How to Start a Daycare in Illinois

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Starting a daycare in Illinois involves several key steps to ensure compliance with state regulations and to create a nurturing environment for children.

  • First, research and understand the licensing requirements set by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). This includes obtaining the necessary background checks, completing required training, and meeting facility standards.
  • Next, develop a comprehensive business plan outlining your daycare’s mission, services offered, budget, and marketing strategies.
  • Secure a suitable location that meets zoning requirements and is equipped with age-appropriate facilities and safety features.
  • Hire qualified staff members who are passionate about childcare and can provide a stimulating and supportive environment for children.
  • Establish policies and procedures for daily operations, including health and safety protocols, curriculum planning, and parent communication.
  • Finally, promote your daycare through networking, a com listing, social media, and local advertising to attract families in need of quality childcare services.

Regularly evaluate and adapt your program to meet the evolving needs of children and families in your community.

Do I need a childcare license in Illinois?

Prior to establishing a daycare center, it’s imperative to familiarize yourself with and adhere to the licensing regulations specific to your state. In Illinois, childcare licensing is overseen by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS). State guidelines stipulate that obtaining a childcare license in Illinois is mandatory if you intend to care for more than three unrelated children under the age of 12, which includes your own children. However, certain exemptions may apply if you solely provide care for:

  • Three or fewer children under the age of 13, including your own children; or
  • Children from the same household; or
  • Children who are related to you.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS) grants licenses for three categories of daycare operations: daycare centers, daycare homes, and group daycare homes.

  • Daycare centers offer childcare services to eight or more children in either a home-based setting or three or more children in a center-based environment for less than 24 hours per day.
  • Daycare homes provide childcare services to between 3 and 12 children in a home-based setting for less than 24 hours per day.
  • Group daycare homes offer childcare services to between 3 and 16 children in a home-based setting for less than 24 hours per day.

Daycare in Illinois

Childcare licensing requirements in Illinois

As per information provided by the Illinois childcare resource service, obtaining a childcare license in Illinois does not entail any fees. Irrespective of the specific type of daycare center you plan to establish, you are required to fulfill the following criteria:

  • Ensuring the establishment of a safe and healthy childcare environment.
  • Being at least 18 years of age.
  • Demonstrating a genuine enthusiasm for working with children.
  • Possessing comprehensive knowledge of children’s physical and emotional needs.
  • Obtaining certification in CPR and first aid.
  • Successfully passing a background check and undergoing fingerprinting.

Let’s now take a look at the specific licensing requirements for the three types of childcare facilities:

Daycare Center requirements

Staff qualifications

Childcare director qualifications

  • Must be at least 21 years of age.
  • Must possess a high school diploma or equivalency certificate (GED).
  • Must successfully complete 60 semesters or 90 quarter hours of credit from an accredited college or university, with 18 semesters or 27 quarter hours specifically focused on courses related to childcare and child development.
  • Must have a minimum of two years of child development experience in a nursery school, kindergarten, or licensed daycare center; alternatively, 30 semesters or 45 quarter hours of college credits, with ten semesters or 15 quarter hours dedicated to courses directly related to child care and child development, along with proof of enrollment in an accredited college or university.
  • Must fulfill a training program accredited by the American Montessori Society.
  • Must complete a basic training course consisting of six or more clock hours focused on providing care to children with disabilities.

Early childhood teacher and school-age worker qualifications

  • Must be at least 19 years of age.
  • Must hold a high school diploma or equivalency certificate (GED).
  • Must successfully complete 60 semester hours of credits from an accredited college or university, including six semesters or nine quarter hours dedicated to courses directly related to child care and child development.
  • Must possess one year of child development experience in a nursery school or kindergarten.
  • Must complete a training program accredited by the American Montessori Society.

