. These skills help your child make friends, understand feelings and deal with anger or frustration and learn to read. Read on to learn about the many initiatives and programs available in DC to help support children and families during this significant period of learning and growth.

Jump to:

Finding Child Care

Young children should spend their time in safe environments with adults who understand how to care for them and to support their developmental growth. There are several child care options available for parents in DC. No matter where a child receives child care, a large child care center, family child care home providers or a relative care provider, DC maintains high standards for these facilities. These facilities are licensed through the Department of Health Licensing Regulation Administration.

OSSE Child Care Connections is DC’s child care resource and referral center. It provides information and options for parents searching for child care for their young children. Learn whether you are eligibile for child care financial assistance from the DC Department of Human Services.

Head Start is a national federally-funded program that provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. Since 1965, Head Start has served nearly 30 million children after beginning as an eight-week demonstration project. Each year, Head Start serves over a million children in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories. Use the Head Start locator to find a program near you.


[back to top]

District of Columbia Public Library

Reading together is an important way for families and child care providers to help young children learn and feel loved. The DC Public Library has materials for all ages and stages of young child development, from board books to music and videos. Parents can also benefit through adult literacy programs at the library. The DC Public Library has a comprehensive Adult Literacy Resource Center located at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. General Educational Development (GED), Basic Reading Classes and other services are available.

Did you know there are 26 libraries in the District of Columbia? Find one near you and explore the DC Public Library Homepage to learn more.

Story Time can be a great way for parents to connect with their young children. Check out this free book to learn more about the power of reading, Big Dreams: A Family Book about Reading.


[back to top]

Universal Pre-K

DC provides free high quality pre-Kindergarten in its public schools, public charter schools, private providers and publicly-funded community-based organizations for children 30 months to 5 years old who live in the District.

Find out more about preschools in your area by browsing these school profiles and local public charter classrooms. Learn more about the public schools pre-Kindergarten lottery process and visit the resource library for more resources like Helping Your Preschool Child.


[back to top]

Early Identification and Intervention Services

Identifying developmental delays early in children is an important way to ensure that they receive the services they need. The District is committed to helping parents identify their children’s needs and find the services to support them. Research shows that when kids get help early, they are more likely to grow emotionally and physically and meet developmental milestones. DC provides essential supports for young children with developmental delays and their families.

Strong Start DC Early Intervention Program is a statewide, comprehensive system that provides early intervention therapeutic and other services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays and their families. Explore this toolkit to learn more.

Early Stages helps identify developmental delays and arranges for services to address them through free developmental screenings and evaluations for children between the ages of 2 years 8 months and 5 years 10 months who live in DC. Learn about your child’s developmental milestones, the rights of parents of students with disabilities and more in our resource library.

Project Launch brings local child-serving agencies together to provide comprehensive support for early childhood health, while DC’s School Based Mental Health Program specializes in early intervention for children in school-based settings.

At various ages, children should learn and possess different motor skills. For example, at 6–9 months, your child should be able to sit up without falling. Between 12–15 months, your child should be able to drink from a cup without help. If you have concerns about your infant or toddler, call the Strong Start Child Find Hotline at (202) 727-3665. You can also schedule a free evaluation from Early Stages by calling (202) 698-8037. All services are free to DC residents, including children who attend charter schools and community-based programs.


[back to top]

Kindergarten and Transition

Transition from home or early education and care settings to Kindergarten is an important milestone for children. For some children, this can be a difficult time. Parents and caretakers can help smooth the way for children by helping them get ready for school.

Watch this video about transitioning to Kindergarten from the perspective of a child, examine the Framework for Effective Practice Supporting School Readiness for All Children and check out the Family Guide to Kindergarten Readiness to understand why this transition is so important and how you can help.


[back to top]