Choosing An Early Learning Program

Children learn best when they have proper health and nutrition, a safe and stable family and home life, and activities that stimulate creativity and curiosity. Quality early learning and child development can open the doors of opportunity for every child to do well in school, in the workforce, and in life. When you choose a quality child care/early learning or afterschool program, you can feel confident that your child is safe and secure while you are at school or work. Your child is more likely to be ready for kindergarten, do well in school, graduate high school and go to college.

Before you enroll your child in a child care program, there are a number of things to consider:

  1. Do I require full day or part day?
  2. How much will it cost
  3. What is the location/environment like?
  4. What program/curriculum/structured experience is in place?
  5. What is the philosophy of the program?
  6. What qualifications does the staff need?
  7. What is the staff to child ratio?

Finding the best child care and educational opportunities for your child can be difficult. The Early Learning Coalition of Duval (ELC) could be the resource you need in determining what programs are available in Duval County and what services will fit your child’s needs.

Guiding Stars of Duval, offered through the ELC, includes a search function to check the quality rating of various centers in Jacksonville and Duval County. Families are able to use the “Star Rating” to make an informed choice of what matters most to them when choosing quality child care and programs. Centers participate on a voluntary basis and are assessed objectively every two years to determine their Star Rating.

Paying for child care and/or early learning programs can sometimes determine what is available to you. School Readiness Child Care Financial Assistance allows eligible families to offset the expense by paying a reduced parent fee.

The Voluntary Pre-kindergarten (VPK) program for all four-year-olds, is provided at no cost to the parent. To register for this program, visit:

If you need more than just child care or early learning programs, a community resource guide is also available through the ELC’s website. Access information regarding:

  • Infant and toddler resources
  • Parenting, family engagement and relative caregiver
  • Rent and utilities assistance
  • Adult education and employment
  • Abuse and domestic violence
  • And many more service links