Starting a Childcare Center in Illinois

Starting a Childcare Center in Illinois

Starting a childcare center offers an opportunity to positively impact the lives of young children and their families in your community. Before you start caring for young children, there are many things to consider.

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 and Referral (CCR&R) agencies throughout the state. INCCRRA can also provide you with information about the rates charged by providers in your community and link you with training opportunities and other resources. Once you have established your childcare center, your local CCR&R will let families know about your services.
  • Child Care Aware is a website containing resources for families and childcare providers. The resources are available by state. Child Care Aware: Opening and Running a Child Care Center contains information to help you learn about what might be involved in starting a new childcare program. You can also contact Child Care Aware by phone at (800) 424-2246.
  • Illinois Early Learning  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 “Questions and Answers,” such as this one, the website offers printable tip sheets for caregivers and parents, blogs, podcasts, resource lists, tool kits, a monthly online newsletter, and a variety of other useful content. 
  • 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 website and has an accreditation program to recognize high-quality center-based programs.

What funding resources are available?

Occasionally, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) or other state organizations will offer grants or loans for start-up or enhancement purposes to people wanting to become a licensed childcare provider.

  • Gateways to Opportunity administers two programs to support childcare professionals: Great Start, a wage supplement program, and the Gateways Scholarship program to support professionals who wish to further their career in early care and education.
  • Quality improvement funds are available through the local Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) agency. The QI funds are to assist and support programs that are choosing to work toward or maintain an Excelerate Illinois Circle of Quality.
  • The IDHS 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 childcare. The most recently published survey is for 2021

What are the licensing standards and professional requirements for a childcare center?

Childcare centers in Illinois must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The DCFS website provides links to licensing and additional helpful information for childcare providers in both English and Spanish.

  • Local DCFS field offices can help guide those planning a childcare center through the process in addition to providing licensing information.
  • The licensing standards for childcare centers in Illinois include information on licenses and permits, administration, staffing, program requirements, structure and safety, health and hygiene, and facilities and equipment.

The Gateways to Opportunity website explains the many career options and Gateways credentials 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.

Where can I find curriculum resources?

The ExceleRate Illinois website contains a list of curricula that are reviewed and aligned to the Illinois Early Learning Guidelines for Children Birth to Age Three Years (IELG) and the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards (IELDS) for preschool children.

What resources are available related to quality and improvement for a childcare center?

  • ExceleRate Illinois is the Quality Rating and Improvement (QRIS) system for Illinois. This QRIS system gives childcare, Head Start, and school-based preschool educators and leaders a process for pursuing quality efforts for young children. ExceleRate Illinois also provides standards, guidelines, and resources to help early care and education providers make decisions that lead to higher quality care and better outcomes for children.
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation offers childcare leaders a four-step process that involves self-reflection and quality improvement to meet and maintain early learning program accreditation over a five-year period. Directors, teachers, and families all participate in the process.

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

  • In their page on family engagement, the Head Start Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center (ECLKC) examines ways early care and education providers can positively engage with families. The website includes information about supporting fathers, relating to culturally diverse families, and promoting community engagement.
  • The Illinois Early Learning (IEL) Project offers tip sheets that providers of early care and education can share with parents.
  • Zero to Three’s professional resource for childcare providers on How to Communicate With Parents is an easy-to-read article with many common examples of childcare providers interacting with families of infants and toddlers in their care.

Web Resources

About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Child Care Center

Intended audience(s):
  • Teachers / Service providers

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
Reviewed: 2022