Becoming Licensed

What makes me eligible to provide license-exempt care?

If you provide care for only three or fewer children under the age of thirteen, including your own, or children from a single household or only children related to you, then you may be license exempt. 

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) policy differs from DCFS in that while DCFS allows you to care for numerous children that are all related, IDHS only allows payment if the children are all from the same household family. Under the guidelines of providing legal care, submitting necessary forms, and passing background checks, you will be able to receive payments at the license-exempt rate from IDHS to care for children who are receiving state assistance. 

The State of Illinois Compiled Statutes law commonly known as the Child Care Act of 1969” (225 IL CS 10/) regulates who is required to be licensed and who may qualify to be license exempt. Family child care homes are not the only form of child care that may be license exempt. Certain programs may be exempt for licensure. If you do not see a child care license prominently displayed, ask your child care provider which exemption they meet under Rule 377, to be license exempt. To obtain a copy of the rules for programs that may be exempt, visit the IDCFS Sunshine website.

What situations require me to be licensed?

If you have 3 children of your own under the age of 13, yes. If you have no children of your own under the age of 13 but want to provide for more than 3 children or 1 family, yes. 

What does it take to become licensed?

It is important that individuals who seek a license for childcare are first familiar with the Rules governing their type of facility. The Department strongly encourages an applicant to attend an orientation. The best way to begin this process is to call the local license office nearest to the location of the proposed facility and speak with a licensing representative about your plans, your experience and the next available orientation, and to request an initial application packet. You can find a list of local licensing offices here.

Licenses are free, however there are expenses associated with medicals and vaccinations, inspections or testing, pet vaccinations, equipment and supplies, training, and other requirements. You should also be aware that, especially for centers, the building may not be suitable for childcare for such reasons as insufficient space, inadequate outdoor play area, lead paint, mold, etc. It is unwise to make a financial commitment until you are sure that the building is (or can made to be) in compliance with the Rules. Please phone licensing office to discuss your plans before you sign a lease or contract.

Licensed day care homes & group day care homes

Day care home and group day care home licenses are only issued in the family home of the individual(s) applying. This means that the childcare must occur in the home where you and your family live—not in any another location. You may not rent or buy another home or apartment or use an unattached garage, outbuilding, etc. If you wish to use space away from where you and your family live, you must seek licensure as a day care center.

Everyone age 13 years and older living or working in a day care home is subject to a background check. Individuals 18 and over must be printed and will receive a full check, which consists of a review of information from the Illinois State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, State and National Sex Offender Registry, Illinois DCFS Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System, and the child abuse and neglect registry of any other state of residence. There is no cost for this check. Individuals who apply for a home-based license must also submit:

  • A medical examination, including TB, DPT, and MMR
  • Proof of high school diploma, GED, or other degree from an accredited university or vocational school
  • Affidavit that they are current with any child support owed
  • Proof of at least 15 hours of required pre-service training on specific topics
  • Illinois Gateways Registry membership
  • Proof of liability insurance (group day care homes only)
  • Proof of 6 hours of college coursework in early childhood or child development (group day care homes only)

Once the application is accepted as complete and correct, and background check results have been received, the home visit will be scheduled. This visit is to verify compliance with all parts of Rule 406 (Rule 408 for group day care homes). A walk-through of the home and property will be conducted to note any safety hazards, sign other agreements and verifications, set capacity, determine areas of use, days and hours of operation, and explain required record-keeping for children enrolled and employees.

You can find the Day Care Home Licensing Standards here and the Group Day Care Home Licensing Standards are here.

The length of time it takes an individual to move from applicant to licensee or permit-holder depends upon a number of variables, including state fire marshal inspections, municipal inspections and approvals if applicable, background check results, etc. The most significant factor in progress towards licensure is generally the applicant’s familiarity and compliance with the licensing standards.

For homes, the Department has an on-line, free orientation which can be found at: DCFS Training

A family child care home in Illinois must: 

  • Be well ventilated, free from observable hazards, and be properly lighted and heated. 
  • Be equipped with an ABC fire extinguisher and one smoke detector on every floor including the attic and basement. 
  • Be free from chipped or peeling paint on walls and surfaces. Furniture and equipment must be in safe repair. 
  • Have at least one exit directly to the outside if the basement area is to be used for child care. 
  • Have a first aid kit. 
  • Must have a working phone number. 
  • Have a place to isolate a child who becomes ill. 
  • Have protective coverings over electrical outlets. 
  • Have partitions placed around space heaters, fireplaces, radiators, or other heat sources to keep children from touching them. 
  • Have storage areas inaccessible to children for tools, gardening equipment, and other hazardous materials. 
  • Have a safe outdoor space for active play, such as a yard, nearby park, or a playground. Play space must be protected by a fence or caretaker supervision against hazards such as traffic, pools, or construction. 
  • All members in the caregiver’s family must have a medical check-up and a negative TB test. 
  • Assistants must also have a medical check-up and a negative TB test. Assistants must be at least 14 years old and be five years older than the oldest child in their care. 
  • Pets must be certified as healthy from a licensed, practicing veterinarian and have an up-to-date rabies shot. 
  • Applicants must sign a permission form allowing DCFS to conduct a background check to look for past conviction of child abuse and neglect and be fingerprinted.
  • Applicants must obtain their landlord’s permission to operate a family child care business in their home if they rent. 
Licensed day care centers

Day Care Center application is a very complex process. Each center application will vary, due to size, organizational structure, staffing, hours, location, the configuration of the physical plant, etc. Background checks, state and local inspections for fire, plumbing, and health compliance, insurance requirements, minimum space requirements, and all other requirements of Rule 407 can be found here.

Because of the complexity, day care center applicants work closely and communicate often with their assigned licensing representatives, from pre-application to receipt of their permit and then through to licensure. Each center must have a qualified director during hours of operation, follow limits on the number of children in each classroom or group, comply with child-staff ratios at all times, maintain financial solvency, provide nutritious meals and snacks, and provide an environment where children are safe and comfortable and enjoy learning. There are educational and experience requirements for staff and programming is required which includes age- and developmentally-appropriate activities, both indoors and out.

Because we want your center to be successful, we encourage you to do a Needs Assessment, to examine the availability of childcare in your area and whether the community could support your center. Your Resource and Referral Agency can be a wealth of information regarding local childcare needs. You can find yours here.

If you determine that you want to pursue a day care center license, please phone the licensing office nearest your proposed location to speak with a licensing representative and arrange to attend an orientation in person. While orientation is not required, it is highly recommended. This conversation will begin your journey by examining your plans and the licensing regulations, local requirements in your community, recommendations for good practice, etc. From there, the completion of your goal is determined by your readiness, the status of your building, outside inspection results, etc. Once approved, Centers are issued a 6-month permit, during which the licensing representative will conduct routine monitoring visits, provide consultation, and insure that you are fully in compliance so that a license can be recommended.

DCFS Contact Information
Champaign County
2125 S. First St.
Champaign, IL 61820
(217) 278-5300
DCFS Regional Office
2125 S. First St
Champaign, IL 61820
(217) 278-5500 
Vermilion and Iroquois Counties:
401 N Franklin
Danville, IL 61832
(217) 443-3200 
Macon, Douglas and Piatt Counties:
2900 N Oakland
Decatur, IL 62526
(217) 875-6750 
Day Care Information Hotline at (877) 746-0829
24-hour Child Abuse Hotline at 800-25-ABUSE (800-252-2873)
Guides for starting family child care homes or day care centers

Are you interested in starting your own Family Child Care business or perhaps opening a Child Care Center? The following documents in PDF format, are one available resource from the Illinois Child Care Information Series. To request a pre-printed booklet be mailed to you, contact us.  

Note: These files are large and could take up to 80 seconds to download, depending on the speed of your Internet connection.