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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

IEL FAQ: How Do I Start a Child Care Center in Illinois? About

Starting a child care center offers opportunities to operate a business that can positively affect the lives of children and their families in your community. But before you start caring for young children, there are many things to consider. The following sections provide resources to help with planning your center. Factors to consider include regulations that govern child care licensing and standards in Illinois; strategies for working with parents; funding; location, equipment, and materials; and curriculum.

What resources are available to help me get started?

  • The Illinois Network of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (INCCRRA) is an organization of regional Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) agencies throughout the state of Illinois. INCCRRA can also provide you with information about the rates currently charged by providers in your community and link you with training opportunities and other resources. Once your center is established, your local CCR&R will also let families know about your services.
    • Illinois Child Care: Developing Center-Based Programs is produced by INCCRRA in cooperation with other agencies and is funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services. It details 12 steps involved in starting a center, from evaluating your local child care market to recruiting initial clientele.
  • The Business of Early Care and Education in Illinois: Providers' Tools for Improving Quality, a publication from the McCormick Tribune Foundation, provides information for providers to help them enhance the quality of their programs. Topics covered include accreditation; curriculum, assessment, and working with families of children with special needs; family support and parental involvement; funding; Illinois policy and advocacy organizations; and professional development.
  • The Illinois Early Learning (IEL) Project Web site is a source of evidence-based, reliable information on early care and education for parents, caregivers, and teachers of young children in Illinois. In addition to responses to "Frequently Asked Questions," such as this one, the Web site offers printable tip sheets for caregivers and parents, a customized question-answering service, a statewide calendar of events for parents and caregivers, an easy-to-use database of links to "the best of the Web" on topics related to early care and education, and periodic "Ask an Expert" events.
  • The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is the nation's largest organization of early childhood professionals and others dedicated to improving the quality of early childhood programs for children. NAEYC offers many resources through its Web site and has an accreditation program to recognize high-quality center-based programs.
  • Day Care Home Licensing Orientation IL DCFS – This is a comprehensive orientation to educate potential day care home providers about the rules and procedures that govern day care homes and the license application process. It's also to help you decide if becoming a day care home provider is right for you and if you meet the licensing requirements mandated by DCFS.

What are the legal standards and requirements for a child care center in our state?

  • Child care centers in Illinois must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The DCFS Web site provides links to licensing and additional helpful information for child care providers in both English and Spanish.
    • Contact information for local DCFS agencies is also available on the DCFS Web site. The local agency can help guide those planning a child care center through the process in addition to providing licensing information.
    • The licensing standards for child care centers in Illinois are also available on the DCFS Web site. Included in the standards is information on licenses and permits, administration, staffing, program requirements, structure and safety, health and hygiene, and facilities and equipment.
  • The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care (NRCHSCC) provides both Web and print versions of publications, including Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs.  Additional publications related to infants and toddlers, environmental health, oral health, and healthy weight are available. Their Web site also links to information on specific health and safety issues, as well as state licensing and regulations resources. NRCHSCC publications can be ordered online, by mail, or telephone.
    • Stepping Stones to Caring for Our Children, 3rd Edition includes the text of the NRCHSCC standards that have the greatest impact on disease, disability, and death (morbidity and mortality) in out-of-home child care. This publication can be downloaded at no cost or ordered in printform.

What are the requirements in licensing and professional standards for staff?

  • Illinois regulations establish minimum qualifications for center staff and other requirements to insure that children are properly supervised. There are more specific education requirements for child care center directors, early childhood teachers, and personnel in school-age programs. Group size and the ratio of child care staff to children present at any one time vary by the ages of the children.
  • The Gateways to Opportunity Web site explains the many career options available in early care and education in Illinois. The Gateways' Career Lattice provides information on the specific training and education needed to take advantage of the many early care and education career opportunities.
    • For those providers who need help in establishing professional goals, need financial support to pay for additional education, or need information to find training and coursework to qualify for a particular position, Professional Development Advisors are available throughout the state at no cost.
  • The Council for Professional Recognition (CPR) operates the national Child Development Associate program. A Child Development Associate (CDA) is an individual who has successfully completed a CDA assessment and has been awarded the CDA Credential. In Illinois, a director of a child care center is required to have a CDA Credential plus additional education and experience. The National Directory of Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Institutions, available on the CPR Web site, contains a listing of colleges and universities in each state that provide early childhood education.

