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DCFS Licensing Summary

In Illinois, the Child Care Act of 1969 (as amended) is the law which requires the licensing of child care centers, family child care homes and group child care homes. Child care licensing is a form of consumer protection. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) regulates child care programs by requiring child care providers to meet minimum health & safety standards. ADCFS license must be on display at the program or home. State licensing representatives monitor each child care program to determine if they meet minimum health and safety requirements and to ensure compliance with the standards. Programs should distribute a summary of the licensing standards to families or guardians at the time of enrollment. A child care program, family child care home and group child care home license must be renewed every three years. Both the Child Care Act and the Licensing Standards are subject to change.

Definition of Terms

Child Care Program - a facility that cares for more than three children in a setting that is not a family home. Child care centers, nursery schools, preschools, and school age programs are included in the definition.

Family Child Care Home - the care of up to 12 children in a family home including the child care provider's own children, related children and unrelated children, under age 13.

Group Child Care Home - the care of up to 16 children in a family home including the child care provider's own children, related children and unrelated children, under age 13.

License-Exempt Child Care - care that does not require a license from Illinois DCFS to operate. Facilities or programs exempt from licensing include:
  • care provided in the child's own home with three or fewer children present including the child care provider's own children under the age of 13, or one sibling group.
  • family child care for up to three children, including the child care provider's own children under the age of 13, or the children of one other family.
  • programs serving children over the age of three which are:
    1. operated by public or private elementary schools, or schools which are registered with the Illinois State Board of Education or accredited by a national organization that regularly recognizes or accredits schools.
    2. part day programs operated by a religious organization or social service agency in which no child is cared for more than ten hours in a seven day week.
  • programs conducted on federal government premises.
  • special activities programs operating on a short term basis.
  • programs providing care for transient children while the parents are on the premises.

Child Care Programs
Group Size and Ratio: The maximum number of children grouped according to ages and the minimum staff required are as follows:

Child Care Programs
AGE Maximum
Group Size
Child/Staff
Ratio
6 wks - 15 months 12 4 : 1
15 mos - 2 years 15 5 : 1
2 yrs - 3 years 16 8 : 1
3 yrs - 4 years 20 10 : 1
5 yrs (Preschool) 20 20 : 1
School - Age (Kindergartners present) 30 20 : 1


With the exception of the first and last hour of operation, infants and toddlers cannot be grouped with children older than 24 months. School-age children must be grouped with children five years of age or older. Five year old children can be grouped with either preschoolers or school-age children.

Staff Requirements: All staff generally must have the skill and competence needed to contribute to the children's physical, intellectual, personal, emotional and social development. Each staff member must have a minimum of 15 hours of in-service training each year.

All staff 18 years and older must have a current medical report with a tuberculosis skin test, and are subject to a Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System (CANTS) check, a Law Enforcement Agency Data System (LEADS) check, fingerprinting for a criminal history check and a check of the Statewide Child Sex Offender Registry, and have three references on file. A staff member trained in CPR, the Heimlich Maneuver, and First Aid must be on location at all times.

A Director must be at least 21 years of age, and have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate, have completed two years of college with 18 semester hours of child development, or have equivalent experience or credentials.

An Early Childhood Teacher must be at least 19 years of age, and have completed two years of college with six semester hours in child care and development or have equivalent experience or credentials.

An Early Childhood Assistant must have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate (GED) and must work under the direct supervision of an Early Childhood Teacher.

Physical Space: A minimum of 55 square feet of indoor space per child is required for infants and toddlers. A minimum of 35 square feet of indoor space per child is required for children two years of age and older. A minimum of 75 square feet of outdoor space per child for the total number of children using the space at any one time is required. The outdoor play area shall accommodate 25% of the licensed capacity at any one time. Indoor and outdoor areas must be designed to protect the health and safety of children. Equipment and materials must be in particular quantities for each age group, and include child size tables and chairs and individual space for children's belongings. Inspection and approval of the facility by the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Health Department is required.

Program: The child care program must provide written policies, a statement of purpose and the philosophy of the program to families. Cultural and ethnic diversity and personal privacy of children must be respected. A variety of activities (indoor and outdoor) and a daily routine which promotes the child's individual growth must also be provided.

Nutrition: Nutritious meals and snacks must be served. The children must be provided one-third to two-thirds of the daily nutritional requirements, depending on the length and time of day of the child's stay.

