Finding a provider best suited for their child is not a decision to be taken lightly. A child's caregiver not only keeps a child safe, but also spends a significant portion of the day helping that child develop social, intellectual and physical skills, as well as personality, emotional stability and self-esteem, all critical for a child's success in school and in life. Having access to high quality child care is key to the well-being of families with children, and particularly those children whose parents work. This report discusses the range of child care options available to families in Cook County, from informal relative, friend or neighbor care, to more formal licensed home-based care, to the larger child care center. Within these general categories, each individual program has its own unique combination of characteristics that parents may find attractive -- perhaps an especially warm and experienced caregiver, a well-developed curriculum, a caregiver with experience with a particular disability, or a colorful, inviting facility. Ideally a family's ultimate decision will be based on the program's quality and ability to meet the child's individual needs. Yet, parents still face limited child care options in Cook County, particularly in middle and low-income families. Most significantly, the high cost of center or licensed home programs discourages many families from using otherwise attractive types of care. Specifically: + In FY2005, the cost of care in a child care center averaged between $120 and $237 per week, depending on the particular region of Cook County and the age of the child. The cost of licensed home child care averaged between $107 and $179 per week. + A family with children under 18 earning the median Cook County income of $54,034 would expect to pay, on average, 17 percent of its income for infant care in a Chicago child care center and 19 percent for care in a suburban center. If this family also had a 4-year-old in center care, they would need to spend 29 to 33 percent of their income on child care alone. + While licensed home care is less expensive, the same family would still need to pay 11 to 13 percent of its income on licensed home care for an infant and 10 to 12 percent on care for a preschool age child. + A family with children under 18 earning the 2004 median Chicago income of $38,565 would expect to pay 23 percent of its income for the care of an infant or toddler in a Chicago child care center. For care in a licensed home setting, this family would need to pay about 16 percent of its income for infant or toddler care.