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Illinois Department of Children

& Family Services





The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is responsible

for licensing day care centers. When a day care center is licensed, it means

that a DCFS licensing representative has inspected the facility and the

facility was found to meet the minimum licensing requirements. A license

is valid for three years. The day care center’s license must be posted. It will

indicate the maximum number of children allowed in the facility and the

areas where children may receive care.

Licensed day care facilities are inspected annually by DCFS licensing

staff. If a complaint has been received regarding a violation of the licensing

standards of a day care center, a licensing representative will conduct a

licensing complaint investigation to determine if the alleged violation should

be substantiated or unsubstantiated. Individuals may contact the Day Care

Information Line to learn of substantiated violations.


Day Care Information Line 1-877-746-0829

This statewide toll-free information line provides information to the public

on the history and record, including substantiated violations, of licensed

day care homes, day care centers, and group day care homes. This number

operates Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Summary of Licensing Standards for Day Care Centers

The following is a summary of the licensing standards for day care centers.

It has been prepared so that you may monitor the care provided to your

child. This is a brief summary and does not include all of the licensing

standards for day care centers. State licensing standards are minimum

standards, while some municipalities may impose stricter standards on day

care centers operating within their jurisdictions. If you observe a violation

of any of these standards, you are encouraged to discuss your concerns with

the day care center operator. In most cases, parents and day care operators

are able to resolve the parents’ concerns and issues. If you believe the day

care operator is not responding to your concerns, and may not be meeting

state licensing standards, you may make a complaint to the local DCFS

Licensing Office or by calling the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-2873

and stating that you want to make a licensing complaint. A DCFS licensing

representative will investigate your complaint and report the results back

to you. The day care center is required to provide a copy of its own written

policies regarding the operation of the facility to each staff person and to

parents of enrolled children.



• The day care center must have a qualified child care director on site at

all times. The director must be at least 21 years old, have completed

two years of college or have equivalent experience and credentials.

• Early childhood teachers must be at least 19 years old, have two years

of college or have equivalent experience and credentials.

• School-age workers must be at least 19 years old. They must have

completed one year of college or have the equivalent experience and


• Early childhood assistants and school-age assistants must have a high

school diploma or the equivalent and must work under direct supervision

of an early childhood teacher or a school-age worker.

• Student and youth aides must be at least 14 years of age, at least five

years older than the oldest child in their care, and must work under

direct supervision of an early childhood teacher or a school-age worker.

• Student and youth aides are not generally counted for purposes of

maintaining staff/child ratios.

• The director and all child care staff must have 15 hours of in-service

training annually.

• All staff must have current medical reports on file and are subject to

background checks for any record of criminal conviction or child abuse

and neglect.

• A person certified in first aid, including CPR and the Heimlich maneuver,

must be present at all times.

• All child care staff in a facility licensed to care for newborns and infants

must have training on the nature of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death

(SUID), SIDS and the safe sleep recommendations of the American

Academy of Pediatrics.


Group Size and Staff Requirements:

AGE OF CHILDREN                            STAFF/CHILD MAXIMUM              RATIO GROUP SIZE

Infants (6 weeks through 14 months)       1 to 4                                                 12

Toddlers (15 through 23 months)               1 to 5                                                 15

Two years                                                           1 to 8                                                 16

Three years                                                        1 to 10                                               20

Four years                                                          1 to 10                                               20

Five years (preschool)                                    1 to 20                                               20

School-age: Kindergartners present         1 to 20                                               30


• Exception: One early childhood teacher and an assistant may supervise

a group of up to 30 children if all of the children are at least five years

of age.

• Whenever children of different ages are combined, the staff/child ratio

and maximum group size must be based on the age of the youngest

child in the group.


General Program Requirements

• Parents must be allowed to visit the center without an appointment any

time during normal hours of operation.

• Staff must demonstrate respect for each child enrolled regardless of

differences in gender, ability, culture, ethnicity, or religion.

• There must be a balance of active and quiet activity. Children of all

ages shall be encouraged to participate daily in at least 2 occasions of

age-appropriate outdoor time, with active movement or play for mobile


• In pre-school programs where children receive care for less than three

hours per day, outdoor activity is not required.

• Children will be limited in the amount of daily passive screen viewing.

• Children may not be left unattended at any time.


Infants and Toddlers

• Infants and toddlers must be in separate space away from older children.

• A refrigerator and sink must be easily accessible.

• Toys and indoor equipment must be cleaned and disinfected daily. Safe,

durable equipment and play materials must be provided.

• Either the day care center or the parent may provide food for infants

not consuming table food. Feeding times and amounts consumed must

be documented in writing.

• No food other than formula, milk, breast milk or water may be placed

in a bottle for infant feeding. Microwaves are not to be used for bottle


• Infants must be placed on their backs to sleep.

• The facility must have a clearly defined diaper changing area with the

procedures for changing diapers clearly posted. A hand-washing sink

must be accessible.

• Staff changing diapers must wash their hands and the child’s hands

with soap and running water after diapering.

• Information about feeding, elimination and other important information

must be recorded in writing and made available to parents when the

child is picked up at the end of the day.

• Only new cribs manufactured on or after June 28, 2011 can be utilized.


School-Age Children

• The facility must have a designated area for school-age children so they

do not interfere with the care of younger children.

• Clear definitions of responsibility and procedures are to be established

among parent, day care center and school when children move to and

from school.

• A variety of developmentally appropriate activities and materials

must be available for children. Opportunities must be provided to do

homework, if requested.