Early childhood assistant and school-age assistant qualifications

  • Must have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate (GED)

Student and youth aide qualifications

  • Must be age 14 or older and at least 5 years older than the oldest child in the facility

Substitute qualifications

  • Must have similar professional qualifications to those required of staff they’re substituting for

Volunteer qualifications

  • Must have a health report

Staff to child ratio

Age Staff to child ratio Maximum group size
Infants (6 weeks – 14 months) 1:4 12
Toddlers (15 through 23 months) 1:5 15
2 years 1:8 16
3 years 1:10 20
4 years 1:10 20
5 years (preschool) 1:20 20
School-age: Kindergarten & older 1:20 30

Group Daycare Home requirements

Staff qualifications

Caregivers must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age.
  • Possess a high school diploma or equivalency certificate.
  • Have one year of child development experience in a licensed daycare home, nursery school, kindergarten, or licensed daycare center, along with six semesters or equivalent quarter hours in courses directly related to child care and child development from an accredited college or university.
  • Accumulate one year of credit from an accredited college or university, with six semesters or equivalent quarter hours in courses directly related to child care and development.
  • Successfully complete a credentialing program.
  • Fulfill the requirement of completing 15 clock hours of in-service training per licensing year.

Childcare assistants must:

  • Be at least 18 years old for full-time employment.
  • Be at least 14 years old and at least five years older than the oldest child in the facility for part-time employment.
  • Satisfy background check criteria.

Substitutes must:

  • Be at least 21 years old

Staff to child ratios

Reference Appendix H of the child care regulations

A caregiver alone may care for:

  1. A mixed age group consisting of:
    • A maximum of eight children under 12 years old, with the following allowances:
      • Up to five children under five years old, among whom
      • Up to three children may be under 24 months old.
  2. A mixed age group consisting of:
    • A maximum of eight children under 12 years old, with the following specifications:
      • Up to six children under five years old, among whom
      • Up to two children may be under 30 months old.
  3. A mixed age group of up to eight children under the age of 12 with zero children under the age of three years old
  4. A group of up to 12 school age children, ages five through 12 years old

A caregiver and an assistant 18 years of age or older may care for:

  • A group of a maximum of 12 children, ranging from three to six years old.
  • A mixed-age group comprising:
    • Up to 12 children under 12 years old, with
    • No more than six children under 30 months old, and
    • Of those six children, no more than four are under 15 months old.

Daycare Home requirements

Staff qualifications

Primary caregiver:

Must meet the following requirements listed in Appendix D of the child care regulations.

  • Fulfill pre-service and in-service training requirements through participation in college or university courses, vocational school classes, conferences, workshops, as well as state or local child care association meetings.
  • Complete 15 hours of in-service training annually to maintain licensing compliance.

Childcare assistants:

  • Individuals must be a minimum of 14 years old and at least five years older than the eldest child they oversee.
  • Assistants who are under 18 years old must operate under the direct supervision of the caregiver.

Substitutes must:

  • Be at least 18 years old

Daycare in Illinois

Staff to child ratios

Reference section 406.13 of the regulations for more information.

A caregiver alone may care for:

  1. A mixed age group consisting of:
    • Up to eight children under the age of 12, of which
    • Up to five children may be under the age of five, of which
    • Up to three children may be under 24 months old
  1. A mixed age group consisting of:
    • Up to eight children under the age of 12, of which
    • Up to six children may be under the age of five, of which
    • Up to two children may be under 30 months old
  2. A school-age group consisting of eight school-age children

A caregiver and an assistant under the age of 18 are permitted to supervise:

  • One of the groupings described in points 1 and 2 above, along with four additional children who attend school full-time; or
  • A total of eight children under the age of five, with the allowance of up to five children being under 24 months old.

A caregiver and an assistant aged 18 years or older may oversee:

  • One of the groupings outlined in points 1 and 2 above, along with four extra children attending school full-time; or
  • Eight children under the age of five, with the flexibility for up to five children to be under 24 months old, and an additional four children attending school full-time.

Childcare license application in Illinois

The application procedure for daycare homes and group daycare homes in Illinois is identical. However, daycare centers follow a distinct application process.