Discipline: Methods of disciplining children must be carried out in ways to help children develop self-control and assume responsibility for their own acts. No child may be subjected to spanking, hitting or any other corporal punishment. No child may be verbally abused, humiliated, deprived of meals or be punished for toileting accidents.

Children's Records/Health Requirements: Children must have a current medical report and necessary forms/permissions on file prior to enrollment. If a child becomes ill, the child must be isolated from the other children and the family must be contacted to remove the child from the child care program as soon as possible.

Sleeping Arrangements: A supervised nap period on cribs or cots is required of all children under age six who are in the program five hours or more each day. A rest period is required for children who are in attendance four consecutive hours or more.

Family Child Care Homes
Group Size and Ratio: Twelve is the maximum number of children including a child care provider's own children under the age of 13 that can be cared for in a family child care home with an assistant. A child care provider alone may care for up to eight children. This number includes the child care provider's own children. A child is considered school age if the child is at least five years of age and attending a full day of school. The ages of the children in care are further regulated as follows:


Family Child Care Homes
Staff Child Care Provider Child Care Provider & Fulltime Assistant
Maximum Group Size 8* 8**
Age Groupings Up to 8 children under 13 years, with no more than 5 under 5 years & no more than 3 under 24 months
or
Up to 8 children under 13 years, with no more than 6 under 5 years and no more than 2 under 30 months
or
Up to 8 school agers
Up to 8 children under 5 years, with no more than 5 under 24 months
* When an assistant is at least 14 years of age, and five years older than the oldest child in care and working under the direct supervision of a child care provider, a child care provider may care for up to four more school-age children, a maximum group of 12.
** If the assistant is 18 years of age or older, a child care provider may also care for up to four more school-age children, a maximum group of 12. The assistant may work independently with the children and without the direct supervision of the child care provider.



Whenever a child care provider exceeds eight children in care, a fire clearance must be obtained from the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Transition Plan: When a child care provider wants to accept a sibling of a child who has been in care for more than 30 days and it will put the child care provider out of compliance in age groupings, the child care provider may accept the child following a DCFS approval plan to return to compliance within six months. The transition plan does not allow a child care provider to exceed the maximum group size at any time.

Child Care Provider: A family child care provider must be a least 18 years of age, be certified in the Heimlich Maneuver, CPR and First Aid, and provide a medical report with a tuberculosis skin test, submit three references, demonstrate knowledge of hygiene, safety and nutrition, and have the ability to relate well to families and children. Child care providers, their family members and assistants who are 18 years of age or older are subject to a Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System (CANTS) check, fingerprinting for a criminal history check and a check of the Statewide Child Sex Offender Registry. Assistants and family members 13 to 17 years of age are subject to a CANTS check and a Law Enforcement Agency Data System (LEADS) check. The child care provider must have identified a person to supervise the children in an emergency.

Physical Space: The indoor and outdoor space must be safe for children and free from hazards. The home must be equipped with a fire extinguisher, smoke detector, first aid kit and have emergency evacuation plans. Materials and equipment must be in sufficient quantity, available to the children for both indoor and outdoor play, and suitable to the ages of the children.

Handguns: Families must be notified if firearms are stored on the premises. Handguns are prohibited on the premises except in the possession of peace officers who reside in the home. Any other firearm must be kept disassembled in locked storage and safely away from children. Ammunition must be locked and stored separately from the firearm.

Program: Daily activities must be well balanced for active and quiet play, and geared to the individual needs of the children.

Nutrition: Nutritious meals and snacks must be served. The children must be provided one-third to two-thirds of the daily nutritional requirements, depending on the length and time of day of the child's stay.

Discipline: Methods of disciplining children must be carried out in ways to help children develop self-control and assume responsibility for their own acts. No child may be subjected to spankings, hitting or any other corporal punishment. No child may be verbally abused, humiliated, deprived of meals or be punished for toileting accidents.

Children's Records/Health Requirements: Each child must have a current medical report and necessary forms/permissions on file prior to enrollment. If a child becomes ill, the child must be isolated from the other children and the family must be contacted to remove the child.

Sleeping Arrangements: Separate sleeping arrangements with individual bedding must be provided for each child. During naps, a twin size bed may be shared by two children under age four provided each child has individual sheets.

