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EIU Child Care Resource and Referral

Finding Quality Child Care
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Illinois Cares For Kids

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.    If you have any questions about the Online Child Care Search call (217) 581-6698 Option 2 or 1-800-545-7439 Option 2.

What types of child care options are available?

  • 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. 

  • License-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.
  • Licensed Child Care Centers must meet the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) standards for health and safety including child care to staff ratios and required space per child.  For licensed centers, the following chart of staff to child ratios and maximum group sizes are set by DCFS.                                             

Age of Children

Child Ratio

Maximum Group Size

Infants (6 weeks to 14 months)

1 to 4


Toddlers (15 through 23 months)

1 to 5


Two Years

1 to 8


Three and Four Years

1 to 10



1 to 20



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.   
    • 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.  
    • 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.  
    • TIP: Look for a provider who is enthusiastic, attentive and encouraging. 

Program Quality

  • All licensed child care programs are part of the ExceleRate Illinois (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.   
    • TIP: Ask the provider if their program has an ExceleRate Illinois Circle of Quality or is accredited.


  • A quality child care environment is safe, clean, and provides children with many learning opportunities.  
    • 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.  

Related Pages

Contact Information

CCR&R (Quality, Training, Referrals)

3015 Ninth Street Hall

Office Hours

Monday-Friday: 8:00 am-4:30 pm

Office Closures:

New Year Holidays, Martin L. King Birthday,
Lincoln's Birthday, Memorial Day,
Juneteenth, Independence Day,
Labor Day, Election Day,
Thanksgiving Holidays, Christmas Holidays

Child Care Assistance Program

3015 Ninth Street Hall

Summer Office Hours:

Monday -Thursday: 7:45 am to 4:30 pm
Friday: 7:30 am to 12:00 pm

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