Daycare Homes and Group Daycare Homes license application process

Step 1: Enroll in and complete the online licensing orientation

Before initiating the licensing application process, participate in the online licensing orientation to gain insights into the procedure and ascertain your compliance with the licensing criteria.

Step 2: Submit the application package

Your application package should encompass the following elements:

  • Child care facility license application
  • Roster of individuals employed at the daycare and all occupants aged 13 and above in the facility
  • Authorization forms permitting licensing authorities to conduct background checks on all applicants, staff members, and household members aged 13 and above
  • Child support certification documentation
  • Three adult references capable of vouching for the applicant’s character
  • Hazard prevention plan for the daycare premises and outdoor area
  • Copy of your high school diploma, GED, or equivalent
  • Proof of enrollment in the Gateways to Opportunity Registry
  • Records indicating home radon testing
  • Records confirming lead testing and mitigation strategies

Step 3: Arrange a home inspection

Upon approval of your application, schedule an inspection of your residence by an IDCFS licensing representative. During this visit, the licensing representative will:

  • Ensure compliance with daycare home operation regulations
  • Determine the maximum capacity of your facility and designate areas for childcare activities
  • Obtain your signature on pertinent documents related to daycare operations
  • Provide detailed information regarding record-keeping obligations

Based on the assessment conducted during the home visit, the licensing representative will evaluate your eligibility for a childcare license. Upon successful application, you will be issued a childcare operation license, valid for a duration of three years.

Daycare Center license application process

Step 1: Contact your local licensing office

The IDCFS advises reaching out to your local childcare licensing office for guidance before initiating your application process. Given the complexity of obtaining a daycare center license, early communication with them can streamline the process, saving both time and resources.

Step 2: Complete and submit your application

Begin by filling out and delivering the application for a child care facility license. Below is a breakdown of the documentation to include with your application form:

  • Articles of incorporation and corporate bylaws. This requirement is applicable solely if your daycare enterprise adheres to a corporate organizational framework.
  • Your statement outlining purposes and policies.
  • A roster of stakeholders, inclusive of board and committee members.
  • An annual operational budget.
  • A staffing blueprint.
  • A documented allocation of administrative responsibilities.
  • Authorization forms granting licensing authorities permission to conduct background checks.
  • Documentation confirming facility radon testing.
  • Documentation validating lead testing and mitigation measures.
  • Proof of membership in the Gateways to Opportunity Registry.

Step 3: Obtain a six-month conditional license

If your application is successful, you will receive a conditional license valid for six months to operate your daycare center. During this period, your licensing representative will conduct regular visits to assess your compliance. If you meet all compliance requirements within this timeframe, you will be granted a childcare license valid for three years.

Obtaining a childcare license is one of the initial steps in launching your business, whether you’re establishing a center-based program or starting a preschool from home. Additionally, you will need to dedicate time to crafting a comprehensive business plan, selecting an engaging daycare name, and devising effective marketing strategies to attract potential families to your center.

Daycare in Illinois

How to stay compliant with a daycare license in Illinois

To adhere to Illinois childcare regulations, you must obtain a new daycare license in the following situations:

  • Your current license reaches its expiration date.
  • You plan to modify your business name, address, corporate status, or ownership.

The IDCFS will send you the license renewal application forms via email six months

before your license expires. It is necessary to complete and submit these forms at least three months before the current license expires.

Upon receipt of the license renewal application forms, the IDCFS will conduct a facility assessment to assess compliance. If you intend to alter your business name, address, corporate status, or ownership, you must submit a new application at least 30 days before the effective date of the changes.

Start a daycare in Illinois

Initiating a daycare venture in Illinois necessitates thorough planning and adherence to the state’s licensing regulations. Once this pivotal phase is accomplished and you acquire your license, you can then direct your attention toward the subsequent phases of your business development.

To best market your daycare and utilize coming tools such as all-in-one waitlist management, payment processing, and single scan solutions for parent updates, sign up at https://www.Daycare.com/signup

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