Group Child Care Homes
Group Size and Ratio: Sixteen is the maximum number of children including the child care provider's own children under age 12 that can be cared for in a group child care home with a full time assistant. Ages of the children are further regulated as follows:


Group Child Care Homes
Staff Child Care Provider Child Care Provider & Fulltime Assistant
Maximum Group Size 8 or 12* 8**
Age Groupings Up to 8 children under 13 years, with no more than 5 under 5 years & no more than 3 under 24 months.
or
Up to 8 children under 5 years, with no more than 2 under 30 months
or
Up to 12 school age children
Up to 12 children under 6 years, with no more than 6 under 30 months. (no more than 4 under 15 months.)
or
Up to 12 children between 3 and 6 years
and Up to 4 more school age children
* When an assistant is at least 14 years of age, and five years older than the oldest child in care and working under the direct supervision of a child care provider, a group child care provider may care for up to four more school-age children, a maximum group of 16.
** If the assistant is 18 years of age and older, a group child care provider may care for up to four more school-age children, a maximum group of 16. The assistant may work independently with the children and without the direct supervision of the provider.


A child is considered school age if the child is at least five years of age and attending a full day of school. Before accepting additional school age children, the child care provider must request in writing and receive an increase in the maximum group size from DCFS. To exceed eight children in care, a fire clearance must be obtained from the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Transition Plan: When a child care provider wants to accept a sibling of a child who has been in care for more than 30 days, and it will put the child care provider out of compliance in age groupings, the child care provider may accept the child following a DCFS approval of a plan to return to compliance within six months. The transition plan does not allow a child care provider to exceed the maximum group size at any time.

Child Care Provider: A group home child care provider must be at least 21 years of age, provide a medical report with a tuberculosis skin test, submit three references, demonstrate knowledge of hygiene, safety and nutrition, and have the ability to relate well to families and children. A child care provider certified in CPR, the Heimlich Maneuver and First Aid must be on location at all times. The child care provider must have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate, have completed one year of college education or related child care experiences in a licensed child care home, nursery school, kindergarten, or licensed child care program and have six semester hours of course work in child care or development or a current Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. In addition six hours of in-service training must be completed each year.

Child Care Providers, Family Members and Assistants: The child care provider, family members and assistants who are 18 years of age or older are subject to a Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System (CANTS) check, a Law Enforcement Agency Data System (LEADS) check, fingerprinting for a criminal history check, and must have three letters of reference on file. Family members and assistants 13 to 17 years of age are subject to a CANTS check and a LEADS check. Child care providers, their family members and assistants are checked with the Statewide Child Sex Offender Registry. In addition, the child care provider must have identified a person to supervise the children in an emergency. All full-time assistants must be at least 18 years of age.

Physical Space: Indoor and outdoor space must be safe for children and free from hazards. The home must be equipped with a fire extinguisher, smoke detector, and first aid kit and have emergency evacuation plans. Materials and equipment must be child size, sufficient in quantity, available to the children for both indoor and outdoor play, and suitable to the ages of the children.

Handguns: Families must be notified if firearms are stored on the premises. Handguns are prohibited on the premises except in the possession of peace officers who reside in the home. Any other firearm must be kept disassembled in locked storage and safely away from children. Ammunition must be locked and stored separately from the firearm.

Program: Daily activities must be well balanced for active and quiet play, and geared to the individual needs of the children.

Nutrition: Nutritious meals and snacks must be served. The children must be provided one-third to two-thirds of the daily nutritional requirements, depending on the length and time of day of the child's stay.

Discipline: Methods of disciplining children must be carried out in ways to help children develop self-control and assume responsibility for their own acts. No child may be subjected to spankings, hitting or any other corporal punishment. Also, no child may be verbally abused, humiliated, deprived of meals or be punished for toileting accidents.

Children's Records/Health Requirements: Each child must have a current medical report and forms/permissions on file prior to enrollment. If a child becomes ill, the child must be isolated from the other children and the family must be contacted to remove the child from the home as soon as possible.

Sleeping Arrangements: Separate sleep arrangements with individual bedding must be provided for each child. During naps, a twin size bed may be shared by two children under age four provided each child has individual sheets.

To view and/or download a complete copy of the DCFS Licensing Standards for Child Care Programs visit www.state.il.us/dcfs.

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