Chapter 1: Staffing
1.1 Child:Staff Ratio, Group Size, and Minimum Age
1.1.1 Child:Staff Ratio and Group Size
220.127.116.11: Ratios for Large Family Child Care Homes and Centers
Child:staff ratios in large family child care homes and centers should be maintained as follows during all hours of operation, including in vehicles during transport.
Large Family Child Care Homes
Maximum Child:Staff Ratio
Maximum Group Size
≤ 12 months
4- to 5-year-olds
6- to 8-year-olds
9- to 12-year-olds
During nap time for children birth through thirty months of age, the child:staff ratio must be maintained at all times regardless of how many infants are sleeping. They must also be maintained even during the adult’s break time so that ratios are not relaxed.
Child Care Centers
Maximum Child:Staff Ratio
Maximum Group Size
≤ 12 months
6- to 8-year-olds
9- to 12-year-olds
During nap time for children ages thirty-one months and older, at least one adult should be physically present in the same room as the children and maximum group size must be maintained. Children over thirty-one months of age can usually be organized to nap on a schedule, but infants and toddlers as individuals are more likely to nap on different schedules. In the event even one child is not sleeping the child should be moved to another activity where appropriate supervision is provided.
If there is an emergency during nap time other adults should be on the same floor and should immediately assist the staff supervising sleeping children. The caregiver/teacher who is in the same room with the children should be able to summon these adults without leaving the children.
When there are mixed age groups in the same room, the child:staff ratio and group size should be consistent with the age of most of the children. When infants or toddlers are in the mixed age group, the child:staff ratio and group size for infants and toddlers should be maintained. In large family child care homes with two or more caregivers/teachers caring for no more than twelve children, no more than three children younger than two years of age should be in care.
Children with special health care needs or who require more attention due to certain disabilities may require additional staff on-site, depending on their special needs and the extent of their disabilities (1). See Standard 18.104.22.168.
At least one adult who has satisfactorily completed a course in pediatric first aid, including CPR skills within the past three years, should be part of the ratio at all times.
|COVID-19 modification as of May 21, 2021|
In response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Child Care Programs, it is recommended that early childhood programs:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ventilation in Schools and Childcare Programs
American Academy of Pediatrics. Guidance Related to Childcare During COVID-19
Environmental Protection Agency. Ventilation and Coronavirus (COVID-19)
These child:staff ratios are within the range of recommendations for each age group that the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) uses in its accreditation program (5). The NAEYC recommends a range that assumes the director and staff members are highly trained and, by virtue of the accreditation process, have formed a staffing pattern that enables effective staff functioning. The standard for child:staff ratios in this document uses a single desired ratio, rather than a range, for each age group. These ratios are more likely than less stringent ratios to support quality experiences for young children.
Low child:staff ratios for non-ambulatory children are essential for fire safety. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in its NFPA 101: Life Safety Code, recommends that no more than three children younger than two years of age be cared for in large family child care homes where two staff members are caring for up to twelve children (6).
Children benefit from social interactions with peers. However, larger groups are generally associated with less positive interactions and developmental outcomes. Group size and ratio of children to adults are limited to allow for one to one interaction, intimate knowledge of individual children, and consistent caregiving (7).
Studies have found that children (particularly infants and toddlers) in groups that comply with the recommended ratio receive more sensitive and appropriate caregiving and score higher on developmental assessments, particularly vocabulary (1,9).
As is true in small family child care homes, Standard 22.214.171.124, child:staff ratios alone do not predict the quality of care. Direct, warm social interaction between adults and children is more common and more likely with lower child:staff ratios. Caregivers/teachers must be recognized as performing a job for groups of children that parents/guardians of twins, triplets, or quadruplets would rarely be left to handle alone. In child care, these children do not come from the same family and must learn a set of common rules that may differ from expectations in their own homes (10).
Similarly, low child:staff ratios are most critical for infants and young toddlers (birth to twenty-four months) (1). Infant development and caregiving quality improves when group size and child:staff ratios are smaller (2). Improved verbal interactions are correlated with lower ratios (3). For three- and four-year-old children, the size of the group is even more important than ratios. The recommended group size and child:staff ratio allow three- to five-year-old children to have continuing adult support and guidance while encouraging independent, self-initiated play and other activities (4).
In addition, the children’s physical safety and sanitation routines require a staff that is not fragmented by excessive demands. Child:staff ratios in child care settings should be sufficiently low to keep staff stress below levels that might result in anger with children. Caring for too many young children, in particular, increases the possibility of stress to the caregiver/teacher, and may result in loss of the caregiver’s/teacher’s self-control (11).
