Childcare, Preschool & After School Programs

Childcare, Preschool & After School Programs

Whenever it’s time for your baby to leave the nest, we want to be sure you find a childcare provider or preschool that is a great fit. We’ve got information on daycares, preschools, VPK Providers, and after school options in Lakeland.


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There are many resources that already exist when it comes to helping parents choose an early learning provider, and in some areas below we are simply including those links instead of trying to replicate material. The best resource locally for helping you to find a child care provider or VPK is the Early Learning Coalition of Polk County, including FAQ, a provider checklist, and access to a Parent Counselor to answer any of your questions.

Here are a few things to consider when you are looking for a child care provider or preschool: 
1) Plan ahead! Many preschools and day care facilities have a waiting list. Some will add you to their list before your child is even born.

2) What kind of facility are you looking for? Options include in-home care, facility based care, private schools, faith-based providers, public schools (some facilities are dependent on age).

3) What kind of hours do you need? Are you looking for a partial day program? Full Day? Do you also need somewhere with after school care for older children?

Click here to search the full list of state licensed facilities in Florida: https://cares.myflfamilies.com/PublicSearch. You can search by city, county, or zip code, and once a list of facilities appears, hover over the icons on the right side to see the services offered, including half day/full day, school pick up, food served, school year only, etc. Be sure to verify these services directly with the child care providers you are considering.

4) Ask for recommendations from friends, co-workers, acquaintances, keeping in mind that you should still do your own research and know what your own family needs when it comes to child care arrangements.

5) Select a few options and call and arrange an appointment to visit the providers you have selected. Any facility you are considering should be willing to allow you to come in for a tour before making any commitment. Whether you print out a checklist or have one mentally, below are links to provider checklists to help you be sure the facility is a good fit for your family.
http://www.elcpolk.org/parents/choosing-a-child-care-provider/
http://www.elcpolk.org/parents/choosing-a-child-care-provider/parentfamily-resources/
http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/child-care/choosing-a-daycare
https://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/childwelfare/caregivers/choosingchildcare.shtml


VPK – Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program

The ‘Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program’ (VPK) is a FREE prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds who reside in Florida and were born on or before September 1 each year. Parents can choose from private child care centers or public schools and school-year or summer programs. All children are eligible for VPK, but are only eligible for the year a child is 4 on or before September 1. As of 7/1/16, parents whose children are born from Feb. 2 through Sept. 1 of a calendar year to defer enrolling their child in a VPK program for one year. For more information on VPK in Florida, visit the Florida Office of Early Learning.


School Readiness

Families with low incomes in Florida who are working, trying to work or get training to work may be eligible for school readiness help. Eligibility is based on total family income and family size, and parents must be working or going to school. The program serves children from 6 weeks to 12 years of age. Fees are assessed based on a sliding fee scale, and can be utilized at a variety of child care providers, both public and private. School Readiness benefits can be used in addition to VPK services. For more information, visit the Polk Early Learning Coalition.


Note that Lakeland Mom provides these links as a service to our readers and any reference made here to local businesses, products, organizations, services, classes, etc. is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from Lakeland Mom. We strongly encourage you to do your own research before engaging with a local business or organization. 

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