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
• All staff must have current medical reports on file and are subject to
background checks for any record of criminal conviction or child abuse
• 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
• 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.
• 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
• 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
• 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:http://www.idph.state.il.us/about/pgci.htm . 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.
• 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