What do I need to know to work well with parents?

  • Connecting with Parents in the Early Yearsexamines what we know about disseminating child-rearing and education-related information to parents and identifies what else we need to know about the information-sharing process in order to help parents get their young children ready for school.
  • Communicating with Parents, an online digest adapted from Connecting with Parents in the Early Years, calls communication an intrinsic part of the relationships between parents of young children and the staff of programs that serve them.
  • The Illinois Early Learning (IEL) Project offers easy-to-print tip sheets that providers of early care and education can share with parents.

What funding resources are available?
How are fees for child care set?

  • The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) conducts a biennial Market Rate Survey of Licensed Child Care Programs in Illinois. This resource provides information on the market rates that providers are charging families for child care. The most recently published survey, 2010, can be found on the DHS Web site. DHS also published the 2010 Illinois Child Care Report. For additional information, contact the Illinois Bureau of Child Care and Development at 217-785-2559.
  • Occasionally, DHS or other state organizations will offer grants or loans for start-up or enhancement purposes to persons wanting to become a licensed child care provider.
  • Your local CCR&R, which is part of the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (INCCRRA), can provide funding for professional development and staff compensation through the Great Start and TEACH wage supplement programs. Quality Counts funds are also available through your CCR&R for new (and ongoing) programs to help pay for equipment, curriculum materials, and other facility needs. Reimbursement is available for programs that care for low-income children in Illinois whose parents are approved for subsidy. Other grants for professional development are also available. CCR&Rs can also provide data on rates charged for care in your area. You can find your local CCR&R by going to this page on the INCCRRA Web site or by calling INCCRRA at 800-649-1884.
  • The National AfterSchool Association (NAA) is a membership association of school-age child care professionals with 35 state affiliates. NAA can help you find an affiliate group in your area that may be able to offer additional information about local funding resources and support for your project.

What should I consider in planning the facility, equipment, and materials?

Where can I find curriculum resources?

The Early Childhood Block Grant Request for Proposals (RFP) on the Illinois State Board of Education Web site provides examples of evidence-based curricula, including the following:

  • Creative Curriculum . Diane Trister Dodge's Creative Curriculum Web site provides detailed information about the curriculum's use in early childhood education settings (birth through grade 3). The Creative Curriculum strives to provide a comprehensive yet easy-to-use framework for planning and implementing a developmentally appropriate curriculum for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and children in the primary grades.
  • High/Scope Educational Approach. The research-based High/Scope educational approach is a comprehensive system of child instruction, staff development, and accountability assessment. This approach can be aligned with state and local standards for implementing program content and assessing program quality and child outcomes.
  • Bank Street Approach. Many of the underlying principles that inform the Bank Street approach have their origins in the progressive movement of the early 20th century and specifically in the work of John Dewey and in the formulations of Barbara Biber and Edna Shapiro of Bank Street's "developmental interaction" approach to learning.
  • Project Approach. The Project Approach is a teaching strategy that enables teachers to guide children through in-depth studies of real-world topics. Project work may be incorporated into a curriculum but is not intended to constitute the entire curriculum. Teachers can use the Project Approach to meet most of the Illinois Early Learning Benchmarks. Resources on the Project Approach are now available on the Illinois Projects in Practice (IllinoisPIP) Web site, which is designed and maintained by the Illinois Early Learning Project.



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The opinions, resources, and referrals provided on the IEL Web site are intended for informational purposes only and are not intended to take the place of medical or legal advice, or of other appropriate services. We encourage you to seek direct local assistance from a qualified professional if necessary before taking action.

The content of the IEL Web site does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education; nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education.