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Department of Child and 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 past 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 for you so that you may monitor the care provided to your child. This is a summary and does not include all of the licensing standards for a day care center. State licensing standards are minimum standards. 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 of age and at least five years older than the oldest child in their care. They must have completed one year of college or have the equivalent experience and credentials.

  • 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.

Group Size and Staff Requirements:

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

  • Toddlers (15 months through 23 months) 1 to 5

  • Two years 1 to 8

  • Three years 1 to 10

  • Four years 1 to 10

  • Five years (preschool) 1 to 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 gender, ability, cultural, ethnic or religious differences.

  • There must be a balance of active and quiet activity. Daily indoor and outdoor activities are to be provided for children to make use of both large and small muscles.

  • In pre-school programs where children receive care for less than three hours per day, outdoor activity is not required.

  • Children may not be left unattended at any time.

Infants and Toddlers

  • Infants and toddlers must be in separate spaces 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 warming.

  • Children who cannot turn over alone must be placed on their backs.

  • The facility must have a clearly definition diaper changing area with the procedures for changing diapers clearly posted. A hand-washing sink must be accessible for hand washing.

  • 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 must be in place

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.

  • 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, 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, and the guidance and discipline policies.

  • Parents must complete an enrollment application. It includes first time enrollment, providing a certified copy of their child’s birth certificate (which will be copied by the center and returned to the parent), emergency numbers, and people authorized to pick up their child.

  • A child may only be released to a parent or other responsible person designated by the parent.

  • 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 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.

  • 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

  • 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: html. 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 will 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.

  • Children in care two to five hours must be served a snack. Children in care five to ten hours must be served a meal and two snacks or two meals and one snack. Children in care more than ten 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 at a center for five or more hours must have the opportunity to rest or nap.

  • Infants must sleep in safe, sturdy, and 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 bathrooms 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, unless in an emergency

  • 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. It should indicate the areas that provide the most safety in the case of a tornado and the primary and secondary exit routes in case of a 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.

  • 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 to now are available at:

  • The facility must be cleaned daily and kept in sanitary condition at all times.

  • First-aid kits must be maintained and readily available for use.

Outdoor Play Area

  • Play space must be fenced or otherwise enclosed or protected from traffic and other hazards. There must be a shaded area in summer to protect children from excessive sun exposure.

  • All areas of the outdoor play space must be visible to staff at all times.

  • Equipment must be free of sharp points or corners, splinters, protruding nails or bolts, loose or rusty parts, the potential for entrapment and/or other hazards.

  • Protective surfaces must be provided under equipment from which a child might fall. Printed by Authority of the State of Illinois DCFS #89 – August 2012 – 30,000 Copies CFS 1050-52 – Rev. 8/2012

  • All swimming pools must be fenced or otherwise inaccessible to children.

  • During hours of operation and at all times that children are present, there must be a means for parents of enrolled children to have direct telephone contact with a center staff person.


This summary has been developed to assist parents in monitoring the care provided by the day care center.

For a complete copy of the Licensing Standards, write or call:

Department of Children and Family Services
Office of Child and Family Policy
406 East Monroe Street
Springfield, Illinois 62701
Telephone (217) 524-1983

Licensing Standards for Day Care Centers may also be accessed through the DCFS website: and following the links to Part 407, Licensing Standards for Day Care Centers. You may also contact your nearest DCFS office.




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