Evening, Night and Weekend Care

• Family-like groups of mixed ages are allowed.

• Staff must be awake at all times and in the sleeping area whenever

children are sleeping.

• Dependent on age, each child must have an individual cot, bed or crib.

• An evening meal and a bedtime snack must be served.

• Breakfast must be served to all children who have been at the facility

throughout the night and are present between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.


Enrollment and Discharge

• Parents must be provided the names, business address and telephone

number of persons legally responsible for the program.

• Parents must be provided the following in writing: Information on the

program, fees, arrival and departure policies explaining to the parents

and guardians what actions the caregiver will take if children are not

picked up at the agreed upon time, as well as policies related to guidance

and discipline.

• Parents must complete an initial enrollment application, which includes

a certified copy of their child’s birth certificate (which will be copied by

the center and returned to the parent), emergency numbers, and persons

authorized to pick up their child.

• A child may only be released to a parent or other responsible person

designated by the parent in writing.

• Daily arrival and departure logs must be kept by the center.


Guidance and Discipline

• Parents must be given a copy of the guidance and discipline policy.

• The following are prohibited:

– corporal punishment

– threatened or actual withdrawal of food, rest or use of the bathroom

– abusive or profane language

– public or private humiliation

– emotional abuse, including shaming, rejecting, terrorizing or

isolating a child

• “Time-out” is to be limited to one minute per year of the child’s age.

• “Time-out” may not be used for children less than two years of age.



• The driver must be 21 years of age and hold a driver’s license that has

been continuously valid for three years.

• Children must not be allowed to stand or sit on the floor of the vehicle.

• Age appropriate safety restraints must be used when transporting

children in vehicles other than school buses.

• Any vehicle used to transport children must have liability insurance

coverage in an amount required by statute.

• The driver must make sure that a responsible person is present to take

charge of a child when delivered to his or her destination.


Health Requirements for Children

• Parents or guardians of infants, toddlers and preschool children enrolling

in day care for the first time must provide a medical report dated fewer

than 6 months prior to enrollment; children transferring from another

licensed day care center may use their current medical report, if it is

less than one year old.

• Parents or guardians of school-age children may submit a copy of the

most recent regularly scheduled school physical (even if it is more than

6 months old) or the day care center may require a more recent medical

report by its own enrollment policy.

• A medical report indicating that the child has been appropriately

immunized must be on file for each child. Parents are encouraged to

be informed about childhood immunizations by going to the following

Web site: . A tuberculin skin

test is to be included in the initial exam unless waived by a physician.

• The medical report is valid for two years for infants and preschool

children. Exams for school-age children are required consistent with

the requirements of the public schools.

• The center must comply with the Illinois Department of Public Health’s

Hearing and Vision Screening Codes and the Illinois Child Vision and

Hearing Test Act.

• Children aged one to six years must have either a lead risk assessment

or a lead screening.

• Water must be freely available to all children.

• Children’s hands must be washed with soap and water upon arrival at

the center, before and after meals or using the toilet, after wiping or

blowing their noses, after outdoor play and after coming into contact

with any soiled objects.

• Prescription and non-prescription medication may be accepted only in

its original container. The center must maintain a record of the dates,

times administered, dosages, prescription number (if applicable) and

the name of the person administering the medication.

• Medication must be kept in locked cabinets or other containers that are

inaccessible to children.


Nutrition and Meals

• Menus must be posted.

• Meals and snacks must meet nutritional guidelines and shall be prepared

so as to moderate fat and sodium content.

• Children in care two to five hours must be served a snack. Children in

care five to 10 hours must be served a meal and two snacks or two meals

and one snack. Children in care more than 10 hours must be served two

meals and two snacks or one meal and three snacks.

Napping and Sleeping

• Children under six years of age who remain five or more hours must

have the opportunity to rest or nap.

• Infants must sleep in safe, sturdy, freestanding cribs or portable cribs.

• Toddlers may use either stacking cots or full-size cribs.

• A cot or bed must be provided for each toddler or preschool child in

attendance five or more hours. Each cot, bed or crib must be labeled

with the name of the child.


Physical Space

• Infants and toddlers must be housed and cared for at ground level unless

special approval has been granted from the Department.

• Indoor space must provide a safe, comfortable environment for the

children. Floors and floor coverings must be washable and free from

drafts and dampness.

• Toilets and lavatories must be readily accessible to the children.

• Hot and cold running water must be provided.

• Hazardous items must be inaccessible to children.

• Parents must be notified before pesticides are applied.

• Lead paint or asbestos removal must be in accordance with public health

standards and statute.

• Exits must be unlocked and clear of equipment and debris.

• Drills for fire and tornado must be conducted. A floor plan must be posted

in every room indicating the areas providing the most safety in the case

of a tornado and the primary and secondary exit routes in case of fire.

• Smoking or the use of tobacco products in any form is prohibited in the

child care center or in the presence of children while on the playground

or on trips away from the center.

• The facility must test for radon at least every 3 years and post the results

in an area visible to parents, along with an informative notice about

the effects of radon.

• Play materials must be durable and free from hazardous characteristics.

• The facility may not use or have on the premises any unsafe children’s

product as described in the Children’s Product Safety Act. Lists of

unsafe children’s products and recalls from 1989 forward are available


Printed by Authority of the State of Illinois

DCFS #562 – March 2015 – 20,000 Copies

CFS 1050-52 – Rev. 3/2015

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