Types of Child Care

Licensed Child Care Center

Child care centers provide full or part-time child care in a group setting with planned activities. Most often licensed by the state, they must meet minimal health, safety, and staffing requirements.

Children are separated by age in some centers and kept all together in others, with activities planned especially for age levels. Each classroom has materials and activities that support a planned curriculum. There is usually a range of experience and education among the staff. 

Infant at daycare

All staff who have contact with children are subject to a background check for criminal activity. Centers provide substitutes during staff absences or vacations who also submit to background checks.

License-Exempt Center

Several types of child care centers do not require a license. These include, but are not limited to, programs which:

  • Serve children three years and older and are operated by public or private elementary or secondary schools, institutions of higher education, or other accredited schools registered with the state Board of Education
  • Are conducted on federal government premises
  • Care for no individual child more than 10 hours in a seven-day week and are operated by a church or social service agency
  • Offer short-term, special activities and are operated by civic, charitable, and governmental organizations
  • Provide temporary care for children whose parents are on the premises

Licensed Family Child Care Home

A licensed family child care provider is at least 18 years old, has a high school diploma or GED and provides care in their own home.  The caregiver alone may be licensed to care for up to eight children in a family home, including the provider’s own children under age 12. With the addition of a part-time assistance, this provider can care for a total of 12 children. Often, family child care providers are parents themselves.  In Illinois, family child care providers who care for more than three children, including their own, are required to be licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

Family child care offers a blending of ages.  Each child can relate to a few other children - some younger and some older.

A family child care provider may often live in your neighborhood and may be able to make more flexible arrangements than a child care center.  Some providers are available to care for children whose parent works at night or on weekends during times when most centers are not open.

Licensed Group Family Child Care Home

A person who operates a licensed group day home is at least 21 years old with one year of credit from an accredited college/university or has a combination of work experience and education. The caregiver alone may be licensed to care for up to eight children in a family home, including the provider’s own children under age 12. With the addition of full and part time assistance, this provider can provide care for up to 16 children.

License-Exempt Family Child Care

Family homes in which care is provided for more than three children under age 12 (including the caregiver's own children), related or unrelated, must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).  However, if the family child care provider cares for three or fewer children under age 12 (including their own), or the children cared for are all from one family, the provider is not required to be licensed.


School-Age Programs

School-age programs offer child care before and after school and for holidays, snow days, and summer vacation. School-age programs can be found at child care centers, elementary schools, community centers, family child care homes, parks and playgrounds.

Some programs are licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services and some are exempt from licensing.


Preschools, or nursery schools, offer group programs primarily for three to five-year-old children for part of the day on specified days of the week. Most follow the school calendar and do not operate during school holidays, vacations, snow days, or summer months.

Preschools can be licensed by DCFS under the same regulations as daycare centers.

Preschool for All

Preschool for All is an early childhood education program for children three and four years old, and is funded by the Illinois State Board of Education to provide a half-day preschool program at no cost to parents. The Preschool for All promise extends to all Illinois children, though it will take time to provide enough classrooms to meet demand.

Head Start and Early Head Start

The Head Start program for children ages three to five and Early Head Start program for pregnant women, infants, and toddlers promote school readiness for children in low-income families by providing comprehensive educational, health, nutritional and social services. Parents play a large role in the programs, both as primary educators of their children and as participants in administering the programs locally. Both programs provide pre-literacy and literacy experiences in multi-cultural environments. Parents are also provided social services, including assistance with childcare.

For more information about any type of child care or to request referrals to meet your family’s needs, please contact us


Child Care Regulations                                                                                                                             

License:  A license means that the provider has met the State of Illinois standards for care in areas such as teacher to child ratio, educational qualifications, safety standards, capacity, and nutritional requirements. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is the agency responsible for licensing Child Care Centers and Family Child Care Homes.

License Exempt: A center or home may be exempt from licensing from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) because of characteristics such as school-age only services, number of children in care, and school or religious affiliation.

*Any Child Care Provider accepting Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) Payments must complete the CCAP Required Health and Safety Training.  

Program Type Ages Served

Average Availability Times


Licensed Child Care Center 6 weeks-12 years M-F: 6am – 6pm; times may vary; year-round Varies by program and age, CCAP Eligible*
License Exempt Center 3-12 years  Times vary, year length varies Varies by program and age, CCAP Eligible*

Licensed Family Child Care Home

Licensed Group Family Child Care Home*

Larger group size
Birth-12 years Times vary: days, nights, weekend; year-round Varies by program and age, CCAP Eligible*
License-Exempt Family Child Care Home Birth – 12 years Times vary: days, nights, weekend; year-round Varies by program and age, CCAP Eligible*
School Age Only Program K-12 years Before & After school; Holidays; Summer Varies by setting type & hours, CCAP Eligible*

3-5 years

½ day or ½ week, school calendar year Varies by type of program, CCAP Eligible*
Preschool for All 3-5 years ½ day, school calendar year Free
Head Start 3-5 years Full Day, School Calendar year Free
Early Head Start 6 weeks-3 years Full Day, year-round Free