Starting a Child Care Center in Illinois

About this resource
Reviewed: 2017

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 Service 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.
  • Child Care Aware: A Project of Office of Child Care. This website contains resources for families and child care providers. The resources are available by state.
  • The Illinois Early Learning Project (IEL) website 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, a question-answering service, a monthly online newsletter, and an easy-to-use database of resources to “the best of the Web” on topics related to early care and education.
  • 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.

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 website provides links to licensing and additional helpful information for child care providers in both English and Spanish.
    • Contact information for local DCFS field offices is available on the DCFS website. The local DCFS field office 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 available on the DCFS Web site. The licensing standards include information on licenses and permits, administration, staffing, program requirements, structure and safety, health and hygiene, and facilities and equipment.
  • National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness (NCECHW) provides resources linking health and early childhood education systems, health care professionals, and families. The website has an extensive list of topics that are of interest to child care providers.

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

  • The Gateways to Opportunity website 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.

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

  • 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.
  • 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, 2015, can be found on the DHS Web site. DHS also published the 2015 Illinois Child Care Report.
  • 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.
  • ExceleRate Illinois contains resources that describe the types of early childhood programs available in the state, standards and guidelines, and resources to help early care and education providers make decisions that lead to higher quality care and better outcomes for children.

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

Where can I find curriculum resources?