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Types of Child Care

Choosing the right child care program for your family takes time, knowledge, and work. One of the simplest ways to get started is by learning what types of child care are available. In South Carolina, child care programs are classified as Child Care Centers, Group Child Care Homes, Family Child Care Homes, or Exempt (Non-regulated) Programs. Click on the sections below for information on each type.

SC ECE Program Categories

Child Care centers operate in a non-residential setting and provide care for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and/or school-age children. Care can last for all or part of the day, and classrooms are organized by age group.

These programs can operate...

  • independently or as a franchise
  • as a for-profit or non-profit institution
  • in a faith-or school-based setting


SC-DSS classifies Centers as Licensed, Registered, or Approved. DSS Licensing professionals routinely visitCenters, which must meet state-determined basic health and safety requirements.Child Care Centers are also referred to as “day care centers", “preschools", or “nursery schools".

Group Homes offer care to mixed-age groups of 7-12 children in a residential setting. Group Homes must be licensed by SC-DSS and, like Centers, are routinely visited by DSS Licensing professionals and required to meet basic health and safety standards.

Family Child Care Homes offer care to mixed-age groups of 6 or fewer children in a residential setting. Family Child Care Homes must be licensed or regulated through SC-DSS and can have one unannounced visit by DSS Licensing professionals each year.


Exempt Programs operate with limited hours, either for four or fewer hours a day or only during school holidays or summer breaks. SC-DSS does not regulate these programs. Some examples of Exempt Programs may include but are not limited to after-school programs, summer camps, AM-only or PM-only preschool programs, and Mom’s Morning Out programs.