Although observation of sleeping children does not require the physical presence of more than one caregiver/teacher for sleeping children thirty-one months and older, the staff needed for an emergency response or evacuation of the children must remain available on site for this purpose. Ratios are required to be maintained for children thirty months and younger during nap time due to the need for closer observation and the frequent need to interact with younger children during periods while they are resting. Close proximity of staff to these younger groups enables more rapid response to situations where young children require more assistance than older children, e.g., for evacuation. The requirement that a caregiver/teacher should remain in the sleeping area of children thirty-one months and older is not only to ensure safety, but also to prevent inappropriate behavior from taking place that may go undetected if a caregiver/teacher is not present. While nap time may be the best option for regular staff conferences, staff lunch breaks, and staff training, one staff person should stay in the nap room, and the above staff activities should take place in an area next to the nap room so other staff can assist if emergency evacuation becomes necessary. If a child with a potentially life-threatening special health care need is present, a staff member trained in CPR and pediatric first aid and one trained in administration of any potentially required medication should be available at all times.
The child:staff ratio indicates the maximum number of children permitted per caregiver/teacher (8). These ratios assume that caregivers/teachers do not have time-consuming bookkeeping and housekeeping duties, so they are free to provide direct care for children. The ratios do not include other personnel (such as bus drivers) necessary for specialized functions (such as driving a vehicle).
Group size is the number of children assigned to a caregiver/teacher or team of caregivers/teachers occupying an individual classroom or well-defined space within a larger room (8). The “group” in child care represents the “home room” for school-age children. It is the psychological base with which the school-aged child identifies and from which the child gains continual guidance and support in various activities. This standard does not prohibit larger numbers of school-aged children from joining in occasional collective activities as long as child:staff ratios and the concept of “home room” are maintained.
Unscheduled inspections encourage compliance with this standard.
These standards are based on what children need for quality nurturing care. Those who question whether these ratios are affordable must consider that efforts to limit costs can result in overlooking the basic needs of children and creating a highly stressful work environment for caregivers/teachers. Community resources, in addition to parent/guardian fees and a greater public investment in child care, can make critical contributions to the achievement of the child:staff ratios and group sizes specified in this standard. Each state has its own set of regulations that specify child:staff ratios. To view a particular state’s regulations, go to the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education’s (NRC) Website: http://nrckids.org.
TYPE OF FACILITYCenter, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS126.96.36.199 Ratios for Facilities Serving Children with Special Health Care Needs and Disabilities
188.8.131.52 Ratios and Supervision During Transportation
184.108.40.206 Ratios and Supervision for Swimming, Wading, and Water Play
220.127.116.11 First Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Training for Staff
18.104.22.168 Topics Covered in Pediatric First Aid Training
22.214.171.124 Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Training for Swimming and Water Play
Zero to Three. 2007. The infant-toddler set-aside of the Child Care and Development Block Grant: Improving quality child care for infants and toddlers. Washington, DC: Zero to Three. http://main
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). 2006. The NICHD study of early child care and youth development: Findings for children up to age 4 1/2 years. Rockville, MD: NICHD. http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/upload/seccyd_051206.pdf.
- Goldstein, A., K. Hamm, R. Schumacher. Supporting growth and development of babies in child care: What does the research say? Washington, DC: Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Zero to Three. http://main.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/ChildCareResearchBrief.pdf.
- De Schipper, E. J., J. M. Riksen-Walraven, S. A. E. Geurts. 2006. Effects of child-caregiver ratio on the interactions between caregivers and children in child-care centers: An experimental study. Child Devel 77:861-74.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). 2007. Early childhood program standards and accreditation criteria. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
- National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). 2009. NFPA 101: Life safety code. 2009 ed. Quincy, MA: NFPA.
- Bradley, R. H., D. L. Vandell. 2007. Child care and the well-being of children. Arch Ped Adolescent Med 161:669-76.
- Murph, J. R., S. D. Palmer, D. Glassy, eds. 2005. Health in child care: A manual for health professionals. 4th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Vandell, D. L., B. Wolfe. 2000. Child care quality: Does it matter and does it need to be improved? Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/ccquality00/.
- Fiene, R. 2002. 13 indicators of quality child care: Research update. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. http://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/13-indicators-quality-child-care.
- Wrigley, J., J. Derby. 2005. Fatalities and the organization of child care in the United States. Am Socio Rev 70:729-57.
COVID-19 modification as of May 21, 2021