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Child Care

If you are coming to the United States with your children, you may need to know about school requirements and childcare options.

Who must attend school in the U.S.

Non-adult children at least six years old who are visa dependents of J-1s, H-1Bs, H-1B1s, TNs, and E-3s must attend school. The school year normally begins in early September and continues through June, with several weeks of school vacations.

Children’s ages and grades/levels

Kindergarten, which begins at five years old, is a common optional educational program to assist your child's transition to a more structured school environment.  All children are required to attend school at the age of six, which starts with first grade.

  • Elementary school usually includes kindergarten until fourth, fifth, or sixth grade
  • Middle school usually begins at fifth or sixth grade through eighth grade (approximately ages 11-13)
  • Secondary school, known as high school, usually includes ninth grade until 12th grades (approximately ages 14-18)

You may select a public or private school:

Public schools are managed by the government, are free from kindergarten (age five) until the completion of high school in the 12th grade (approximately age 18). The location of your residence in the U.S. determines which public school your child will attend.

Private schools are managed by a company and charge a fee for each student. You will be responsible for the costs.
Please see for a listing of public and private schools in Massachusetts. Ask about the school requirements for your child‘s immunization records, verification of date of birth, and prior academic records.

Community and after-school programs

Community programs and after-school programs allow children to remain at school for an extended period after the regular school classes end each day. Various planned and supervised activities are offered.

Parents usually must provide transportation from the after-school program to their home.

These programs are available in many public-school districts for reasonable costs. When selecting the school your child will attend, ask the school about these programs.


While pre-school and daycare are not mandatory, many families with children too young to attend school use childcare to balance family and work responsibilities. Full-time childcare (Monday-Friday from morning until 6:00 p.m.) usually varies from $18,000-$36,000 per child per year.

  • Contact childcare providers as soon as possible because there is usually a wait list of many months for children to enter the program

  • The age of your child and the number of hours needed impact availability


For children under the age of six, options include:

  1. Daycare centers, which specialize in the care of infants until pre-school age (usually age five) although some daycare facilities also offer before- and after-school care for older children as well.  Full-time daycare (Monday-Friday from morning until 6:00 p.m.) usually costs between $18,000-$36,000 per child per year

  2. Pre-school, also known as nursery school, is school for children who are not old enough to attend kindergarten, usually from ages 3 to 5.  Pre-school is mostly a part-time arrangement and fees are usually $5,000-$20,000 per year. Prices vary depending on the number of hours and which pre-school your child attends. Even if child care is not needed, some parents enroll their children in pre-school to encourage early learning and socializing


  • As noted above, full-time care (Monday-Friday from morning until 6:00 p.m.) usually varies from $18,000-$36,000 per child per year

  • The U.S. government does not help/discount daycare or pre-school fees.  You will be responsible for the full cost

  • Fees vary within each type of arrangement. Your needs and those of your child will help determine the advantages and disadvantages of each option and will help you decide what is most appropriate for you and your family

Questions to ask when considering a daycare or pre-school opportunity

  • What are the hours and days of operation?

  • What are the fees? (Hourly and weekly for in-home care and family providers, weekly or monthly for centers or pre-schools)

  • What are the enrollment policies, including the contract period?

  • Which immunization records are required?

  • What documents are acceptable to confirm the child‘s date of birth or identity?

  • What is the philosophy of education/child care at each facility?

  • What is the staff-to-child ratio?

  • What is the group size?

  • What are the ages of the children at the facility?

  • How is illness handled?

  • How is discipline handled?

  • Who provides snacks and meals?

Finding child care

Daycare and pre-school waitlists are usually many months. Find resources to help you find child care, and Massachusetts General Hospital/Brigham and Women’s child care centers.