There are three basic choices in child care

  • care in a child care provider's home
  • care in a child care center
  • care in your own home by a relative or non-relative


Every family has different needs, and that is why child care has different settings. Your local Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) is able to offer you a referral list or online child care search that includes options for care in a child care provider's home and care in a center.

Illinois has specific licensing standards for child care such as basic health and safety procedures, standards for program and staff, maximum group sizes and child-to-staff ratios. There are also basic requirements for nutrition, discipline and equipment, just to name a few of the licensing standards. One of your first questions as a parent should be whether the facility is licensed. Although not all facilities are required to be licensed, you will want to look at every facility for the minimum health, safety, caregiver and program standards covered by licensing.

Click NEXT to find detailed information on care in a provider's home and care in a center. 

Many families choose for their child to be cared for in a home-like setting. Family child care providers fulfill this need by offering care for children in their homes.

  • Licensed Family Child Care providers* may care for up to eight children including their own, or up to 12 children with an assistant.
  • Licensed Family Child Care Group Home providers* may care for up to 16 children (including their own) with the help of a full-time assistant.
  • License-Exempt Family Child Care providers (such as Family, Friend, and Neighbor care) may care for three or fewer children (including their own), or children from one family.


Possible Advantages of Family Child Care

  • Warm, home-like environment
  • Fewer children in setting means a more manageable environment for your child
  • Consistent care from one adult
  • Typically offers flexible hours
  • Siblings may be cared for together


*Licensed family child care providers, licensed family child care group home providers, and licensed centers must meet Illinois Department of Children and Family Services standards for health and safety including, child to staff ratios and required space per child. Call your local CCR&R for more information.

Child Care Centers & Programs provide care for groups of children outside of a residential setting. Children are usually grouped by age. Types of centers include: child care, Early Head Start/Head Start, State pre-kindergarten, Preschools, school-age programs and summer programs.

Licensed Child Care Centers must meet Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS) standards for health and safety including child to staff ratios and required space per child. 

Illinois also recognizes License-Exempt Child Care Centers, such as those serving children 3 years and older and operated by public or private elementary or secondary schools, faith-based organizations, institutions of higher education, or other accredited schools registered with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Since these settings are not licensed they are not held to standards for health and safety, staff to child ratios or maximum group size set by IDCFS. 

Possible Advantages of Child Care Centers

  • More children of same age means more playmates for your child
  • Typically, activities are planned for each age group
  • Many have Preschool programs
  • Staff has education and annual in-service training in child development (licensed setting)


Now you have information on what child care options are available, your next step is to learn what to look for in a quality child care setting