Generally, day care centers are nurseries, safe places for parents to allow their pre-schoolers supervised socialization or baby-sitting services for working parents. Child development centers often focus more on academic learning and advancing the children's maturity. The difference between day care centers and child development centers differs according to region.
In Montana, for example, child development centers are government-funded resources for children who have developmental disabilities and are economically disadvantaged. Conversely, many child development centers in Florida operate as 501(c)(3) non-profit institutions serving both low-income families via scholarship and more affluent families with pay based on attendance. Both Montana and Florida child development centers offer a range of services that are unavailable at traditional day care centers. These services include early intervention and developmental therapies for children with social, emotional or academic issues.
Day care centers offer recreation and structured activities that allow children creative play and socialization. They are often associated with churches. Day care centers seldom offer scholarships for low-income families or specialized services. Most day care centers are staffed by caring adults who may be retired or volunteers.
Child development centers are primarily staffed by professionals who have earned college degrees in specialties like early childhood development, occupational therapists, speech-language therapists or certified infant and toddler specialists.
Both day care centers and child development centers must maintain strict child-to-caregiver ratios, typically determined by the age of the children who attend the center.
According to the Center for Public Education, both day care and child development centers provide lasting advantages for infants, toddlers and preschool children as they progress through the educational system.