Child Care Search

The Illinois Cares For Kids Online Child Care Search offers families an easy way to find a list of child care providers in your area.  However, families need to have confidence in their child care arrangements.  Finding quality, convenient and affordable child care is not an easy job.  The options and tips below will help you get started.  Take a moment to read these before you start your search.   You will find the link to the online search page below.  If you have any questions about the Online Child Care Search or if you would like addition help with your child care search call: (217) 222-2550  or  1 (800) 782-7318 and a Referral Specialist will assist you.


 What options are available?

Family Child Care

Some 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.
*Licensed family child care providers, and licensed family child care group home providers must meet Illinois Department of Children and Family Services standards for health and safety including, child to staff ratios and required space per child. 

Child Care Centers & Programs
Child Care Centers 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 (DCFS) standards for health and safety including child to staff ratios and required space per child.  For licensed centers the following staff to child ratios and maximum group sizes are set by DCFS.

Age of Children Staff to Child Ratio Maximum Group Size
Infants (6 weeks to 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 (Kindergarten to present) 1 to 20 30


Licensed-Exempt Child Care Centers are also recognized by Illinois, 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 of other accredited schools registered with the Illinois State Board of Education.  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 DCFS.


What to look for in your search for quality child care

Play & Learn
Quality Child Care offers many opportunities for all children to play each day.  Counting, reading skills and problem solving are just a few things learned through play.  Here’s a Tip: Look for a provider who focuses on all aspects of your child’s development including language, social, emotional, physical and cognitive.

There are different caregiver qualifications for different child care settings.  Training, education, experience and credentials prepare a child care provider to meet your child’s development needs.  Here’s a Tip: Request a provider’s qualifications and references to learn more about their child care experience.

Positive Interactions
A quality child care provider guides children, helping them to get along with others in caring positive ways, and encourages you to be involved as well.  Here’s a Tip: Look for a provider who is enthusiastic, attentive and encouraging.

Program Quality

All licensed child care programs are part of the ExceleRateTM Illinois Quality Recognition and Improvement System (QRIS).  Programs can earn a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Circle of Quality or a national accreditation award by meeting voluntary standards for quality child care that are higher than the state licensing requirements.  Here’s a Tip: Ask the provider if their program has an ExceleRateTM Illinois Circle of Quality or is accredited.

A quality child care environment is safe, clean and provides children with many learning opportunities.  Here’s a Tip: Look for a setting where the children are supervised at all times, nutritious meals and snacks are served and where toys and learning activities are based on the age of the child.

You have taken the time to learn about your child care options, and a few tips to finding quality child care.  Click below to start your Online Child Care Search.


To receive a list of child care programs in your area, you may call West Central Child Care Connection directly or you can access: