Choosing the right childcare setting is a very important decision that can sometimes seem overwhelming. As a parent, you want to ensure that your child is safe and happy in educational, fun and nurturing environment. Whether you are looking for a day care home, day care center or preschool, there are many resources in Illinois to help you make the right choice for you and your child.
DCFS Day Care Licensing Standards
DCFS is responsible for setting standards and licensing day care centers, day care homes and group day care homes in Illinois. When a day care facility is licensed, it means that a DCFS licensing representative has inspected the facility and it was found to meet the minimum licensing requirements. Licensed day care facilities are inspected annually by DCFS licensing staff, and a license is valid for three years. The day care center’s license must be posted. It will indicate the maximum number of children allowed in the facility and the areas where children may receive care.
For more information, read the Summary of Licensing Standards for Day Care Centers in English or en español; Summary of Licensing Standards for Day Care Homes in English or en español; and the Summary of Licensing Standards for Group Day Care Homes in English or en español.
Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies
Child care resource and referral services are available in all Illinois communities through local Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) Agencies. CCR&R agencies provide:
- Education, information and resource materials about quality child care options;
- Referrals to child care programs;
- Quality Counts Online Child Care Search;
- Help with paying for child care costs for families who qualify; and
- Referrals to services for children with special needs.
The DCFS/Resource and Referral Agency Directory contains information on resource and referral service areas and DCFS licensing offices.
ExceleRate Illinois is the state’s voluntary comprehensive quality rating and improvement system for early learning and development programs such as licensed child care centers, Preschool for All and Head Start programs. Day care homes and group day care homes may be eligible to participate in ExceleRate in 2015. ExceleRate Illinois is unique because it’s centered on whole child development and preparing Illinois children for success in school and in life. It provides parents with information to choose the best program for their child and more information about their child’s development when he or she enters kindergarten.
Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)
The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) works hand-in-hand with local Resource and Referral Agencies throughout Illinois to provide low-income, working families with access to quality, affordable child care. The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) provides low-income, working families with access to quality, affordable child care that allows them to continue working and contributes to the healthy, emotional and social development of the child. Families are required to cost-share on a sliding scale based on family size, income, and number of children in care.
Need help or want to know more?
You should visit several different day care homes, centers or preschool programs before you decide which one is best for your family. Call each program and schedule an appointment to visit. Plan to take some time to watch activities, check the surroundings and ask questions. Bring a checklist with you to help you remember important questions to ask. Once you have chosen a program, be sure to stay involved: drop by to read a book, chaperone a field trip or help with holiday parties and other activities as needed.