Accreditation is intended for those child care/development programs and family child care providers who meet the child care standards defined by state licensing and who have demonstrated a commitment to reach beyond these minimum requirements to achieve professional standards of excellence.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children Accreditation (NAEYC) defines a high quality early childhood program as one that meets the needs of, and promotes the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development of the children and adults (parents, staff, and administrators) who are involved in the program.

Launched in 1985, NAEYC’s program accreditation process requires a program’s administrator, staff, parents, and other invested parties to use NAEYC’s accreditation criteria for high-quality care to evaluate all areas of their program. By using observation forms and surveys, these individuals assess their program and then develop plans of action to improve compliance with the criteria. When the program administrator and staff feel the program has reached compliance, a request is made for a site visit to verify the work. NAEYC appointed commissioners and staff determine whether a program is in substantial compliance with the standards and thus may be granted accreditation for three years, or whether it requires continued improvement, in which case accreditation is deferred.

Criteria for high quality programs

The criteria address all aspects of a program:

  • Interactions among staff and children
  • Curriculum
  • Staff and parent interactions
  • Administration
  • Staff qualifications and development
  • Staffing patterns
  • Physical environment
  • Health and safety
  • Nutrition and food services
  • Program evaluation

With over 7,000 accredited programs nationwide, NAEYC’s is the largest early care and education accreditation system in the country.

According to the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC), in 2001 1,500 family child care providers nation-wide demonstrated their commitment to professionalism by seeking NAFCC’s voluntary accreditation. A study of accredited providers by the Family and Work Institute confirms that accreditation is correlated with providers’ professionalism and self-esteem, improved quality of care and leadership skills (Galinsky et al 1994).

The National School-Age Care Alliance (NSACA) Standards outline in detail 36 keys of quality, organized under six categories: (1) Human relationships, (2) Indoor environment, (3) Outdoor environment, (4) Activities, (5) Safety, health and nutrition and (6) Administration.

The goal is to provide programs with the necessary tools to raise the bar on quality by building upon basic health and safety and addressing human relationships, administrative policies and more.

Accreditation Benefits

  • Assists parents in their search for high quality programs for their children
  • Improves the quality of group programs available for young children and their families
  • Provides a valuable professional development experience for providers, teachers and directors
  • Assures contributors to early childhood programs of a sound investment
  • Provides professional and public recognition for high quality early childhood programs.


For more information on accreditation facilitation projects, visit


The NAEYC Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation has developed additional guidance related to specific accreditation criteria in response to questions from early childhood programs and educatiors. The guidance also incorporates lessons from preparing assessors to conduct on-site assessments of programs serving young children. The guidance is designed to clarify the accreditation criteria for administrators and staff, assessors, and other stakeholders.

The guidance is updated regularly. To see the latest version, visit and click on “Addtional Guidance on NAEYC Criteria”.

Scholarship Program for NAEYC Accreditation Fees

NAEYC reconizes that the fees associated with NAEYC Accreditation may present a financial challenge for some early childhood programs.  That is why the Association offers accreditation scholarships to support programs pursuing NAEYC Accreditation as well as programs seeking to maintain NAEYC Accreditation.  Scholarships are awarded primarily on the basis of financial need and have recently been increased.

Programs may apply for multiple NAEYC Accreditation scholarships to correspond with the four steps of the process but must submit a different application and supporting documents for each step.  Fees that can be subsidized with NAEYC Accreditation scholarships include

  • Enrollment in Self-Study (Step 1)
  • Application and Assessment (Step 2)
  • Candidacy (Step 3)
  • Annual Reports (Step 4)

Visit to download the scholarship application.  For more information, contact the Accreditation Program Support Information Center at 800-424-2460, option 3, then option1, or e-mail